How to motivate external sales people for best results

on 12 August, 2013

Sales is one of those unusual occupations where formal qualifications are not a requirement in most companies, but remuneration can be high.

Some sales managers or sales directors feel a good sales person should be producing results within weeks while others think it can take as long as 18 months before they know if a sales person is up to the job. It’s not uncommon to recruit sales people with little product knowledge, understanding of the industry or even no sales training. It makes you wonder why some managers are surprised when they don’t produce results.

In our experience salary levels, bonus structures, company cars and titles are often things sales people talk about when the word “motivation” is mentioned. There’s little doubt, that it pays to have sales people properly motivated.

However, while these incentives are said to be important to motivate sales people, the reality is there are a lot of other equally or more important things that rarely get a mention. These are methods of reporting and accountability, having the “tools” to do the job, teamwork, being there for one and other, feeling comfortable with their boss, training, and being treated equally. These are all important factors than can make or destroy the motivation of a sales person.

In a typical sales person’s day it’s worth noting that sales can be a lonely life, operating without face-to-face communication with company colleagues and having to meet customers who may have gripes. In more extreme cases, customers can be intimidating to the sales person, so there’s little wonder sales people need support to stay motivated.

Give your sales staff as little day to day accountability as you can, cut down on paper work (they are not generally good administrators), meet with them as a team each month, and take them out for the night once in a while, creating an environment where everyone can have fun.

While some individuals may not respond to almost any type of management style, the majority of them will, and years later you will have a people’s asset in your business.

Finally, remember external sales people are a unique breed in a business and often require more support than just about anyone else but they are also the ones who work alone and face a backlash of a company’s weaknesses.

Tony Crutcher is a building materials sales and marketing specialist.

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