One common question I get asked by frustrated sales managers is “What can I do to motivate my sales people?


They tell me they would love to see their sales team act with more enthusiasm, urgency and purpose and produce greater results.  They also tell me that while their best efforts to offer incentives and rewards or threaten and nag them can sometimes produce short term results, nothing seems work long term to maintain that change.


Maybe a better question to ask would be, “What should I stop doing that is killing my sales people’s motivation?

Killing sales - Terry L Hansen

In his 2009 bestselling book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, Dan Pink described three factors that kill motivation.  I have summarized those three factors here.  As you review them make a mental note of which one you should remove from your typically sales management efforts.


Sales Killer #1:  Restraint

The first is restraint.  When a sales manager dictates and controls the basic who, what, when, where, why and how of a sales person’s job, they unintentionally inhibit the ability of the sales person to direct their own life.  The desire to direct our own lives is a basic human need that we have.  If this control is taken away from sales people they will always struggle to perform at their peak long term.  However, when a sales manager gives a sales person autonomy and control over who they sell to, when they sell to them and how they sell; the sales manager is enabling them to thrive and flourish.  This does, however, illuminate the need for sales coaching, training, guidance and accountability.


Sales Killer #2:  Misplaced Rewards

The second factor that kills motivation, according to Pink, is a misplaced reward.  Sales people like all humans, desire to get better and better at something that matters most to them.  Improving a skill or excelling at a task is its own reward and does not have to be attached to a special bonus or honor.  Proficiency is its own reward.  When sales managers assist their sales people in mastering selling skills they will find deep intrinsic satisfaction in that accomplishment.  Closing is a sale becomes just a side bonus.  But the mastery of a skill is its own badge of honor.


Sales Killer #3:  Confusion

There is a third factor that Dan Pink describes that kills motivation, and that is a confusion of purpose.  Like all of us, sales people are not naturally self servicing. They are, however, sometimes trained to be that way.  Sales people, like all of us, desire to do what they do to support and serve something larger than themselves; to dedicate themselves to something that matters to them.  It could be their family, an ideal, their community, a cause, their company, etc.  When sales people are trained to serve only the God of Sales Commissions, for many sales people, eventually that purpose loses its power to motivate action long term.  However, when sales managers help sales people discover what purpose they are really serving, that purpose will drive and motivate their actions for months and years to come.


In order to thrive and reach their potential, sales people must have a healthy dose of autonomy, mastery and purpose in their job.  Sales managers who unknowingly withhold or prevent sales people from enjoying or obtaining these three essential elements may be causing the very problem they are trying to solve.  So instead of asking ‘what can I do to motivate my sales people’, the better questions might be ‘what should I stop doing that is causing the problems.’  If you would like to watch Dan Pink’s 18 minute TED Talk on motivation, you are welcome to click this link to the Youtube video.



What If You Knew For Sure?

What if you could accurately diagnose and determine what motivated each individual sales person on your team?  How would you work with them?  What would you do differently with them?  What new results could they produce because of it?


If you are interested to discovering what makes each of your sales people tick, I invite you to take a complimentary online assessment to discover your workplace motivators.  This online assessment will help you will gain greater insight, as a sales manager, into what you can do avoid the common traps that de-motivate sales people, and start utilizing correct principles to boost their drive to succeed.


Here’s How It Works

First, send me an email at and let me know that you want to take the free assessment.  Next I will send you a link to the online assessment, which takes just under 30 minutes to complete.  Once it has been completed and submitted, I will email you a PDF summary of the results.  Next we will schedule a time to review and discuss the assessment results.  Together we will learn how you can translate the information into better sales management practices to motivate your team to greater success.  No obligations.  Just great insight and learning that will help you do what you do better.


Until next time, continue to create value for those you serve!



Terry L. Hansen is a popular speaker, consultant, trainer, and author on helping sales and customer service teams improve their ability to create value for their prospects and clients. He is regularly asked to train organizations on strategies to find more prospects, close more sales, and increase customer loyalty. You can follow or connect with Terry on Twitter (@TerryLHansen) or on LinkedIn ( To contact Terry please email or by calling 844-205-5054.