3 Research Backed Ways for Motivating Sales People

Historically, motivation has been thought of as something fixed; you either have it or you don’t.

The good news: we all have motivation inside of us, but we just need to draw it out. We need to build it like a muscle. Sharpen it like a skill.

The trouble is, many people don’t know how.

Below are three research-backed ways for motivating sales people:

Recruit Your Drive
Ignite Your Proactivity
Reengineer Your Habits

Recruit Your Drive

Your drive is in there somewhere. The challenge is knowing how to recruit it.

An analysis of 41 different studies on the effect of choice on motivation found that choice enhanced intrinsic motivation, effort, task performance, and perceived competence.

The reason? Having a choice makes the task meaningful and maximizes psychological ownership of getting it done and done well.

If you want to make work meaningful to you, you need to first choose your New Reality—the place where you’ll be when things change for the better. It’s your desired future state.

To make this happen, you need to know where you’re headed.

You need a plan that’ll help you reach your New Reality. This will give you the “why” of what you’re doing and will make you more motivated to do it. If you’re connected to the “why,” you can withstand almost any “what.” This is a great way to recruit your drive.

Prospecting is typically one of the least favorite activities for sellers. Many sellers we work with have a difficult time getting motivated to prospect. However, when we talk to sellers about their goals and help them build plans to achieve them, their motivation increases. Here’s an example of how a New Reality can be connected to a seller’s prospecting activity:

Let’s say your goal is to reach $2.5 million in sales this year. Assume you can count on $1.5 million to come from growing existing accounts. You also know that your average client is worth $150,000 each year. This means you need to bring on 10 new clients this year. Based on a 40 percent close rate, you’ll need to generate 40 solid pipeline opportunities. About a third of your new conversations turn into real opportunities, so you need to generate 120 new conversations (or 10 each month) to reach this New Reality.

The question then becomes: what are you going to do to generate those 10 new conversations each month?

By tying your prospecting efforts to your big picture goal, it makes the task more meaningful.

Ignite Your Proactivity

Getting started on difficult tasks can be hard. Once you start, however, it’s much easier to keep going.

Twenty percent of people are chronic procrastinators, and almost everyone is a periodic procrastinator. This is because something we want to do—or know we need to do—seems difficult and requires significant energy, so we avoid it.

Many of us are lacking a catalyst—something that will jumpstart our productivity.

Here are three catalysts to help you get started on important tasks:

1 Calendar Investment TIME

Investment Time is the time you spend focusing on becoming more effective, getting the right things done, and achieving top performance. You get an outsized return on your Investment time as it pays dividends to gain skills and knowledge, accumulate experience, and drive priority initiatives forward. Investment time can also be personal, such as investing in exercise, that can affect your happiness and professional success.


A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology analyzed the results of people who committed to the following:

During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].

Group 1 committed to “keep track” of whether they exercised.

The second group “group 2” committed to “keep track and read a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise.”

Group 3 committed to “keep track, read a pamphlet, and make a plan for when and where to exercise.”

In Group 1 (the control group), 38 percent of people exercised at least once per week. Group 2 (the motivation group) exercised weekly at a rate of 35 percent. Group 3 (the intention group) exercised weekly at a whopping rate of 91 percent.

If you put it on your calendar, you’re much more likely to do it. If you need to spend time on prospecting to generate those 10 new conversations each month, add times to your calendar to focus specifically on that.

2 Talk to Yourself

The United States Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Teams (Navy SEALs) are universally renowned as an elite military unit. In the early 2000s, the military needed more SEALs, but also needed to keep the elite standards for whom they admitted to the program.

To maximize SEAL candidate success, the military developed a mental toughness program in which candidates learned essential skills. One such skill was positive self-talk.

Passing rates for new SEAL recruits who completed the program improved from 25 percent to a third, a 32 percent increase in pass rates.

Change how you talk to yourself. If you know you can achieve something, positive self-talk will limit negativity and help you reach your goals.

Henry Ford’s old adage holds true: whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

If you don’t think you can, you won’t even bother getting started. If you think you can, you’re more likely to get to it.

3 Say “3…2…1…Go!”

Positive self-talk can get you in the success mindset. There is, however, a different kind of self-talk that will help you get started on important activities. We call it Rapid Activation Talk.

Sellers tell themselves, “I should pick up the phone and call that prospect right now,” and then they don’t do it.

That’s because the thinking part of their brain quickly becomes overruled by the feeling part of their brain. Here’s what happens:

You think, “I should call that prospect right now.” Then, seconds later, the emotional center of your brain tries to sabotage you.

They’re probably not going to answer the phone.

If they do answer, I don’t have enough time to get into an in-depth conversation.

What if they say no? I don’t think I can handle that rejection right now.

I need to re-read the proposal first in case they ask any detailed questions.

In order to pre-empt the feeling part of the brain from shutting you down, you need to head it off at the pass, and you only have a few seconds to do it.

To do this, use Rapid Activation Talk. Say “3…2…1…Go!” and immediately get started.

Re-engineer Your Habits

We all have certain habits that drain our energy and serve to demotivate us.

Imagine you have a well of energy that you start each day with. Every task you work on drains a little bit of energy from the well. By the end of the day, the well is dry.

The key is to spend your energy on the things that are most important and to not let it get drained on the distractions that interrupt us throughout the day.

When you start work each day, what’s the first thing you do? Some open their email and begin responding to all of their messages. Others open a web browser and start perusing the latest news or sports scores.

Very few people begin each day working on their Greatest Impact Activity (GIA) — the one activity that, should you do it consistently at high quality, will get you the greatest eventual return on your time investment. This is where you should start your day.

It’s difficult to break bad habits. Many of us have terrible work habits such as checking email too often, browsing the internet, or reading updates, that allow us to be frequently interrupted and distracted. It’s killing your productivity and motivation. Your well is draining before you even get to what’s most important.

You need to learn to break your bad habits.

In one study, researchers noted epilepsy sufferers had trouble remembering to take their medications on time. Before intervention, they only did so 55 percent of the time.

Then researchers asked them to make a “When I, Then I” statement. For example, “When it’s 8 a.m. and I’ve finished brushing my teeth, then I will take my prescribed medication.” Those who made the statement increased their compliance taking their meds to 79 percent.

This exercise can work for you, too. If you have a habit that’s draining your energy and motivation, such as checking email first thing or aimlessly reading news stories when you first sit down to work, use a “When I, Then I” statement to help break it.

If you want to do something differently, then you have to understand your bad habits and then learn how to change them.

And if you want to boost your sales motivation, you must begin by recruiting your drive, igniting your proactivity, and reengineering your habits. If you can do this, your productivity and results should soar.

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