Sales incentives motivate salespeople. We know that intuitively, but what role do other factors play in driving motivation?

To find out, ZS recently conducted an engagement study with thousands of salespeople and dug deep into the results to find out, statistically, which factors drive superior motivation. Sales compensation, as expected, was one of the top motivators, but it wasn’t the only driver. In fact, it wasn’t even the top driver. Four other factors had a statistically significant impact on motivation:

  1. Company and sales leadership: This factor is an assessment of whether leadership has the right strategy and direction, and whether the leadership team effectively communicated that direction to the sales organization. Another element is how committed leadership is to the success of its people. 
  1. First-line manager: The amount of time that sales managers spend coaching their direct reports has been proven to positively impact results. In one study, sales managers that spent the most time coaching their people had an average performance that was 19% higher than sales managers that spent the least amount of time. Good managers spend 50% of their time coaching their salespeople. 
  1. Career path: In all of the engagement studies of salespeople that I’ve been a part of for the last 15 years, career path is in the top three drivers of motivation and engagement every time. Salespeople want to improve and develop mastery of their craft, and as they do so they want options for their career trajectory. Some want to stay in sales and look to be continually challenged as they become more senior. Others are more interested in the management path, and they know that simply blowing out their number isn’t going to automatically land them in management. (It may actually mean that they’re not well-suited for management.) A clear competency model is critical to show salespeople what they need to develop to grow into the sales manager role. 
  1. Sales culture: Sales culture can be (and often is) very different than a company culture. This factor looks at things like work/life balance, autonomy and empowerment in the role, and whether salespeople are given enough time to be successful.

If you’re experiencing sub-par motivation in your sales organization, by all means look at the sales compensation plan. It’s the most visible and tangible sales force motivator. But don’t stop there. Evaluate your sales organization on these four elements and decide whether you need a more comprehensive retooling of some of your management processes. Fixing the comp plan is important, but it may not be enough to solve a broader motivation problem in your organization. 

For even more insight into motivating your sales force, read our most recent book, Sales Compensation Solutions.



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Topics: sales incentives, sales comp, sales force motivation, culture, sales leadership, sales rep engagement, sales comp plan, Impact Summit 2017, Energy