How do salespeople keep themselves motivated

Activate the internal motivation of the salesperson

“You have to constantly re-motivate employees in sales. Otherwise your performance will sag. ”You are certainly familiar with statements like this, because many executives, not only in sales, are convinced of them.

So they are constantly looking for ways to motivate their employees. And sometimes they rely more on instruments such as praise when motivating, and sometimes on “tools” such as bonuses or incentives such as prizes and travel. But do these motivational instruments achieve the desired effect? Opinions differ on this. And incentives, at least, are being viewed more and more critically by the compliance departments in companies.

Trap constant motivation

Another aspect that demands the motivation ability of the management level results from the demographic change. It is becoming increasingly difficult for many companies to attract good salespeople. This increases the pressure on executives to increase the motivation of the existing employees even more - so that in many companies one sales employee motivation campaign chases the other.

This constant motivation often causes employees to become numb. Because this sets in a vicious circle. Because of the countless motivational actions, the employees feel stronger: "It is the job of the company or my manager to motivate me so that I can perform."

They also confront their managers with these expectations. This means that they invest even more time and energy in employee motivation, which in turn further increases the expectations of the employees. The result: Employees are becoming more inactive or more reactive and increasingly expect their manager to “motivate, inspire and 'enjoy' me”.

Why are so many executives playing this game? Where does your inner conviction “I have to motivate” come from? Often from the fact that they feel a dependency on their employees. Because ultimately your performance as a manager is measured by your superiors against the performance of your employees. That is why they try to motivate their employees without ceasing - for fear that their performance could otherwise decline and the sales targets would not be achieved.

Behind such behavior there is an understanding of leadership that needs to be questioned. And the work? It is seen primarily negatively and, as in the Middle Ages, largely equated with hardship, pain and the fulfillment of duty. And motivation? It is defined as the absence of non-motivation. Yet motivation is more than just the absence of non-motivation - just as mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders. This is shown by Positive Psychology, which was brought into being by the American researcher Martin Seligman at the end of the last century.

Increase your well-being instead of reducing your suffering

Until then, psychology was mainly concerned with the reduction of psychological stress and negative psychological symptoms. It was only Seligman who began to research

  • what makes life worth living,
  • why some people are happy
  • how to measure happiness and
  • how to increase subjective well-being.

The research group around Seligman defined the goal of positive psychology to make people happier by helping them to build up positive emotions and to find fulfillment and meaning in life. This is far more than the “positive thinking” that sales employees are taught in many motivational events. And there are now many scientific studies that prove: The methods of positive psychology work.

For managers, it is about shedding the conviction that “I have to motivate my employees, otherwise they will perform less”. Because this is deficit-oriented - that is, it is based on a fundamental shortage among the employees. Then why were they hired? More goal-oriented is the question: How can I, as a manager, accompany my employees in such a way that motivation and satisfaction arise internally and are maintained? Positive psychology offers some approaches for this.

Stimulate inner motivation

The two American scientists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan have developed a model. In their “self determination theory of motivation” from 2000, you describe three central human growth needs. They are the engine for personal development and the well-being of people. And the urge to meet those needs is deeply ingrained in us. It is helpful for managers to pay attention to these employee needs, because they are the basis for the emergence of intrinsic motivation and the basis for sustainable learning.

The three growth needs are:

Autonomy, competence and relationship. You are, so to speak, the inner engine towards constant personal development and satisfaction. However, they can never be finally satisfied. Rather, they are relevant again and again in the course of our lives and in the context of the various demands that life makes on us. In the graphic, they are shown as "need containers" that have to be refilled over and over again. If the containers are on unsafe ground, it is easy for them to lose their contents or to be difficult to fill. That is why security is the basis that gives the three containers a firm footing. For example, important people who support us give us security. A manager is also such a reference person who accompanies employees in their personal growth and learning.


How can managers support their employees in such a way that they meet these three growth needs and that the containers remain full?

1. Strengthen autonomy

Managers strengthen the need to grow autonomy, for example, by actively involving their employees in shaping the relevant sales goals or even letting them determine them themselves. Studies have shown that it is not only the real degree of self-determination when making decisions that is relevant, but also the perceived freedom of choice.

As a manager, you should therefore put more trust in the skills of your employees, for example working on markets and solving problems. What if they show you concepts for the planned procedure in which you discover inconsistencies? Then act as a coach. Show your employees different points of view, but leave the problem-solving skills with them. For example, ask your employee how he wants to remove stumbling block X or Y or how he wants to convince customers. Many executives prefer to act as critics or even as tipsters according to the motto "I know exactly what you have to do to be successful". But what if that doesn't work?

2. Strengthen self-efficacy

Another growth need of people is that we would like to experience ourselves as self-effective in what we do - that is, want to have the feeling “We can make a difference” and experience it that way.

Managers fill the vessel of self-efficacy by signaling their trust in their abilities to employees. As a manager, you should therefore give timely feedback if you experience positive developments in its implementation. A routine “praise from the boss” can indeed strengthen the personal bond, but the self-efficacy of your employees is more likely to strengthen through qualified, appreciative and fact-based feedback. Describe your positive observations concretely: What did you see, hear and experience in your employee? The more specific you give feedback, the better your employees will feel they are being looked after. You experience yourself to be effective and competent. Also ask your employees which of their strengths - such as perseverance, enthusiasm or creativity - they have used to achieve success. This makes your employee aware of how he has brought about success on his own. This is a step towards filling the vessel and awakening inner motivation. After all, who doesn't like to experience themselves as a designer and grow with success?

But what if success doesn't happen immediately? If you remember the strengths of the employees, you can ask about them in case of difficulties. For example: “Could you also approach the problem with a different, more unconventional method in which you use your strengths“…. ”And“…. ”?

3. Strengthen bond

With the attitude “You have the solution in you”, managers also strengthen the growth motive “loyalty” in their employees. A human closeness is created through the feeling “I am perceived and taken seriously as an individual”. If, on the other hand, an employee experiences himself primarily as a means of achieving the personal goals of his manager, there is seldom a real bond. An encounter full of appreciation, which is characterized by the attitude “I will give you my full attention”, on the other hand, promotes solidarity. If you, as a manager, also design the framework in such a way that a stable sales team can emerge, all of this contributes to an increasingly full vessel of bond.

Mastering challenges with positive feelings

Decy and Ryan also brought the terms "intrinsic" and "extrinsic motivation" to positive psychology. Those who are intrinsically motivated commit themselves wholeheartedly and with full passion. Intrinsic motivation increases performance as well as endurance and the ability to solve problems. At the same time, this creates a bundle of positive feelings. Because those who intrinsically motivate their work, i.e. who like to do it, are also more creative, efficient and more resilient. This is proven by several studies by the US researcher Barbara Frederickson, director of the Laboratory for Positive Psychophysiology at the University of Michigan.

Frederickson developed a theory which, among other things, says that when we have positive feelings, our repertoire of thoughts and actions expands; In addition, we then have more energy, stamina and persuasiveness over the long term. So positive feelings have an impact on the future. Everyone knows this from personal experience: When we ride a wave of positive emotions, almost no problem seems so big that we cannot cope with it.

It is the same with your employees. If you approach your work with positive feelings, then you will more easily cope with difficulties such as tight deadlines or customers who are hesitant with their purchase decision. Because they approach these challenges with a different attitude, which customers can also feel. So you as a manager also have to intervene less often or be active in support - which also relieves you. This is one of the reasons why it is worthwhile for managers to study positive psychology.