Keep the Iron Hot

By William F. Kendy

When it comes to providing motivational support to prompt sales reps to go the extra mile and clinch that additional sale, one size doesn’t fit all, says sales consultant Ron Karr. “Everybody is motivated differently, depending on our value structure and behavioral skills. So it’s not as simple to say that money is the prime motivator,” he explains. “For some people, prestige is more important than money. To others, it’s the victory of the challenge, to be recognized, promoted and moved up the ladder.

“The first step managers must take is to find out what the individual motivators are for each person. Then when it comes time to have the conversation about making one more sale, they need to communicate that issue and link it to each personal motivational strategy.”

Although sales contests can motivate salespeople to higher levels, Karr advises keeping them personalized, for best results. “Sales contests are good to create a competitive spirit, but the contest speaks the same thing to everybody,” he says. “You have to take the same want from everyone and communicate it in such a way that it’s motivational and can be heard by each individual.”

Whether they’re spurred on by incentive programs or motivated from within, salespeople should always take advantage of those times they are “on a roll.” This may seem obvious, but from a tactical standpoint Karr feels that the best time to make a sale is right after you have just made one. “Everybody wants to be successful, and the best time to make an extra sales call is right after you just made a sale. Your confidence level is high, you’re feeling great about things, and you’re going to speak from a clear frame of mind that you don’t have after you’re coming off a few rejections.”

Sales managers also need to recognize these hot streaks and realize that they can create great motivation as well as some fear. “What needs to be discussed with sales reps is that they need to take the successes when they get them,” Karr explains. “You never know when the slow times are coming; if you’re hot, take advantage of it.

“Sales managers also have to realize that salespeople who are having a great year might be thinking, ‘If I hit 150 percent of quota this year, that will be my quota for next year,’ or ‘If I do that well, they might cut my territory.’ Sales managers need to address these fears so they become nonissues that won’t inhibit additional sales.”

Ron Karr is president of Karr Associates Inc. in Fort Lee, NJ, and author of The Titan Principle: The Number One Secret to Sales Success (Chandler House Press, 1999). For more information, call 201/461-2309 or visit