Selling Power Blog

News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

October 27, 2015

Unmotivated Salespeople Don’t Usually Have a Problem with Motivation

By Dave Kurlan, Founder and CEO, Kurlan & Associates

You probably think I messed up the title to this blog post.

The title is correct. “My salespeople aren’t motivated,” is one of the most common statements I hear during my conversations with CEOs, presidents and sales vice presidents. They talk about complacency, an inability to get to the next level, being stuck, not looking for new business, not having enough urgency, and a host of other symptoms.

While the symptoms they observe do exist, their conclusions as to the cause are nearly always wrong. Motivation is rarely the problem.

If not motivation, then what is it?

It’s usually a combination of things. Here is a menu of possibilities.

  • They lack personal goals and a plan – and they can’t give  an answer to the question, “Why are they in sales?”
  • They lack commitment to their own sales success – they won’t do whatever it takes.
  • They lack the desire to achieve sales success.
  • They have limiting sales DNA and/or sales weaknesses that sabotage or prevent the desired effort and behavior.
  • They have self-limiting beliefs, which sabotage their efforts.
  • They lack the necessary selling skills in any or all of 21 sales core competencies.
  • They are uncomfortable having financial conversations, limiting their ability to find money.
  • They are limited by their own perfectionism and won’t do anything unless they believe it will be perfect.
  • They become paralyzed because they have a hard time recovering from rejection.
  • Their need to be liked prevents them from asking the necessary questions or pushing back.
  • They are too trusting – taking everything their prospects say at face value without questioning.
  • Their excuse making prevents them from changing.

And the biggest problem of all: Ineffective coaching and a lack of meaningful accountability from sales management.

Where motivation is concerned, it’s not usually a question of whether salespeople are motivated; they usually are. It is a question as to whether they are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, and how they can be motivated.

The bigger issue is that, since these symptoms are misdiagnosed as motivation problems, executives commonly try to apply more motivation – as in contests, compensation plan changes, pep talks, meetings, and pleas to hit their numbers. Of course, it rarely works, because providing motivation to solve any of a dozen or more other problems is like prescribing knee surgery for a sinus infection.

The best way to determine the real cause of what you are seeing is to have your sales force evaluated. You can learn more about that here.

Download my latest eBook, 63 Tips for a Huge Increase in Sales.

Headshot of Dave Kurlan

Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball. Download his latest eBook, 63 Tips for a Huge Increase in Sales.