As a sales leader you will exhaust yourself and your team with the philosophy that you need to be the sole source of motivation in your sales agent’s lives.  Sales leaders that think this rely heavily on motivational meetings where they try to get their team pumped up and ready to sell.  They also rely on extrinsic motivational tactics such as excessive incentive plans, time off, flexible work schedules, competitions and prizes, and team lunches.  Certainly all of these can be done from time to time but should be used sparingly.  Relying too heavily on extrinsic motivation will ultimately loose its effectiveness. Plus it is really expensive and a lot of work to manage.

Successful sales leaders know that incentives and prizes can only motivate a team so far and invest most of their time fostering intrinsic motivation in their sales agent’s lives.  They help their employees understand what is expected of them, discover why they want to be a consistent performer, and reward behaviors that support the goals of the team.  In essence successful sales leaders follow the old adage:

“Give an agent motivation and motivate them for a day.  Teach an agent how to motivate themselves and you motivate them for a lifetime.”

Okay, so that’s not exactly how it goes, but it does make the point.

Here are 4 tips on how to cultivate intrinsic motivation in your sales teams and have consistent performance and success.

1. Get the right people on the team. It is true, you can train anyone to sell, but it isn’t true that you can motivate everyone to do it. Hiring individuals that already have a salesmanship attitude will make your job easier and the need to constantly keep your employees motivated less of an issue. And finding the right people starts with the hiring process.

Be sure to spend time with the applicant in the interview process uncovering what truly motivates them and why they feel your position will be motivating to them.  Check up on them by contacting previous employers and ask them to provide proof of times in their lives where they have consistently performed over a period of time (this might not be in a sales position).  Be clear in the interview process about the expectations so they understand what they are committing to when accepting the position.

From time to time you will hire an individual that does not work out, and that’s okay.  But how do you know when you have the wrong person on the team?  The answer is the number of excuses they make for not hitting their sales goals.  Individuals who are internally motivated and who are a good fit will not make a lot of excuses for lack of performance.  If you continue to hear excuses, it’s likely this person is not fit for your sales team.

2. Set clear expectations. Nothing destroys motivation in an employee faster than inconsistency and favoritism from their leader. This will take time and effort and require you to be uncomfortable but when you are consistent with yourself and your team, your employees stay more intrinsically motivated.

First, set clear goals for each position on your team.  Ensure that your goals are simple to understand, applicable to the job function and are black and white (you either reach them or you don’t).

Second, set a clear course of action for performing and underperforming employees.  If there are certain bonuses or rewards for hitting or exceeding goals stick to the expectation.  Reward employees quickly when they reach their goals and always recognize them publicly.  Doing this exemplifies the behaviors you want out of your employees.  The intrinsic motivational drive to be accepted in many people will cause under-performers to adjust and succeed on their own.

Third, do not undermine your goals and expectations.  Do not make excuses or justify rewarding an employee who did not meet the expectation, even if they were very close.  And do not adjust goals down for underperforming employees.  Do this once and you will lose the trust and respect your employees have in the goals and in you as a leader.  Performance will drop and it will be difficult to get it to return.

3. Remember, leaders go first. As a leader your sales team will look to you for guidance and an example. Never expect from your employees what you yourself couldn’t or wouldn’t do.  For some sales leaders that work with members this means you need to sell too.  Pick up the phone from time to time and make sales calls.  Show your team how it’s done by doing it yourself and make it fun.  Let your team know when you will be doing this so they can listen in and hear you practicing what you preach.

For some leaders this may not be possible.  You can go first by hitting the goals that are set for you.  Let your team know your goals and how you are doing reaching them.  Also, never speak badly of a leader with your employees, they will treat you with the same level of respect as you treat your boss.  When you are given direction, coaching or goals from your leadership team always represent that to your team with respect, confidence and a commitment to fulfill.

4. Support your team with coaching and accountability. As a sales leader you need to make sure your team is consistently getting coaching and feedback from you. When coaching your employees, shadow them at their teller window or loan officer desk as they work with members or listen in to sales calls.  This will give you a great opportunity to identify their strengths and areas they need improvement in.  Coaching should be scheduled for a set date, time and duration.  “Surprise” coaching sessions will inevitably leave questions in your employees mind that their performance is not acceptable.

When coaching is done take time to give your employee positive feedback and collaborate with them on opportunities to improve.  It’s best that this feedback be done in private where you both feel comfortable to communicate openly.

Lastly, set up consistent accountability meetings.  Often accountability carries a negative feeling, but like with coaching this should be a positive meeting where successes are celebrated and solutions for areas of improvement are collaborated.  That being said do not sugarcoat the meeting when discussing goals and expectations, especially when the sales agent is underperforming.  Be clear with them about where they are at and be clear with what is expected of them to perform.

The best time to have these meetings is at the start of a new month (or when goals reset).  Take time to review the last month’s performance and the expectations for the coming month.  Discuss the goals and take time to discuss an action plan for that employee to reach the goals.  Remember to hold all employees to the same expectations as their peers.

Regular success will come to your sales team when you create an environment where employees are intrinsically motivated to perform and to sell.  An environment where employees can rely on consistency, fairness and support from their leader, while at the same time being held accountable to the goals and expectations set for them.  Applying these principles, sprinkled with extrinsic motivators like incentives, prizes, and rewards will deliver the results you are looking for as a sales leader.

Thanks for reading and please take a moment to like, comment, and share.  Also, please take a moment to tell us what makes you intrinsically motivated to succeed.

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