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What drives salespeople to perform? While money is one motivator, it’s not the only thingjcasas/Getty Images/iStockphoto

What drives salespeople to perform? While money is one motivator, it's not the only thing. In fact, most high-performing salespeople achieve their best results because they are motivated by accomplishment and recognition first, and money second.

It's common, but problematic, for managers to assume everyone is motivated by the same thing. The key to creating a top-performing team is finding the unique factors that drive your sellers. Here are seven ways to do this:

1. Ask sellers how they would like to be rewarded if you have no money to spend, if you have $100, if you have $1000, or if you have unlimited dollars. You will find a pattern that is useful in creating a personalized motivation plan. I once had a team player who started "time off" as her reward regardless of the dollar investment. She had a young family and would simply have an extra day or week off than more money that year. Others, such as a single man in his 30s, wanted a ski trip and a big screen TV, while a 55-year-old empty nester asked for a lease on a Porsche.

2. Have sellers set their own goals. After the quota is set, work with sellers to develop their own detailed target lists, which could include plans on how to accomplish their targets, stretch goals for reaching beyond their targets, or specific goals per customer on how many more products and services you want them to purchase in a specific time frame.

3. Protect your team. Make sure the entire company knows not to bother your team or create non-revenue-generating meetings or activities during the last week of the month or the last week of the quarter. Your teams will stay motivated if they know you are looking out for them and protecting their crucial selling time.

4. Reward your team verbally or with an e-mail when deals are won or saved, or when reps hit their quota. Make sure the progress your team makes is publicly acknowledged, and that you celebrate both big successes and small victories.

5. Separate the manager from selling. If you have your own territory as a sales leader, you are competing against your reps. When forced to do both, a sales manager will always sell first and manage later. If they have time. Managers that sell ignore their team, and worse, face the accusation that they are "taking the best leads," and "managing the best territories." Nothing demoralizes a team faster than having a player/coach/manager in place.

6. Have a commission plan that rewards the team for the behaviours you want. When setting this plan, here are three things to consider:

  • Keep it simple. The more complex the compensation plan, the easier it is to misunderstand. When the team misunderstands the compensation plan, they assume the company is looking for excuses not to pay them.
  • Make sure everybody knows and understands the rules. Introduce the plan a couple of weeks before you implement it, giving your team a few days to digest its contents. Then hold a group meeting to discuss it. Meet with each salesperson privately to reinforce the plan and address questions and concerns that weren't raised by the group.
  • Encourage team-building to ward off conflict before it starts. Have competing reps (for instance, inside and outside sales) meet to establish relationships and build trust. The most motivated teams always engage with each other.

Remember that money is just one tool you have at your disposal. Sellers who underperform may not respond to a one-size-fits-all strategy, so be sure to ask everyone on your team: What motivates you? And why?

Special to The Globe and Mail

As the founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions, Colleen Francis helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.