As a sales manager, you want to motivate your sales team to reach their sales goals. So what motivates salespeople?

But is sales motivation really necessary? After all, a sales position attracts people who are generally go-getters, which is what sales are all about.

Truthfully, every employee will have different factors that affect their motivation. Recognizing motivation signals will help to keep your sales team motivated long-term.

Upper management does their due diligence in following strategies to identify what motivates salespeople in their organization.

They also benefit from remembering that motivations, as does their intensity, vary over time. What works once may be less effective later.

Understand that your motivational opportunities are only a means to get your salespeople to motivate themselves internally. The key is helping them see the reasons for increasing their sales motivation.

Devise a well-rounded strategy that allows you to motivate your sales team as a whole and as individual salespeople. But also realize that no sales leader can motivate everyone all the time.

Being motivated will help your sales team enjoy their work and keep them surpassing personal and professional goals.

motivating your sales teams

Identifying Dominant Motivations of Your Sales Team

Dozens of things can motivate a salesperson. But what are their dominant motivating factors?

Does the person take great pride in self-improvement? Their drive may involve empowerment and feeling like they have some control over their situation.

The most basic motivations fall into six distinctive categories. Just remember the acronym MOTIVE.

  • Money
  • Opportunity
  • Teamwork
  • Independence
  • Visibility
  • Excellence

Consider how each of these six items factors into a salesperson’s motivation.


Sales managers understand that money is the most obvious motivator for their salespeople. Of course, that doesn’t mean this is the most important motivation for everyone.

Tie sales results to money – both in your salespeople’s minds and in actual practice. A well-designed commission structure can provide an incentive to strive for a higher sales goal.

Offer special incentives to the sales team. Cash bonuses, trips, or other tangible benefits can kick many salespeople into high gear.


Motivational opportunities are the second class of motivators. New opportunities drive many salespeople. But what constitutes an opportunity varies from person to person.

Everyone sets personal and financial goals. Helping your people reach those goals can bring a fair amount of happiness and motivation to keep up the fight.

One sales rep may be eyeing their future role at your company and seeking advancement. Provide training sessions to improve the person’s abilities.

Many salespeople will be inspired by increased responsibility when they have proven themselves.

Help your salespeople realize that even when they make minor mistakes, it is an opportunity – one for growth and improvement.


Contrary to the stereotype, some sales professionals are not automatically independent workers who prefer working alone.

Many salespeople enjoy a working environment that exhibits the team dynamic. When people belong to a larger group, they can get satisfaction from helping another team member and contributing to the greater good.

Team projects tackled by the whole group or a smaller team can effectively stimulate some sales team members toward increased effort.

One benefit of this motivation method is that it helps less experienced teammates learn from your star performers.

Having mentorships and partner-oriented activities can enhance confidence in a salesperson’s abilities. It allows focusing on professional development goals so they can become better employees and more skillful sellers.

Find ways to use a team sales meeting to promote cooperation and camaraderie.



However, some people aren’t team players. Most salespeople prefer to be left to their own devices, probably because this is the traditional view of a salesperson, and the position attracts those with this mentality.

Trying to stay one step ahead of the crowd motivates salespeople to work harder. Healthy competition can be effective.

Taking a hands-off approach can effectively rally your troops. It does a lot to enhance feelings of control over their own life and involves empowerment and freedom.

One way to capitalize on this motivation technique is to delegate special projects to different team members. This has the added effect of giving you a view into their potential to handle added authority later.


An opportunity is a form of internal recognition. But visibility involves recognition from those outside our brains.

Visibility recognition may drive a sales representative to try to stand out from the crowd. Seek ways to commend, applaud, and express approval for their wins.

Positive recognition could come from a quick, personal note saying what you appreciated about their effort. Or it might be singing their praises to the salesforce team.

Be careful that this doesn’t lead to unhealthy competition, which can hobble a team and limit morale.


Opportunity-oriented salespeople seek bigger and better challenges and conquests. An excellence-motivated person wants to perform well but is not necessarily seeking higher goals.

The excellence-motivated person takes great pride and finds satisfaction in reaching goals themselves.

One behavioral theory called the “self-fulfilling prophecy” may come into play.

Your feelings and confidence in a salesperson’s abilities will subconsciously be reflected in your body language and verbal interactions.

Your conviction that the salesperson can succeed will bolster them to greater success. On the other hand, not believing in your people can have the opposite effect.

Build on your team’s strengths. Express your confidence in their abilities and support them as they try to become more skilled. Be willing to overlook minor mistakes.

Other Practical Factors That Enhance a Sales Team’s Success

The six points above do a good job of highlighting what motivates salespeople. If you can adopt some positive directions to increase overall performance and boost morale, you are well on your way to a motivated team.

But just because those motivation factors fit in a nice little acronym doesn’t mean your job is complete.

Take a look at some related ideas that can help with increasing sales motivation on your team.

Set Personal and Professional Expectations as a Sales Manager

Those you have immediate oversight over – your direct reports – should fully understand the personal and professional expectations you require.

Salesperson conduct issues left unresolved can lead to frustration and have a demoralizing effect on the sales team. You must be willing to handle problems when they come up before they have a negative effect.

This requires that you create trust and maintain it. Engage with your team regularly and nurture an open policy of communication.

When your people know they can come to you with anything, they will also be ready to listen when you come to them with a matter and be motivated to improve.

Help Salespeople Establish Personal Motivations and Surpass Goals

Surpassing personal goals can generate a great feeling of accomplishment. Professional development goals are no different.

Help your sales professionals develop challenging goals. These should be realistic and reachable but encourage the person to stretch to reach them.

Just as an archer is ineffective if he has no bullseye to aim for, so will a salesperson without a good goal structure fail to advance.

Have a frank conversation with the salesperson to help them gauge appropriate goals. Ask them:

  • What motivates you long-term?
  • How do you motivate yourself?
  • How will you show me you are struggling and not motivated?
  • What should I do if you don’t appear to be motivated?

Hold Frequent Sales Meetings with the Sales Team

One key to success is communication. If your sales team isn’t communicating, then something is likely wrong. There should be regular check-ins with individuals and the group to ensure everyone is cared for.

A sales meeting might seem like a strange way to handle motivation improvement. Aren’t sales meetings for XYZ reports?

Communication improves with transparency and treating everyone equally. You can use a portion of the meeting for team motivation improvement. But realize that sales meetings also don’t have to be boring affairs!

Find ways to highlight the social aspects of being a teammate during your sales department meetings.


Be a Good Sales Leader

After reviewing these motivators, you should be able to play a major role in motivating your salesforce.

A team’s success leads to greater efficiency and fulfillment. But that success depends greatly on how much energy you are willing to expend. Scary, right?

Don’t despair. Identifying dominant motivating factors is half the battle. Take what you’ve learned and go the extra mile.

Remember that different salespeople have different motivations. Those may change in relevance and intensity.

  • Money can be a key motivational trigger. Offer bonuses or special incentives to your salesforce.
  • Opportunities to reach higher goals or internal recognition can motivate effectively. Help sales reps reach professional goals and qualify for advancement.
  • Gather your people into a cohesive team.
  • The desire for independence may appeal to some salespeople. Sometimes a hands-off approach to managing may prove effective.
  • The hope to stand out from the crowd drives people who crave visibility. Take time to recognize their accomplishments.
  • Those who strive for excellence want to be considered competent and do well at their job. Believe in them so they will believe in themselves.