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Motivation and incentives are powerful tools that can improve performance and add to the bottom line when used effectively.  They can be just as powerful in re-enforcing negative attitudes if improperly applied.  To create a positive attitude that encourages sales people to see every person who comes to a store as a potential commission or sale, these tools must be applied consistently and fairly across the entire sales team. 


Annually, businesses spend millions in advertising to draw foot traffic into their stores. Yet few count this traffic and use the information to measure the true performance of their sales teams.  Most only count sales to reward star performers.  When businesses do count traffic, most realize that their salespeople still close business only at a rate of 15% or less.  Why?  Attitude.  It’s all about having a positive attitude that emanates from and is nurtured at the top through strong, fair and inclusive motivational practices.

Looking solely at units sold as a performance measure is one of the fastest ways to de-motivate sales teams and shift attitudes negatively throughout the store.  Management thinks they don’t have a very good group of sales people or that they don’t know how to close.  Salespeople comment, “Business is bad – in this economy people have no money to spend,” or  “We have more people coming in, but they don’t really want to buy, not what we have to sell,” or even “Nothing is working; no one is selling anything – how can I make any money?”

            These negative attitudes rapidly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Not only do these attitudes telegraph to customers through body language and words, but they re-enforce the importance of getting the sale no matter what.  Soon words that kill deals before they start – no, don’t, won’t, or can’t – creep into the salespersons’ vocabulary.

For example, when Ford first introduced their newest Mustang, dealerships saw a significant increase in traffic and interest, despite the fact that most would not have the car available for several months.  Salespeople had to deal with prospects looking for the new Mustang rather than a short term purchase, and typically told prospects, “No, we don’t have it.  We won’t have it for several months.  We can’t tell you exactly when that will be.”  Prospects walked away without a brochure or information of any kind, and without having discussed alternatives:  they left with nothing.  And, the dealership’s thousands of advertising dollars resulted in nothing.  The salesperson received nothing for his or her time. 

The question is, “Was an opportunity there for the customer to buy or for the salesperson to sell the customer?”  If approached from a positive attitude, the answer is always yes.  Some of those prospects may have purchased other models if they had been given the opportunity.  So how does management instill and keep attitudes positive?  How do they motivate every sales person to view each individual who comes into the dealership as a prospect worth building a relationship with?  Motivation and incentives.

Motivation vs. De-motivation Meetings

When management drives positive attitudes, they drive business.  Take the sales meeting.  These meetings, intended to be motivational, first focus on the problems at the business such as who forgot to put the samples away, or who didn’t close the store according to procedures, or why numbers are down.  At the end of the meeting, the team is told to go out, have a great day, and sell!  

Instead of calling sales meetings, hold motivational meetings.  Bring bagels, cream cheese, and coffee to help get the day started.  Talk about the positive aspects of the business.  Don’t single out any one individual, focus on the team.  Give everyone – not just “star performers” – tickets to the local movie theater.  These small investments set the positive tone that help make salespeople successful. Sales meetings must be positive events that provide the tools that help salespeople sell, make money, and set the stage for growing a positive attitude. 

Motivation and incentives are powerful tools that can improve performance and add to the bottom line when used effectively.  They can be just as powerful in re-enforcing negative attitudes if improperly applied.  To create a positive attitude that encourages sales people to see every person who comes to a store as a potential commission or sale, these tools must be applied consistently and fairly across the entire sales team.  After all, if every salesperson could always sell just one more, what would it do for your business?

About the author

Richard F. Libin

Richard F. Libin

Richard F. Libin has written two acclaimed books that help people of all walks…

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