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How Important Is Money to Your Sales Team?

If you use money as a performance motivator, you should know what it actually means to your employees. Sales guru Tom Searcy explains.
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We recently evaluated a sales team on how it felt about money by using a standardized test. A big part of the test was to determine each individual's sense of worthiness of money and how their thinking patterns compared with the thinking patterns of people in various income brackets.

The salespeople who believed themselves worthy of money had the same patterns of thinking of people in higher income brackets and were statistically kicking the heck out of their peers in sales. Combined with observations made by their direct supervisors, a picture emerged of people who discussed money, price, and value with the same natural confidence as weather, sports, and traffic.

Another group of people emerged from our study--self-saboteurs. These were people on performance plans (HR code for "on the way out the door") who often had a big disparity between how much they made (high) and the way they were wired to think about money (low). We noticed that if someone has the thought patterns of a $50,000/year earner and is making $100,000/year, he starts to implode. Those people do not feel they deserve to be at the income level they are, and so they do things that will get them back to where they believe they should be.

So, what does this mean for salespeople and executives who hire salespeople?

Being candid, my experience with thousands of salespeople has taught me to look for certain thought patterns in salespeople. Those who have them are more likely, though not guaranteed, to be more successful. Here are some of the things I look for:

  • Car, boat, cabin, or plane? Financial ambition is often a good indicator of success. While just about every successful salesperson has a desire to increase his or her income, most have an internal gauge for themselves of what having "made it" really means. The car/boat/cabin/plane question helps determine what each person believes signifies that he or she has made it. The point for me is to understand where that person sees himself or herself. And if someone does not have a clear picture of what having made it means, that tells me something as well.
  • How do they stack up? Salespeople's ambitions are often framed in reference to the standards set by other people. Whom are your salespeople measuring themselves against? It probably isn't Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, but whoever it is provides a good measure of your salesperson's goals. If it is modest, the person may not be the best fit for the position you are hiring for.
  • What would Mom and Dad say? We get a lot of our wiring about money from our upbringing. I was raised by an earner rather than a saver. My thoughts reflect a desire to figure out ways to earn more money rather than worrying about how many lights are on in the house or if the furnace is set to 68 degrees. Other people were raised to haggle for every nickel, clip coupons, and always look for a deal. I am neither endorsing nor condemning either, but I want to know people's wiring about money and understand if it is a good fit for their roles.

If you are using money as a motivator for performance in your business, it is really critical to understand what it means to each person. I find that too often, leaders design programs around either the industry in which they operate or what motivates themselves. That is fine, if everyone is wired the way you are.

IMAGE: Thomas Hawk/Flickr
Last updated: Feb 6, 2014

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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