Motivating Sales Force: Needs, Methods, Tips

Concept of Motivation

Many people incorrectly view motivation as a personal trait that is, some people have it, and others don’t. But motivation is defined as the force that causes an individual to behave in a specific way. Simply put, a highly motivated person works hard at a job; an unmotivated person does not.

Managers often have difficulty motivating employees. But motivation is really an internal process. It’s the result of the interaction of a person’s needs, his or her ability to make choices about how to meet those needs, and the environment created by management that allows these needs to be met and the choices to be made. Motivation is not something that a manager can “do” to a person.

Simply, we can say that motivation is a behavior through which we can persuade anyone to do what he can’t do in ordinary circumstances. The complex needs and desires, stemming from within individuals, leads them to act to satisfy these needs and desires.

Specifically applied to sales personnel, motivation is the amount of effort the salesman desires to exert on the activities associated with the sales job. This may include calling on potential new accounts, developing sales presentations, and managing technology. Expanding effort on each activity making up the sales job leads to some level of achievement on one or more dimensions of job performance.

Need for Motivating Sales Force

For the following reasons for the need for motivating sales force:

  1. Inherent Nature of Sales Job
  2. Salesperson’s Boundary Position and Role Conflicts
  3. Tendency Towards Apathy
  4. Traveling
Need for Motivating Sales Force
Need for Motivating Sales Force

Inherent Nature of Sales Job

Although sales jobs vary from one company to the other, sales jobs are alike in certain respects. Every sales job is a succession of ups and downs, a series of experiences resulting in alternating feelings of exhilaration and depression.

In the course of a day’s work, salespersons interact with many pleasant and courteous people, but some unpleasant and rude are difficult to deal with.

The failures in getting orders, dealing with rude people, and also too much traveling may depress a salesperson. The inherent nature of the sales job, therefore, is the first reason that additional motivation is required.

Salesperson’s Boundary Position and Role Conflicts

The salesperson occupies a ‘boundary position’ in the company and must try to satisfy the expectations of people both within the company (in the sales department or elsewhere) and in customer organizations. There is a linkage between four groups:

  1. Sales management
  2. The company organization that handles order fulfillment,
  3. The customers,
  4. Other company sales personnel.

Each group imposes certain behavioral expectations on the salesperson, and in playing these different roles, the salesperson faces role conflicts and requires frequent motivators.

Tendency Towards Apathy

Some sales personnel naturally become apathetic, and get into a rut. Those who, year after year, cover the same territory and virtually the same customers, lose interest and enthusiasm.

Gradually their sales degenerate into routine order-taking, because they know the customers so well, they believe that good salesmanship is no longer necessary. These types of salespeople require frequent motivators.


Salespeople require a lot of traveling to cover their territories. They spend days and weeks away from their families. This generates a lot of frustration in them and they require a lot of motivation to overcome these.

Methods of Motivating Sales Force

In order to motivate the sales force, sales managers should begin by getting to know each individual in order to understand his or her specific needs. Managers then should determine the most effective combination of motivation methods for their salespeople. Motivation tools or methods may be divided into two categories:

Financial Rewards

Money is often used as an incentive for salespeople. Many companies use cash as an incentive to motivate salespeople. Sales contests are also run to motivate salespeople. The person who sells more gets more.

Non-Financial Rewards

Managers often assume that financial incentives are the best motivators and that developing a good compensation package is the only thing they must do to motivate their sales force.

However, evidence suggests that sales reps are motivated by both financial rewards and Non-financial rewards like job enrichment and support; recognition and honor; promotions; encouragement and praise; corporate cultures, etc.

Some of the main methods of motivating sales force are as follows:

  1. Higher Monetary Remuneration
  2. Promotions
  3. Recognition and Rewards
  4. Job-Security
  5. Good Working Conditions
  6. Sales Conferences
  7. Sales Contests
  8. Free or Concessional Travels
  9. Opportunity for Giving Suggestions
  10. Participation in Management
  11. Correspondence with Salesmen
  12. Freedom in Working
  13. More Responsibility
  14. Merchandise Prizes
  15. Competent Leadership
Methods of Motivating Sales Force
Methods of Motivating Sales Force

Higher Monetary Remuneration

The salesmen who achieve higher targets are given commissions at higher rates, increases in salary, more increments, special allowances, special bonuses, etc.

For getting these monetary incentives, the sales force work with more zeal, more energy, devote more time to their selling activities and use their personal relationship for attracting customers.


Promotion increases the rank of the sales force in the organization. It improves status by giving higher authority and responsibility. It increases the working area of the salesperson. Promotion is given to that salesman whose performance level is higher in comparison to others.

Recognition and Rewards

Rewards, recognition, and appreciation letters are given to those salesmen who achieve higher sales levels. It satisfies the status and esteem needs of the sales force. The salesmen who have achieved higher levels of sales are appreciated by publishing their names, photos, and achievements in the institution’s magazines. It motivates the sales force.


The salesmen who achieve higher sales levels are ensured job- security. This satisfies their security needs. Moreover, other sales forces also put more effort to ensure the continuity of their employment.

Good Working Conditions

The sales force expects good working conditions which should not only satisfy their needs but also encourage them to work more sincerely and efficiently. Good working conditions influence the attitude towards work and performance of the workforce.

Working conditions here refer to the facility of conveyance, comfortable stay when salesmen go to outstations, facility of mobile phones, and laptops, timely reimbursements of traveling bills and other contingent expenses, etc.

Sales Conferences

Sales conferences are an open-discussion type meeting of people with similar experience, working in the same field, under the supervision of an experienced conference leader. The conference solves the problems of the sales force.

Salesmen learn from the mutual exchange of information and can take advice from conference leaders to solve different problems related to selling activities. These conferences motivate the sales force as they feel a sense of belongingness and pride by attending these conferences.

Sales Contests

It is a special selling campaign offering incentives in the form of prizes or awards in addition to the routine compensation plan. In these contests, the salesmen or group of salesmen who achieve the highest sales level or exceed the sales quota are given prizes or awards.

The main purpose of these contests is to motivate the sales force by providing extra incentives to increase sales and attract new customers.

Free or Concessional Travels

Some organizations offer free or concessional travel awards to the salesmen who achieve their sales targets.

In these awards, winning salesmen are given the facility of free or concessional travel to places of luxury resorts, hill stations, and sometimes to other countries. To make the award more attractive, generally, these travel awards are given to the winners as well as to their spouses.

Opportunity for Giving Suggestions

If organizations give opportunities to the salesmen for self-expression, and for giving suggestions, then it motivates the sales force and they feel that they are part of the total organization. It increases job satisfaction among the sales force and they work with their full talents and abilities.

Participation in Management

Some organizations give opportunities to salesmen to participate in management. The efficient salesmen are offered membership in various committees related to different selling activities like the sales promotion committee, advertising committee, consumer’s-complaint committee, Budget committee, etc. In this way, salesmen participate in the decision-making and formulation of sales programs.

Correspondence with Salesmen

Regular correspondence with salesmen working at different places motivates the sales force. This correspondence is done by higher officials with individual salesmen.

Such correspondence may be through letters or through telephone talks. The sales officers enquire about the difficulties, problems, and inconveniences faced by salesmen working at distant places.

Freedom in Working

Some organizations offer freedom in working to efficient salesmen. They are subject to less supervision, and they are given freedom in planning their sales activities, making sales calls, the timing of sales calls, etc. It motivates the hard-working sales force, as they feel free in their work. It increases their morale.

More Responsibility

Giving more responsibility also works as a motivator for the sales force. The salesmen who are given more responsibility feel important in their role and they feel themselves as important member of the organization.

This increases their dedication, attentiveness, and creativity towards the work. It also satisfies the esteem needs of the sales force.

Merchandise Prizes

Sometimes merchandise prizes are given to the winner sales force as compared to cash prizes. Merchandise prizes are given in kind. It may include some vehicles, like scooters, motorcycles, home appliances, computers, laptops, handbags, watches, mobile phones, etc.

These prizes are more effective than cash prizes because they have permanent evidence of the achievements of the sales force. Wherever salesmen use such products, they feel pride.

Competent Leadership

If higher officials of the sales department are honest, hard-working, competent, sympathetic, and understand the problems of the sales force, then they will be able to win the confidence, cooperation, and loyalty of the sales force.

Salesmen respect such competent sales officials and work with full energy and initiative. Thus competent leadership of high sales officials motivates the sales force to work hard.

Practical Tips for Motivating SalesPersons

Given below are a few useful and practical tips, advocated by HR Chally Group (2007) and others, to motivate salespersons:

  1. Encourage individuals to explore new challenges so that the salesperson does not feel like he or she is stuck in a rut or stuck in the same routine. Giving them the freedom to try something different even though it may be risky or turn out to be a failure may keep them engaged.

  2. Provide opportunities to meet and interact with new people that may not always blossom into a business relationship, but may have benefits in keeping sales person engaged.

  3. Involve salespeople and give them a voice. Decisions handed down without input are not likely to be followed and may lower morale.

  4. Give them an opportunity to develop their expertise. Coaching, training, and professional development opportunities are likely to be appreciated.

  5. Create opportunities for salespeople to experience how their expertise has benefited customers.

  6. Reward salespeople on the basis of their performance.

  7. Provide time-to-time training to keep them updated.

FAQs Related to the Motivating Sales Force

What are the methods of motivating sales force?

The following are the methods of motivating sales force:
1. Higher Monetary Remuneration
2. Promotions
3. Recognition and Rewards
4. Job-Security
5. Good Working Conditions
6. Sales Conferences
7. Sales Contests
8. Free or Concessional Travels
9. Opportunity for Giving Suggestions
10. Participation in Management.

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