4 Dimensions of Sales Motivation: Know Your Team

April 15, 2021
4 Dimensions of Sales Motivation: Know Your Team

One of the most common questions we hear from sales managers is how to motivate their sales teams. Sales motivation can be a complex and difficult challenge, especially when burnout is more common than ever. That's why we've unpacked the 4 Dimensions of Sales Motivation here.

Have you ever noticed that some salespeople don’t seem to need any pushing from their managers? They log on early, sign out late (or maybe not at all), and are always willing to make a difficult phone call or send those extra emails. When they run into a challenge, they turn it up a notch and push right through.

Then there are other salespeople who seem to need their managers to help them stay on track. These reps can be more easily distracted or lose focus. When things go wrong, they can often get stuck and need help moving forward.

What causes this? Is that second type just bad at selling? Do they get overwhelmed more easily than the first type? And since every sales team will inevitably have a mix of personalities, how should managers respond? How can managers motivate their sales teams?

In this resource, we’ve identified 4 dimensions of sales motivation that may help you understand the different types of motivational drivers on your team, as well as how to best work with each team member to increase sales performance.

The 4 Dimensions

  1. Internal Motivation

Salespeople that are intrinsically (or internally) motivated are driven to achieve their goals for personal satisfaction. They fall into the first group of people I mentioned above (those that don’t seem to need much of a push from their sales managers). Internally motivated people tend to be very self-motivated and are often able to work themselves out of a rut or problem.

  1. External Motivation

Extrinsic (or external) motivation involves an outside driving force pushing someone to achieve goals. External motivation is sometimes easier to understand and control, but it is inherently less powerful than internal motivation.

Motivational Direction – Positive vs. Negative

In life, we all move toward pleasure and away from pain. If a reward (potential pleasure) is great enough, we’ll work toward it. On the other hand, if a punishment (potential pain) is great enough, we’ll work to get away from it.

While we’re all motivated by both of these forces, when it comes to sales, many people have a preference for one or the other. These preferences are independent of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

  1. Positive Motivation

An internally motivated person might have a strong drive to be successful in order to achieve personal satisfaction. This will cause them to feel that they've achieved their potential. That’s a positive (toward) motivation.

Commissions, bonuses, and recognitions are good examples of positive motivation for an externally-motivated person.

  1. Negative Motivation

Another internally motivated person might have an underlying fear of failure. This internal driver might follow someone for their entire life, an example of negative (away) motivation.

Deadlines, problems, and potential consequences can be good examples of negative motivation for an internally-motivated person.

Motivating Your Sales Team eBook
The 4 Dimensions of Sales Motivation
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Identifying Motivations

Ask your salespeople to consider these motivational drivers. If they don't already know what drives or motivates them, or perhaps you see different behavior from what they say motivates them, try a different approach.

One of the easiest ways to identify someone’s motivational direction is to ask them to describe a goal. What kind of words do they use? Do they talk about what they want or do they default to a list of things they don’t want?

In getting your team to reflect on their motivators, you'll get a better sense of how to work with each person when new projects or challenges arise, and which salespeople might pair well with certain clients.

For example, if you have a client that has strict deadlines and needs a lot of fires being put out, maybe send the person who is motivated by negative, external drivers. If you have a person who has no problem chasing down a lead and being persistent as long as there's a big commission, send the positive, externally motivated person.

Driving Sales Motivation

So how can you as a manager motivate your sales team? You probably have a mix of all 4 dimensions, and what works for one won’t work for others.

As you might expect, there are many ways to motivate based on personality and motivational type. Be sure to check out our eBook on The 4 Dimensions of Sales Motivation for a more in-depth look into this concept. But first, don't miss these great resources for motivation!


Are you a leader looking to spur growth in your organization? Join us for our 3-part webinar series on keeping relevant and offering value in challenging times, hosted by CFS and DialAmerica. With just one registration, you'll get access to all three events. Can't make the date? No problem! We'll send you recordings of our discussions. Sign up today!

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