Conventional wisdom on motivating your team would have you believe that there is only one technique that works: the carrot and the stick.
However, if your team spends most of its time worrying about the stick because it has no expectation of winning the carrot, the effect can actually be the opposite of what you intended, leaving you with a downward spiral of low morale and poor performance.
If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone...but it’s not time to rip up the carrot and stick rule book yet! It’s just time to understand it better.
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The carrot and stick approach is only effective if you apply the M = R x E (Motivation = Reward x Expectation) formula for sales success.
Let me explain with an example. Let’s imagine that it’s the office Christmas party and there is a piano in the room. You decide it would liven up the party if someone were to play a few tunes and you offer a bottle of wine as an incentive. Yet, no-one volunteers to tickle the ivories.
Even after you’ve threatened to end the party if no-one volunteers to play the piano, the stool remains unoccupied. Why? Because you’ve failed to ask a very important question – does anyone at the party actually know how to play the piano?
It seems obvious in that context that a reward is only an incentive if it’s attainable and yet, in a more conventional business scenario, that very important element of motivation – expectation – is often overlooked.
Put simply, no matter how attractive the reward may be, if the salesperson has no expectation of achieving it because the target is too high or in some other way unachievable it will not motivate them to sell more. In fact, it may do just the opposite.
So what’s the answer?
Firstly, it’s vital to nurture a no blame culture that enables sales people to communicate openly about the hurdles that are preventing them from achieving their targets. This should be a two-way process, with sales managers also taking the initiative to help members of their team that are struggling to meet their targets, rather than berating them for underperformance.
Secondly, you need to enable those more worried about the stick than excited about the carrot to access the help they need to increase their expectations of attainment with training and confidence building.
Let’s face it, sales talent, like musical ability, needs coaching and practice to reach its full potential and building confidence and the expectation of success along the way is an important part of that process.
By Mike Le Put, Director, MLP Training. For more information about MLP Training and the courses on offer, visit their website. Download 'The Motivator' - MLP newsletter. There are a number of sales programmes taking place throughout the year, for more information click here