Sales Management: Motivating the Sales Force
Motivating the sales force is often based on providing the sales force with rewards based on performance and this is an important motivational tool. At the same time, it must be recognized that for this to be effective, other needs must first be taken care of. To investigate this idea further, several motivational theories will be described with each applied to the sales force. This will be followed by a description of how a sales force can best be motivated and what factors need to be present for maximum motivation.
The first motivational theory to be considered is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. This theory states that there are five levels of needs that an individual moves through. The first level is physiological needs, which refers to the basic need for food and shelter. The second level is safety needs, which includes having job security. The third level is belongingness needs, which refers to an individual’s need to feel like they are part of something and that their contribution is important. The fourth level is esteem, which refers to an individual’s need to feel good about themselves, including feeling that their work is appreciated. The fifth and final level is self-actualization, which refers to the individual feeling that they are being the best that they can be. This final level represents the individual being at their most motivated. At this point, the employee works to be the best that they can be, while feeling maximum satisfaction and while also feeling that their contribution is valued. The important thing about the hierarchy is that individuals cannot achieve any stage without first progressing through the earlier stages. Therefore, an employee cannot reach the self-actualization stage if their physiological, safety, belongingness and esteem needs have not first been met. This means the organization must ensure every level of need is provided for. Relating this hierarchy to the sales force, it can be considered how each of the needs can be met. The first level is physiological needs, the need for food. To provide for this need, the organization needs to ensure the sales force are adequately compensated. This is the reason that commission-only employees lack motivation. While they need to make sales just to meet their safety needs they are not able to progress to any higher level of motivation. The next stage is safety needs. For the sales force, this relates to job security and assurance that their basic needs will be provided for. This is another reason why commission only systems do not work. These commission only systems do not allow employees to feel safe and secure in their jobs. The third stage is belongingness needs, which refers to an employee’s need to feel that they are part of a team. For the sales force, this means ensuring that employees know their role in the organization and how they fit into the organization. It also means creating an environment where employees feel like part of a team. One aspect that can prevent this within a sales force is competition between members. To prevent this from occurring, rewards need to be given not just on an individual basis but also on a team basis. The fourth stage is esteem needs, which is the employee’s need to feel good about themselves. To achieve this, employees need to be praised for their actions. This praise could be in the form of a monetary reward, an award for their efforts or a simple thank you. The final stage is self-actualization. This stage occurs when all other needs have been met. At this stage, employees work for themselves, as much as for the company, where they desire to achieve goals because it matters to them. This is the maximum motivation achievable based on the fact that all individuals will ultimately value themselves more than anyone else.
A similar theory is ERG theory, a theory that describes three levels of motivation: existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs. The first level of existence needs is similar to Maslow’s first two stages, where existence needs is the individual’s need to live adequately. For the sales force, this means paying the staff adequately and giving them job security so they know their needs will be provided for. The second level is relatedness needs, which is the need to feel part of a group. To achieve this, the organization needs to create an adequate environment for employees where they feel like they are part of something. The final stage is growth needs. This refers to an employee’s need to feel that they are going somewhere. For the sales staff, this could involve training programs so employee’s skills are increased, promotional programs so employees are aiming towards taking on a higher role, or skill-sharing programs so an employee’s skill range is increased.
The final theory that will be considered is Herzberg’s two-factor theory. This theory states that there are two types of factors, hygiene factors and motivators. Hygiene factors do not motivate employees but do demotivate them if not present. Motivators are the factors that actually increase motivation. Importantly, employees will not be motivated unless the hygiene factors are first provided for. These hygiene factors include pay, security, company policies and interpersonal relationships. The first thing the organization must do is ensure that these factors are present. Employees require adequate pay and job security. They also require the company policies that give them something consistent to believe in and something consistent to base their behaviors on. Finally, interpersonal relations are required, which refers to adequate relationships with superiors and with peers. The relationship between an employee and their boss is especially important, with employees needing to feel that they can speak to their boss. Each of these items allows the employee to feel comfortable in the workplace. Once these items are present, the organization can then consider motivators. These motivators include achievement, recognition, responsibility and personal growth. This can include incentive schemes, reward systems and opportunities for advancement. However, importantly, these systems will not be effective unless the hygiene factors are first present.
Now that these three theories on employee motivation have been described, it can now be considered what factors are important in motivating the sales force.
Firstly, it has been seen that employees need to have their basic existence needs provided for. This requires that employees be adequately compensated. This compensation should not be in the form of a commission only system. Instead, employees need to be assured that they will be provided with enough monetary compensation regardless of their performance. This communicates to employees that they are valued and increases job security, while also making them feel that they are valued by the organization.
Employees also need to feel like part of the organization. One way to achieve this is to develop a participative workplace. Participative leadership refers to a workplace where employees are fully involved in decisions, consulted on any changes, asked for their input and generally involved in everything. It has been noted that participation of employees greatly increases their motivation and productivity, and also aligns individual goals with organizational goals. This approach assists with ensuring employees feel like they are an important part of the organization and feel valued by the organization.
Encouraging teamwork is another way of assisting with motivation of the sales force. One recent study reports that that employees working on projects are more efficient when their goals relate to the overall team goals rather than individual goals. It was also noted that individuals need to have their belongingness and relatedness needs met. Encouraging teamwork is effective in having employees work together, develop relationships and feel like they are part of a group aimed at one similar goal. It was also noted that competition between sales staff can prevent an environment of working together from forming and instead result in one where sales staff are competing. While a competitive workplace may be suitable for some employees, in the long-term this environment will only create excess stress. It must be noted that even in a workplace where every sales person is competitive, there can only ever be one winner. For everyone except the winner, this is dissatisfying. On the whole then, a competitive workplace only creates stress and reduces employee satisfaction. One of the best ways to prevent a competitive workplace from emerging is to encourage teamwork, where all sales staff work towards one common goal. This involves setting overall targets for all sales staff to achieve, rather than focusing on individual performance.
It is also important that employees are motivated towards the goals of the organization. One author describes motivation as providing a work environment in which individual needs become satisfied through efforts that also serve organizational objectives. This involves creating systems where employee’s goals are the same as organizational goals. This is achieved by creating reward systems. These reward systems take the form of incentive schemes. It has been said that, “Employees must see a…