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Portfolio > Economy & Markets > Fixed Income

The Money Myth

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This article is excerpted from Discover Your Sales Strengths: How the World’s Greatest Salespeople Develop Winning Careers, by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano, Copyright 2003 by the Gallup Organization (Warner Business Books).

We have met very few salespeople whose ambition is poverty. Okay, we have not met any! We have also met very few salespeople who are solely “coin operated,” as one representative put it. True, money is important to everyone at some level, but no one reward is equally important to everyone in any profession. Not all actors are motivated by fame, not all doctors are motivated by patient care, and not all salespeople are motivated by money.

Even salespeople who have a strong desire to earn significant incomes are often motivated by other factors as well. Our research shows that motivation is often very different for different salespeople. What is important is for you to understand what drives you. To perform at your best, you need to be in a situation in which you are getting the rewards that are important to you. Those rewards can be complex.

Often we find that companies that offer exceptional income potential to their sales representatives might offer little else. Other companies might offer a dash of recognition or an occasional contest. These “crumbs” are often not enough to satisfy many salespeople’s inner motivational needs.

If you are unmotivated, you might feel the need to push yourself more and more just to go out and do your job every day. As long as there is a great income opportunity, you might feel that you should be motivated. But it’s easy to underestimate how not having all your motivational requirements met can significantly lower your performance. We have met countless successful salespeople who did poorly in school. Why? Because school did not provide the right motivational rewards to satisfy them. Once they were in an environment that did, they soared. Sometimes without realizing it, we move out of the right motivational environment, and our performance suffers.

A friend of ours tells us that when he was a kid, his parents always though he had a poor appetite. “But that was not it at all,” he said, “I just didn’t like the food they served.”

What’s the right food for you? Maybe money is your “thing” and maybe it’s not. We have found phenomenal sales reps who are happy to earn $80,000 a year, and we have found phenomenal sales reps who are discontented when earning $300,000. If you’re like the very best reps we have studied, your motivation is not one-dimensional.

Sales representatives are often motivated by a desire to feel significant, or by competition, or by a desire to be in charge. Some salespeople have an intense need for the respect of their colleagues or customers. Some get a kick out of opening new accounts, whereas other might feel a keen sense of satisfaction from restoring a broken-down territory back to financial health. When these desires are strongly present in a person’s psychological makeup, they must be met or that person’s motivation will decline sharply.


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