Which do you think would be harder to train, a cat or a salesperson? Seriously, which one would you pick? The same training and reward techniques required to get Fluffy to jump through a hoop can also be utilized to motivate your sales team to achieve peak performance.

One evening while channel surfing, I came across a fascinating animal act that grabbed my attention. The act featured a cat trainer with a half dozen cats of varying size, shape and color. This man simply used a combination of treats and verbal praise to motivate his cats to perform difficult tricks. Amazingly, he got one cat to walk on his front paws, one balanced on a ball, while yet another pushed a toy baby stroller across the stage.

No actual training required

After the performance, the cat trainer was interviewed and asked how he was able to get his cats to willingly obey his commands. His response surprised me with its simple wisdom. He said that he didn’t train the cats at all, he simply figured out what each cat liked to do best and then encouraged that behavior! “People need to realize that a cat’s indifference doesn’t mean they can’t learn cool tricks,” says celebrity animal trainer Joel Silverman. “It simply means you haven’t convinced them yet that doing so is in their best interest. A dog naturally wants to please you and will work for you, but a cat needs a paycheck to be motivated.”

Testing the waters
Temperament testing is a must. Before you invest your time and energy into training, make sure you check for temperament suitability. Temperament testing allows you to identify those who by nature lack the discipline, desire or self-motivation to consistently achieve peak performance.

Look for “hot buttons.” Unfortunately, a compensation structure based solely on commission does not address individual motivational factors and therefore, money alone will not motivate your sales force.

A successful incentive program is a mixture of awards, recognition and peer pressure. There is tremendous power behind a timely word of praise or a handwritten note acknowledging achievement.

Make sure to take time for rest and relaxation. All work and no play will make the cat, the salesperson and the trainer grumpy. Whether it is playing with a ball of yarn or enjoying a round of golf, taking time out to play is critically important. By successfully balancing play and work, you will return recharged, refreshed and ready to accomplish more.