Motivating sales reps – the power of autonomy and recognition

Motivating sales reps

Motivating sales reps

Motivating sales reps is a key responsibility of every sales manager. How can they motivate their sales teams effectively? Newton and Davis recently shared several factors that help improve the effectiveness of an organization. Two struck us as really important for sales managers.

Autonomy. We’ve written about the importance of sales managers not micro-managing. We all know from experience that when we’ve been micromanaged, the results are less then positive.  The negative reactions can vary from disappointment to outright anger.  And, it turns out that even when people appear to ignore it and keep a good face, their performance is interrupted or degraded.

Neuroscientists tell us:  “A reduction in autonomy is experienced in much the same way as a physical attack.  In fact there is a “fight-or-flight” reaction.  An ever-growing body of research, summarized by neuroscientist Christine Cox of New York University, has found that when this fight-or-flight reaction kicks in, even if there is no visible response, productivity falls and the quality of decisions is diminished.”

On the other hand, “by giving employees some genuine autonomy, a company can reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of this threat state.” Indeed, Mauricio Delgado and his research colleagues at Rutgers University have found “the perception of increased choice in itself makes people feel more at ease.”

Rewards and recognition.  Most of us have had experiences that suggest a little recognition goes a long way – everyone likes being recognized and rewarded for their actions.  But take it to the next step – optimize the experience by personalizing the message. People appreciate when someone takes the time and effort to create and share a different type of recognition that is personalized to them.

“Neuroscience explains the importance of the personal touch in delivering recognition that matters. When a manager recognizes an employee’s strengths in a personalized way before the group, it lights up the same regions of the brain as winning a large sum of money.”  This type of recognition encourages people to repeatedly behave the same way

Summary for sales managers.  So what’s the walk-away?  For sales reps, selling is an up and down business.  When engaged in major sales, the “Motivation Hit” that occurs from closing deals comes a lot less frequently then in transactional sales.  So what can you do in the interim to help keep up the motivation level – provide sales reps the autonomy they appreciate and the personalize rewards and recognition for the small successes they achieve everyday.

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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