If it isn’t obvious from my many posts using the Objective Management Group’s database, I love to mine facts on salespeople. I’m fortunate to have access to this large database and all the information it provides. And recently I’ve noticed a slight trend shift regarding how salespeople are motivated that needs to be shared.

Motivation Changes

In February 2019, the breakdown looked like this: And as of November 2019, it looked like this:

To break it down, in just nine months’ time our data on over 550,000 salespeople indicates a 60% increase in the number who are motivated by rewards, recognition, and money from 10% to 16%. And, an 11% reduction in those that are motivated solely by their own reasons – not by external forces.

What’s Old is New Again?

Is this change signaling a shift back to the good old days where everyone went into sales because of the unlimited earning potential? A time when all you had to do was give a person an opportunity and they worked their tail off to make as much money as humanly possible.

Well, maybe, but maybe not.

For the last 10 years, we have seen the vast majority of salespeople be motivated by intrinsic reasons. Obviously, with 70% of the selling database still motivated intrinsically, the majority is still large.

I always chocked up this shift during the ’80s through the early 2000s from money-motivation to intrinsic motivation to two reasons: 1) An increasing number of millennials in sales who value more than just money, and 2) the economic downturn in 2007 that caused havoc with people’s incomes, which influenced many to be happy with less.

What to Do

So, what does this recent reversal mean for you as a sales leader? Well, you likely still have millennials working for you, and possibly some who still value more than just money. But, as they age and want to buy things, and live in nice places, and take care of their family, will their motivation shift?

Possibly. But, for now, you need to consider that the compensation plan alone won’t necessarily cause all your sellers to be overachievers. It won’t even be the sole inspiration for 20% of them. So, leaders still need to inspire the individuals on their team individually.

This means learning what gets each salesperson’s engine running. It may not be what you think so get personal with them. Find out why they come to work; What they do when they aren’t at work. Encourage them to think big and establish goals. Then help them tie their goals, their reasons for doing something to their daily work. Once this is done It will make your job easier in terms of holding them accountable to those goals.