Motivation Feed

Six Things You Need to Know about Millennial Sales Reps


Josiane feigon

Today’s guest post is by Josiane Feigon, president of TeleSmart Communications and author of Smart Selling on the Phone and Online. The insight in this blog post is taken from the “15 in 2015 Inside Sales Trend Report.”   



Millennials are taking over in the sales profession. In just five years, this generation will make up 46 percent of the entire US workforce. Here are six characteristics of Millennials that inside sales managers should know. 

1. They overshare.

Millennials value their community at work. That explains why the open-office phenomenon is so popular and why 88 percent of Millennials want their co-workers to be their friends. The flip side of this is oversharing. Too much or inappropriate information can destroy trust and a collaborative atmosphere. Don’t let oversharing tendencies run wild in your department. Establish the expectation that yours is a friendly office, not an overly social one. 

2. They value engagement with their parents.

Know that you might be competing with your Millennial sales rep’s parent for influence. Consider the following:

  • Baby boomers were often helicopter parents for Millennials.
  • Some high-profile employers have instituted “bring your parents to work” days.
  • I’ve talked with sales managers who have noticed Millennial reps regularly consulting with their parents about career moves.
  • I even have a few friends who regularly do their kids’ homework . . . in college!

As an inside sales manager, don’t play into the Millennials’ fear of failure by being an always-present authority figure ready to swoop in and tell them exactly how to get things done. Encourage a learning environment where their experience is valuable and their insight is welcomed. This will help as you push them to sell on their own. 

3. They can easily become confused about how they get paid.

According to Vorsight and The Bridge Group, three out of every 10 reps reported being unclear about their incentive compensation plan, which correlates to a 300 percent drop in employee engagement. Considering how motivation – or the lack thereof – is contagious on the sales floor, insides sales managers need to pay attention to this trend. Outline incentives clearly and make sure reps easily grasp the basics of how the incentive plan works.

4. They might blur the boundaries between employee and manager.

Pew Research revealed that, compared to previous generations, most Millennials have low trust in authority figures. The same study shows that Millennials prefer an environment that allows them to interact informally with peers and their bosses. A recent LinkedIn internal study also reported that one in three Millennials have texted their boss outside of work for non-work-related reasons, compared to only 10 percent of the boomer generation.

As a result, many Millennials find hierarchical relationships to be uncomfortable or foreign. Make sure you set the standard for what’s appropriate and what’s not. Be friendly, and be clear that you’re the boss.

5. They fear negative feedback.

I find that managers complain that they are constantly badgered by their team members to mentor more, coach more, acknowledge more, and reward more, but when they reach out unrehearsed and unplanned with some critiques, their reps panic. What’s the deal with these double standards? 

High-maintenance Millennials can be very fearful of rejection, fueling both 1) need for constant feedback and 2) a fear of rejection. In other words, they want to hear lots of encouraging things and few critical ones. This might be because helicopter parents prevented them from experiencing and bouncing back from failure.

Avoid this high-maintenance minefield by making sure you telegraph your feedback meetings way ahead of time and surround all criticism with positive messages. 

6. They can go quickly from little angels to little monsters.

“They interviewed so well, everyone liked them . . . and then after a few months, something happened.” I get this comment from sales managers a lot. Their young new hires seem to be starting out so well, then out comes their wrecking ball!

When high-maintenance Millennials experience something upsetting, such as a breakup or a lost deal, it can affect their work, possibly more so than with employees from other age brackets. With their “friends are co-workers” mentality, Millennials can have an impossible time focusing on work when they’re pouring out their feelings to their office neighbors.

These types of employees need to know that, when they’re at work, they must focus on work. If you’re calm, cool, and an honest – but tough – professional, the rest of the team will admire you for stepping in to reign in a bad influence without breathing fire and getting authoritarian.

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How to Run a Sales Contest

AdamHollander_300Today's guest post is by Adam Hollander, CEO of FantasySalesTeam.




Over the last year and a half at FantasySalesTeam, we’ve helped companies run hundreds of sales contests. A few weeks ago, Joe Goss, one of our client success managers and our resident Excel guru, took it upon himself to examine data generated from 164 games among our 100-plus clients, mostly inside sales teams. The sales teams were as small as four reps and as large as 2,800 reps. What he found about motivation is worth sharing.

Lesson #1: Run your sales contest for one to two months.

Having spent my entire career in sales and sales management, I’ve participated in and run my fair share of sales contests. Some run for a week, others for a year. So what’s the average length for a sales contest?


According to our findings, the average game length was 44 days, while the median was 31, showing that most of our clients are running sales contests for one to two months at a time. We advise customers to reset periodically by stopping one game and then starting a new one with new metrics, goals, awards, etc. This gives players who may have fallen behind a chance to start fresh. Also, this cadence allows sales managers change metrics and point values to align with their most current and pressing goals and metrics.

Lesson #2: Balance activity metrics with results metrics.

We tell every FantasySalesTeam customer to balance games between activity/behavior metrics (e.g., calls, meetings, pipeline) and results metrics (e.g., revenue or percentage of quota). This helps level the playing field to ensure that traditional top performers aren’t winning every time. In our analysis, we found a fairly good balance, with 61 percent of the metrics being activity based versus 39 percent results based. 


The majority of our customers run inside sales teams, which are highly metrics driven. We found that many of our customers (15 percent) are measuring phone activity at almost twice the rate of other activity not related to the phone (8 percent), such as meetings or proposals. More importantly, pipeline is the top activity metric being measured (31 percent) and aligns well with our advice that pipeline metrics are the most important to focus on in a sales contest.


A number of our clients also incorporate bonus-point metrics into their games to increase the motivation factor. We pulled out some we liked best:

  • Best Team Picture
  • Random Acts of Kindness
  • Sales on a Saturday
    And our favorite…
  • Number of Songs Sung to Customers

Lesson #3: Reward reps with experiences (not cash or prizes).

Based on general feedback that we’ve received from reps over the last two years – and we’ve talked to a lot of them – we recommend customers focus on giving experiences rather than physical prizes. Experiences tend to be less expensive, and more importantly, reps tend to remember them a lot more than they do a new TV or camera.


When we broke down the 393 different prizes (grouping together items such as cash or gift cards), we found that 53 percent could be classified as experiences, while 47 percent were physical items. (By the way, 73 percent of the physical items were cash, allowing winners to choose their own reward).

Here are some other motivation best practices for sales teams to consider.

  • Leverage team competition. Team-based games and incentives get players (reps) pushing and relying on each other and are far more effective than individual-based contests.
  • Create multiple ways to win. When you have only one way to win the incentive, inevitably players fall behind or out of contention. Create multiple paths to win and succeed to keep the team engaged longer.
  • Update results frequently. The more often you update the results from your contest, the more engaged your reps will be. Better yet, tie the contest directly to your customer relationship management or call-center management system so the results update automatically!
  • Make results highly visible. Ensure that the contest results and updates are front and center. Send out regular notifications, and display leaderboards throughout the office, ideally on TV screens.
  • Hold a proper kickoff. Don’t just launch the contest through an email blast. Get everyone together in a room or through a call/Web meeting and showcase the structure, prizes, etc. Make sure there’s real excitement on day one.
  • Get managers engaged. If managers are paying attention to the contest results, they will make sure their reps are paying attention. Find ways to engage the managers and ensure they are invested in the reps’ success.
  • Measure, measure, measure. The point of a sales contest or incentive is not just to have fun or increase engagement but to drive improved results and activity. Make sure you know how you’re going to measure success so you can prove the return on investment and have the ability to do it again!

For more information on FantasySalesTeam, visit or

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The Power of Achievement: Rowing across the Atlantic

Have you ever planned a high-octane, high-risk adventure?

Recently I had the chance to talk with Peter Van Kets, who planned and executed a daring escapade to row in an unsupported boat across the Atlantic with a friend. Here are just a few stunning facts from our conversation. 

  • They rowed nonstop (in shifts of 1.5 hours each) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a total of 50 days and 12 hours. (The only day they took a break was Christmas Day.)
  • They consumed anywhere from 8,000 - 10,000 calories a day and supplemented their diet by drinking olive oil (100 mL of olive oil is roughly 900 calories).
  • The three major hazards they faced were potential for 1) capsizing, 2) collision with other boats, and 3) mental breakdowns. 

In the end, they pushed themselves to the limit and set a world record! As Peter put it, "If we have the right process in place in our lives, we can acheive anything." Hear him tell his story in the video below. 

Peter is also featured as a motivation lesson in Selling Power University -- sign up at this link and click on "Success Motivation" to test your knowledge.

Four Warning Signs of an Unstable Sales Team

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global.



Usually, we can tell a lot about the stability of a sales organization by asking both leaders and direct reports one simple question: “Do you have a clear and compelling sales strategy in place?”

When we ask sales leaders this question, they almost always answer yes. When we ask their direct reports the same thing, they almost always answer no.

What’s the disconnect here?

It is vital that sales leaders tie the daily activities of salespeople directly to the larger goals of the organization. If your employees can’t easily make this connection, you are trying to steer a ship without a rudder. Over the years, we have learned to look for four big warning signs that a sales organization is drifting off course.

Warning sign #1: People in your organization believe that priorities shift a lot.

In many organizations, people either don’t know what to focus on, feel they’re constantly being pushed in multiple directions, or just feel overwhelmed by conflicting and ever-changing agendas. These perceptions translate into an overall sense of confusion, frustration, and disengagement. As a leader, shifting priorities might be a sign that you are making it too difficult for your people to say no and spend their time in the most productive way. It is also a sign that your strategy is not as clear as it needs to be. 

As a leader, make sure that you clearly communicate the top two or three priorities for each team, and make it easy for people to take lower priority items off their plates.

Warning sign #2: People have a laundry list of long-term goals they’re trying to meet.

Leaders at the very top are thinking about all kinds of problems day in and day out, but your managers and salespeople don’t always have the luxury of looking at the big picture and identifying the critical few priorities; that’s what they rely on you to do. When you ask people what they’re trying to accomplish in a given fiscal year, they should name no more than three big goals. 

As a leader, make sure that you help them identify the critical few moves that will make the biggest impact.

Warning sign #3: People are quick to point fingers and blame each other for problems.

The blame game is a common symptom of a directionless organization. If your team is highly focused on assigning blame for mistakes, screw-ups, and failure to meet goals, they’re treading water. You never want to get to the level at which people are more invested in the politics of running a business than actually engaging in business activities. You need to step in and get your team thinking about solutions and collaborations, rather than divisive political maneuvers.   

As a leader, hold people accountable for results and act decisively to quell overly political maneuvers.

Warning sign #4: People are unclear about how their success is measured.

Left to their own devices, people will often pursue either the most urgent items or whatever activities will lead to the highest personal gain, rather than pay attention to the strategic goals of the business as a whole. Salespeople should always be crystal clear about the criteria on which their performance is based.

As a leader, make sure that you measure and incentivize your team to pursue activities that align with your larger strategy. 

Staying vigilant about these four warning signs can save sales leaders a lot of headaches. Strategic clarity can create enormous performance leverage. For example, over a recent four-month period, we helped a high-growth client decrease internal conflicts by 38 percent by simply increasing goal clarity by 6 percent. 

Most sales leaders make assumptions that employees understand far more than they actually do. Make sure you find out what your team really thinks.

Read more in our white paper, "Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Performance Environment May Be in Trouble."

Critical Factors That Drive Your Organizational Culture

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global.



Your company culture is more than just a phrase or a tagline; it’s the heart of how things truly get done at your company. It is the key to strategy execution and high performance.

As an example of culture’s importance, take a look at this video clip, from the movie The Internship, which I showed to the audience during my recent presentation at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

In the context of this movie, Google has a strong sense of its company culture. What’s so funny is that the two characters clearly don’t fit in, and their stints at Google will not and should not last if the culture has high performance attributes.

Organizational culture is not “soft” stuff. Harvard Business Review says that up to half of the difference in performance between companies in the same industry can be attributed to culture. Think about it this way: in nature, organisms change when their environment changes. The same is true for people. If people truly want to succeed and be a part of your company, they’ll conform to your culture. If they don’t, they’ll eventually be weeded out, one way or another. In terms of performance, this is a good thing.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference, I asked the audience members what factors they think drive extraordinary results in the following three high-performance environments: 1) the Olympic Games, 2) the singing competition American Idol, and 3) the weight-loss competition The Biggest Loser. Here’s what they said: 

  • Clear goals

  • National pride

  • Recognition

  • Coaching

  • Competition

More personal and world records are broken during the Olympics than at any other sporting event in the world. In a relatively short period of time, American Idol takes raw talent and dramatically improves contestants’ performance to create best-selling recording artists. The Biggest Loser, a show that features obese people competing to win a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of weight, dramatically changes lives fast. 

What is it about these environments that foster high performance? I believe it is their high performance culture. It’s the leader’s responsibility to create this culture, aligned with the company’s business strategy. That is how leaders set their teams up to succeed on a consistent basis.

Remember, culture is not what you want to be or what you aspire to be. It’s what’s true about your company. Every company has a culture, and it exists either by design or default. Is yours designed to win? Read more by downloading our white paper, “Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Performance Environment May Be in Trouble.”

As a leader, how do you use clarity, competition, meaning, recognition, and coaching to inspire and propel your teams to succeed? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Yes, Incentives for Channel Sales Reps Are Worth It!

Mike-SpellecyToday’s guest post is by Mike Spellecy, vice president of solution thought leadership at Maritz Motivation Solutions.



In an increasingly complex marketplace, it can be argued that channel partnerships are the most crucial to a business’s success. In fact, more than 90 percent of today’s manufacturers rely on multiple channels of distribution to sell and move their products.  

Of course, simply engaging in a channel-partner relationship doesn’t automatically guarantee business success. Realizing that channel reps most likely have the ability to sell competitors’ products, many organizations look to incentive programs as a way to maintain channel loyalty. But how effective are these programs? 

Maritz awards
Image via / digitalart

To address this question, Maritz Motivation Solutions surveyed more than 1,000 sales professionals from a variety of industries. Here are the findings:

  • Sixty-seven percent say that rewards and incentives are extremely important to job satisfaction.

  • Seventy-seven percent are more willing to sell a manufacturer’s products and services if they offer a reward and incentive program.

  • Eighty-one percent agree that the opportunity to earn rewards and incentives from manufacturers strengthens their ongoing relationship with them.

But aside from increasing interest and loyalty to a brand, channel-incentive programs have a positive effect on sales results. According to the survey respondents, more than one-third of sales were attributed to the effort to compete for and earn rewards. Imagine losing a third of your business for failing to meaningfully incentivize your channel reps!

So channel-rep incentives do work, and they have a powerful effect on reps’ performance; however, there are a lot of incentives. Seventy percent of survey participants were offered two or more incentive programs from manufacturers, channel-loyalty partners, and employers. On average, channel reps had the opportunity to participate in 3.9 incentive programs!

To get salespeople’s attention and stand out from an influx of competitive offers, you need to develop a compelling program that focuses on the individual. Almost 7 in 10 channel reps believe manufacturer-provided incentive opportunities should be based on personal performance, as opposed to team performance. Incentive programs that take into account individual motivations, individual communication preferences, and an ongoing awareness of an individual’s performance offer the best chance for driving true loyalty in the channel.

If you’re still on the fence about implementing a channel-loyalty program, it’s time to rethink your approach. Channel-rep incentives, when strategically designed and implemented, do work. 

Three Simple Strategies for Up-Leveling Sales Conversations

Moliski photoToday's post is by Jim Moliski, senior vice president of strategic services at Launch International. For more information about sales enablement, view this recent Webinar featuring experts from Sirius Decisions and Miller Heiman: Game-Changing Sales Enablement: Repeatable Conversations that Drive Revenue.



Are your salespeople under pressure to sell higher or more strategically? Do your content and tools support that approach? Too often, sales portals are packed with product information. Sellers need guidance on trends, issues, problems, and outcomes, but what they get is information about features and functions. You can’t fix this problem overnight, but you can take some positive steps right away to reinforce more strategic sales approaches.

Here are three simple, short-term strategies to help up-level sales conversations:

1. Profile your key buyers.

Most sales training teaches you to understand buyers, yet sales content often lacks information on who these buyers are and what they care about. Simple documents on the most common three to five buying roles can help your sellers develop the confidence to engage with more strategic audiences.

Start by interviewing your most successful salespeople. Ask them to name their most common targets: Who are they, and what do they care about? How do salespeople get in front of them? If possible, also ask customers who fit these descriptions to tell you about their challenges. 

For the buyer roles, summarize the following:

-       their responsibilities,

-       the functions they manage,

-       what they care about,

-       what gets them promoted or fired,

-       how they can be reached.


2. Summarize big-picture insight.

Successful salespeople get buyers to think differently about their problems and how to solve them. Your press releases, Website, and marketing campaigns often contain a wealth of insight on buyer issues and the unique ways your company helps address them. With minimum effort, you can summarize this insight and add guidance on how to use it to develop business.

Start by reviewing the source materials mentioned above and interviewing subject matter experts. Then create a simple set of coaching documents that summarize the following: 

-       What trend is impacting buyers?

-       What problems or opportunities is the trend creating?

-       How do buyers need to change?

-       What is the benefit of changing and the cost of not changing?

-       What can your company do to help?


3. Ask sales management to help get the word out.

A salesperson’s time is a precious, closely guarded commodity. How can you enable these new approaches when training can take weeks to schedule? Try enlisting your first-line sales managers. Sellers talk to their bosses frequently and tend to listen to them. Give sales managers some brief training, and encourage them to use every meeting as an enablement opportunity. Give them simple guidelines and tools, and provide anecdotes on how the most successful managers do it. Here are some opportunities for coaching: 

-       Deal-review calls

-       Pre-meeting planning

-       Team meetings

-       Weekly check-in


Want to learn more? Check out these free resources from Launch International. 

6 Steps to Giving Your Sales Teams the Content They Need (and Want) (eBook)

Few and Improved: How to Create Less Content That Drives More Sales (Executive Brief)

Thoughtful Selling™: Drive Differentiation Through Insight (eBook)


Seven Reasons Competition Fails for Sales

Mario hergerToday’s post is by Mario Herger, CEO, founder, and partner of Enterprise Gamification Consultancy LLC and coauthor of Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software. He will speak about gamification and motivation at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on May 5-6.  



Conventional wisdom holds that salespeople love competition. They want a challenge, a chance to race against their friends and colleagues, and the opportunity to land at the top of the leaderboard. Sales managers constantly use carrots and competition because this is what motivates salespeople ...but is that true?

In actuality, competition sometimes puts stress on the relationships between sales agents, colleagues, and customers. Here are seven reasons why that’s so:

1. Competition is the opposite of collaboration.

When we work together, we can achieve more than we can working as individuals. If we pit sales reps against one another to compete for a scarce item, such as a bonus or the top spot on a leaderboard, we can also discourage collaboration.

2. Competition motivates only a select group.

If you’ve used competition in the past, have you also crunched the numbers? Then you've likely found that only a small percentage of your sales force actually participates and hits the top. But what about the others? It is nearly always better to find a way to lift the sales numbers of the whole team. A better strategy is to lift 20 sales agents by 10 percent, not just have the first two reps double their sales.

3. If viewed as unfair, competition can undermine morale.

When the competition is considered unfair or unbalanced  (say a certain sales rep has an advantage because he or she happens to sell in a good region, for example) and offers no realistic chance for some people to win, salespeople are less likely to participate.

As I reported in this blog post, Maury Weinstein, president of IT company System Source, mentioned that 20 to 30 percent of his sales managers' time was spent dealing with administration to determine commission and competition. Sales reps kept arguing about why they should have gotten the bonus, why it was not their fault, why the circumstances made the competition unfair. Once they got rid of it, management had more time for business development.

4. Competition can lead to burnout.

After several days, competition loses its power. Competing all the time can lead to burnout. While sales reps focus their energy on closing deals during the competition, they start taking a break once it’s over, and this can lead to a dip in deals. Moreover, the dips may zero out all the gains from the competitive period.

5. Competition can lead to negative interpersonal behavior.

We like to think that we’re not sore losers, but sometimes our ego gets the best of us. In our weaker moments, maybe we harbor negative feelings about someone who won something we wanted for ourselves. Competition can exacerbate this in some sales cultures, and this isn’t an attitude that helps build a trusting and fruitful long-term relationship with clients and co-workers.

6. Competition has the potential to alienate customers.

Salespeople are usually extroverts. Most love socializing, making friends, and being trusted. Now, what happens if they are asked to close as quickly as possible and treat the customer, not as a friend, but as a rung on the ladder of success? A customer might sense that the rep is not looking out for his or her best interests and shut out the rep. When a competitive sales setup encourages reps to ram products and services down your customers’ throats to boost short-term sales, in the long term, they’ll damage the relationship with the customer.

7. Competition leaves you with many “losers.”

How many people can be at the top of a leaderboard? Exactly one. Even with 200 sales reps, you have only one winner, and while you’ve motivated one person, you’ve demotivated 199.

What is the alternative to competition? This is where gamification can help. Using game design elements and encouraging autonomy, feedback, and collaboration, gamification helps sales reps pull off more and on a longer term than competition would ever enable.

What are your thoughts on using competition to fuel sales success? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Proof That Gamification Has Become a Game Changer

BobMarshToday's post is by Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven



When the idea for LevelEleven came to me a few years ago, I had never even heard the word “gamification.” When I first heard it, in conversation about 2011’s Dreamforce conference, I reacted as I imagine most people do: I dubbed it a buzzword and predicted it would come and go.

Buzzword or not, falling into a trendy category has its advantages. In LevelEleven’s first full year of business in 2013, we saw exposure from national media outlets in print and on screen. We landed a dozen speaking opportunities at the world’s largest vendor technology conference, Dreamforce. About 40 percent of our clients became clients because they actively sought out gamification solutions.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, we battled misconception after misconception as we worked to show potential clients that gamification isn’t just some add-on for young teams who want to establish or reinforce a cool culture. It can be. But gamification really goes more like this:

1. It’s not always a game.

It certainly isn’t for the sales leaders at companies like the Detroit Pistons, who use gamification to ensure they’ll hit their goals. The Pistons hit a six-month sales goal in six weeks thanks to sales contests, driving more than $500,000 in sales around a new product. Nor is it a game for sales leaders at any of the other 71 companies (out of 100 that LevelEleven surveyed) who said they see between 11 percent and 50 percent increases in measured sales performance when using gamification to motivate key sales activities.

2. Gamification’s just as effective – or sometimes even more effective – for older generations.

People equate gamification with gaming and thus with younger generations. It makes sense, but it’s not accurate. The desire to compete and be recognized doesn’t expire, nor does the fact that nobody wants to see his or her face at the bottom of a leaderboard.

Sometimes gamification tools are more applicable for more seasoned sales folks, especially if they tend to resist the technology that gamification can help them adopt. In fact, that’s the reason Stanley Black & Decker chose to bring gamification into its environment, which houses employees with an average age of 54 years and tenure of 19 years.

Here are the results driven by Stanley Black & Decker’s first sales contest:

·      29 percent increase in pipeline activities

·      43 percent increase in documented opportunities

·      320 percent updated records

·      70 percent engagement rate (for which live leaderboards were credited)

3. Gamification’s not about motivating everything.

You could call gamification sales motivation, but that just doesn’t sound right. Hire a motivational speaker, get your team amped, and call that sales motivation. As I explained in this recent interview (below), sales gamification goes beyond that. It adds another layer. It uses competition to motivate your team, not just to start performing in general, but to start performing more of the specific behavior that drives your business forward.

For every team, that behavior varies. It may include social-selling activities, such as leveraging LinkedIn connections, or getting in front of the customer through face-to-face meetings. Kelly Services can attest to the potential in the latter option. This company credits competitions centered on face-to-face meetings for $5.8 million in additional revenue.

In the end, gamification really comes down to filling in the blank.

It’s completing the statement, “If our sales team got us more _______, it would ensure we’d hit or surpass our goals and increase our revenue,”and then using competition to motivate certain behavior until getting more of whatever your variable is becomes habit.

Whether the “buzzword” stays or goes, the concept of gamification will continue to stick around. When used carefully, gamification gives sales leaders the power to improve their sales outcome. It can change a business. That considered, maybe the name of the category’s not all that bad, as long as we understand that gamification’s about helping businesses conquer the game – not just stay in it. 

Team Goals: My Chat with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott

Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation.



Recently, I sat down with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott to talk about how properly aligned goals lead to motivated teams and ultimate success.

It was a great conversation and an honor to chat one-on-one with a superstar athlete who helped win multiple Super Bowls and also achieved success in business later in his career. One thing he said that stuck with me was that it’s important to recognize that the game is bigger than you. This is the first step in aligning yourself with the team and the team goals – which is hard.

My new book, Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream; Every CFO’s Nightmare, delves deep into the science of motivation: what really makes people tick and inspires performance for the team? After decades in the industry, I’ve seen more than a few managers who unintentionally demotivate their employees, and I’ve discovered quite a few “myth-understandings” about what truly motivates in the workplace.

Myth #1: Having a job should be motivation enough.

Sure, in a world where jobs are extremely scarce (Great Recession anyone?), having a job ismotivation enough. But you can’t really call this feeling motivation; it’s more related to fear and the anxiety that comes from having no other employment options. Buyers beware: if you subscribe to this tactic during lean times, expect a major pushback as soon as the economy improves – and it always does. There was a 37 percent increase in voluntary employee termination from 2009 to 2013. This loss of personnel isn’t just problematic, it’s costly. Losing an employee will cost your organization up to 1.5 times an employee’s annual salary.

Myth #2: Money is the greatest motivator.

According to Mindflash, being fully appreciated for completed work is more important than money for most employees. Sixty-seven percent say praise and recognition from a manager is the most effective motivator. Don’t get me wrong, money matters – a competitive salary is important for retaining rock stars – but when it comes to motivating and engaging employees, pats on the back, plaques, and public recognition go far in making them feel like appreciated members of the team.

Myth #3: Nothing lights fire like fear.

How can you tell if you’ve gone too far? If you think Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada was just misunderstood, you’ve already crossed the line. Fear is a temporary motivator that creates a stressful and unhealthy work environment, not a viable long-term strategy. While being terrified of a boss will “inspire” temporarily, burnout, absenteeism, and health problems are likely to ensue. It’s estimated that $300 billion is spent every year on costs related to workplace stress.

Myth #4: Good motivation theories and practices will work for all employees.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee motivation. This is especially important to remember when you consider that engaged employees produce 50 percent more work than disengaged employees. Different tactics inspire people born in different generations. A Gen Yer might need accolades for every completed project, while a Gen Xer may place a high premium on work-life balance. Do your homework and you’ll soon reap the benefits of motivating according to the unique makeup of your workforce.

Myth #5: Sales reps are either naturally motivated or they aren’t.

Everyone is motivated by something; it just takes time to find out what it is. With $350 billion lost in productivity annually because of disengaged employees, companies can’t afford to segment employees into limiting categories. Everyone has the potential to be motivated. Even the rep you catch playing video games during working hours has some motivation behind his or her actions. If you don’t learn what that something is and figure out how to direct it toward work, you could miss out on a highly productive employee.

If you’ve been using any of these tactics to “motivate” your employees, it’s not too late to change your ways. Just remember that motivating isn’t a guessing game, it’s a science. Use the empirical evidence outlined above, and before you know it, your personnel will be performing at peak ability.

Hear more about motivation myths in the Webinar recording “Game the Plan: Review, Strategize, and Win in 2014.”