Sales Managers: Let's awaken ourselves to two powerful truths. Number One: You and your sales team are all motivated by 3 questions: "What defines you?" "How do you perform your job?" and "Why do you get out of bed in the morning?"  Number Two: You have the power to construct a workplace narrative that both redefines your team's professional identity and compounds their motivation.

By focusing on the What? the How? and the Why? of your sales reps' professional identities, you can move beyond the motivational limits of tangible incentives and tap into your sales force's most important drivers of sustained motivation and self-empowerment. 

Combined as one, these 3 elemental questions cut to the core of your sales team's psyche. And in turn, they construct the intangible, internal psychological forces that either externalize as tangible payoffs in performance or self-imposed limitations on such achievement. 

The 3 Levels of Sales Motivation


The primary issue with most managerial approaches to motivation is an over-reliance on external, "system-shocking" stimuli. Sales managers tend to go for the visceral, rather than the ephemeral. And while effective in the short-term, this approach ultimately proves devoid of long-term value and gradually reduces in impact over time.

As a sales leader, your goal should be to develop an intrinsic, self-perpetuating motivation within your people. As Jim Tressel once said, "the Hallmark of excellence, the test of greatness, is consistency." The greatest professionals in their fields are the ones unable to dial back their commitment and intensity, regardless of situational appropriateness.

You need to attack the motivational triggers in your people at multiple levels to earn sustained results. Here are the 3 levels at which to attack:

  1. How: Incentivize Progress across Process.

  2. What: Leverage Efficiency via Teams.

  3. Why: Create an Inclusive “Why.”

Usain Bolt once famously said: "I don't think limits." Instead, he and others like Muhammad Ali credit laser focus on goals for their success. Let's look at the guidebook for your attack. 

Level 1. Incentivize Progress and Process

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The main idea here is to motivate employees to achieve progress on a certain process, thus breaking down big picture trends in performance in a way that is easier to identify and focus attention toward.

One method of implementing this approach is to build competitions and set expectations around multiple metrics, ideally a pipeline superscore. This method works by:

  1. Creating more opportunities for little wins, leading to increased engagement and opportunity for recognition.

  2. Reactivating employees milking large accounts by challenging them to improve their individual performance around a given process.

Level 2. Motivate via Team Competition

Typically, managers transfer motivation to employees on a one-to-one basis, from the manager to the rep. With team competitions, however, managers create the environment for "Many-to-Many Motivation" (MMM).


The effect of MMM is increased motivation sources -- accountability not just towards oneself or a manager, but to members on one's team striving for a similar reward.  

Ideally your manager should have to spend minimal time motivating and more time coaching. This tactic disperses the motivation onus from a few managers across the greater salesforce.

All in all, the below graphic does an excellent job of showing why, from a motivation standpoint, teams go farther, faster.

Level 3. Hit Quota By Helping

This first approach is predicated upon an emerging understand of human psychology, which is finding that people work for Why, not What. The three over-arching ideas here are: 

  1. Simon Sinek’s TED Talk. Great leaders inspire action by appealing to the inner "Why."

  2. Create a greater cause for your employees and champion it.

  3. The intangible is more powerful than the tangible.

Step 1. Inspire action via "Why." 

This first idea essentially encourages managers to focus on appealing to employees not via an external "what" (Ex. Here's a $5000 commission you can earn) but by going for the internal "why" (Ex. Be part of something bigger than yourself).

Step 2. Create a greater cause and champion it. 

Note the preceding example -- "Be part of something bigger than yourself."

Your sales reps are always going to be driven by more money -- but when you incorporate an ephemeral element, you add an extra layer of motivation that will give your employees more motivation, more loyalty to your organization, and an edge over your competition.

Step 3. Intangible > Tangible. 

The old saying goes, "You can't take it with you" -- "it," of course, being money. Records, similarly, were meant to be broken.

But when you give your employees something intangible -- the opportunity to leave a legacy, to attain glory or lasting recognition -- you are extending beyond the barriers of the tangible world and given them something more powerful to stive for.

Critical note: This approach has a multiplier effect with Millennials, who, studies show, respond more to purpose-driven psychological incentives than mere financial incentives.

Sustainable Salesforce Motivation

Combining all three levels takes your team from the micro to the macro in terms of intangible incentives. Install these incentives and feel the plates shift beneath you as you create an apathy-killing, talent-emboldening new narrative within your workplace.

Recapping the three levels of the Ambition Circle:

What: Characterize your employees as teammates, not individual sales reps.

How: Focus efforts on incentivizing consistent, small wins across teams.

Why: Instill a greater purpose.

End Result: A compelling story, created around a reachable goal. 


It doesn't matter if you're a CSO, VP of Sales or Sales Rep. You can implement this approach in your daily professional life. Seize control of your future, set the example for your peers, and awaken the inner ambition you've always had.

Supercharge Sales Motivation and Analytics 

Ambition is a sales management platform that syncs business teams, data sources, and performance metrics on one system.

Sales leaders use Ambition to enhance sales performance insights and build sales reports, scorecards, contests, and TVs that supercharge focus, effort and accountability.  

Ambition is endorsed by Harvard Business Review and AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization). Hear more from business leaders who use Ambition in their organization.

Watch Testimonials:

  1. FiveStars: Adam Wall. Sr. Manager of Sales Operations . 
  2. Filemaker: Brad Freitag. Vice-President of Worldwide Sales.
  3. Outreach: Mark Kosoglow. Vice-President of Sales.
  4. Cell Marque: Lauren Hopson. Director of Sales & Marketing.
  5. Access America Transport: Ted Alling. Chief Executive Officer.

Watch Product Walkthroughs:

  1. ChowNow. Led by Vice-President of Sales, Drew Woodcock.
  2. Outreach. Led by Sales Development Manager, Alex Lynn.
  3. AMX Logistics. Led by Executive Vice-President ,Jared Moore.

Read Case Studies:

  1. Clayton HomesHBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics. 
  2. Coyote Logistics: Monthly revenue per broker grew $525 in 6 months.
  3. Peek: Monthly sales activity volume grew 142% in 6 months.
  4. Vorsight: Monthly sales conversations grew 300% in 6 months.

Contact us to learn how Ambition can impact your sales organization today.

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