Motivation is critical to a salesperson’s success. And it needs to be intrinsic (driven internally by the person) and not extrinsic, which is driven by external forces, such as the sales manager. Sales leaders can dangle a carrot as an incentive to perform or use a stick as a penalty for not performing. Extrinsic motivation is rarely the best solution especially when it looks like the same old demands from above.
There’s a lot of autonomy in a sales position and many salespeople go into this career just for that reason. They need to realize that with that freedom comes responsibility to be disciplined, the desire to learn, persistence, optimism, and resilience. The bottom line is sales is not easy. It’s high risk and high reward. There’s a lot of rejection and salespeople with thick skin bounce back the quickest. Daniel Pink wrote the book, To Sell Is Human. I highly recommend this book. He talks about the ABC’s of selling which was previously defined as “Always Be Closing.” His new ABC’s are Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.
Sales leaders need to coach their salespeople so that their intrinsic motivation is energized. They do that by asking the right questions and not by making demands or telling them what to do. Good salespeople are always trying to figure out how they can improve. As Pink mentions in his book, buoyancy is the ability to bounce back from rejection, and clarity to communicate your message in a way the customer sees and understands how you and your company are different from everyone else.
Today, after the pandemic, it seems hard to find good employees. There’s a demand for talent and for leaders who can retain the talent they already have. More than ever sales leaders need to connect with their salespeople to reduce turnover and achieve the results they’re both looking for. So how should the sales leader motivate their salespeople?
The first letter Daniel Pink uses in the new ABC’s of selling is “Attunement.” This is the ability to understand who you are and who your salespeople are. From my perspective and what I’ve been training on for many years, attunement is all about personality. What is your personality as a leader and what are the personalities of the people on your team? Many of you know that I use a color-coded system. Your dominant personality is either Blue, Gold, Green or Orange. Each personality needs to be communicated with differently, understanding how they make decisions, and we need to understand what they value. These unique personality dynamics are directly related to what motivates them to achieve. As a sales leader, let’s look at the approach you should take for each of these styles to jumpstart their intrinsic motivation to perform at their highest level.
The Blue personality is Relator – the relationship driven seller. Honesty, integrity, and genuine communication are their strengths. They’re always well-liked and serving their prospects and clients is their top priority. Blues are excellent in service. Blues are slower at decisions which can be frustrating for the sales leader. Their sense of urgency is usually not a strength. Blues also have a tough time with conflict, which leaders need to be aware of when coaching. When communicating with your Blue salespeople, realize their style of communication can be characterized as sociable, open, sincere, genuine, personal and purposeful. Blues ask the question “why.”
To motivate a Blue, ask them what they can do to improve their performance. Don’t tell them. Remember motivation needs to be internally driven. Telling a Blue what to do will put them on defense which won’t net great results. Blues are motivated by being recognized and appreciated for what they do. They enjoy being put in a position where they can brainstorm and be creative which is a huge strength of the Blue. Blues are intuitive feelers by nature and can see things other styles might miss. Support their intuition and acknowledge their contribution to the team.
The Gold personality is the Director. Golds can push back and are not emotionally driven like the Blue style. What’s most important to the Gold is process, planning, organization, and structure. They’re excellent at follow through, being timely and task focused. Golds are decisive and have a sense of urgency. The shortfall is that they are not that flexible and do not typically like change. Golds do not have a problem with confrontation. They need to be careful on how direct they can be with the customer. When communicating with the Gold, be structured, have an agenda, be factual and formal, get to the point and be purposeful. Golds ask the question “what.”
To motivate a Gold, recognize their dependability, place them in charge of a project, give public recognition and give consistent and direct feedback. Golds enjoy leading, organizing and planning and won’t let you down.
The Green personality is the Detective. They will ask more questions than anyone else. What’s most important to the Green is details, data, problem solving and ingenuity. They are the experts when it comes to product details and being solution focused. Like the Blue, they are slow at making decisions. For the Green, timeliness is not a priority like the Gold. Greens might come across aloof and apathetic, but that’s not the case. They are not into small talk. They prefer to be succinct in their communication style. When communicating with a Green, they need detail, expect them to be curious and inquisitive by asking tough questions, they can be skeptical and serious. Greens ask the question “how.”
To motivate the Green, praise their insight and expertise, encourage new ideas, involve them in decisions, give them independence and involve them in brainstorming and problem solving. Greens are visionary.
Your Orange personality is the Activator. Oranges are the most optimistic, they’re enthusiastic and energized. Oranges like the Gold can get things done, but typically on their own timeframe. They are not the most organized and are known to be multi-taskers. Oranges are good at thinking on their feet but can fall short with details since they are big picture and bottom-line drive. They handle conflict head-on. They enjoy building customer relationships and communicate with small talk, stories, and analogies. Words that describe their communication style are bold, energetic, persuasive, expressive and fast paced. Oranges ask “who.”
To motivate an Orange, praise their performance, challenge them, focus on winning and rewards, appreciate their skill and give immediate feedback.
As a leader, knowing your salespeople and their personality style will help you to focus and leverage their strengths. And more importantly, you’ll understand what motivates them. Using that knowledge will help them be more motivated. That’s a much more positive and productive approach than nagging and demanding.
The result will be achieving your goals, winning more new business, and having strong relationships with your people that will reduce turnover and increase long-term success.
Good luck with your relationship selling!