How do you motivate a lazy salesperson? Expert advice for turning slackers into superstars

Adam Steele

Mar 31, 2023

In the world of sales, it's not uncommon to come across a salesperson who seems to be a slacker. They may not seem as driven or focused as their colleagues, and their performance often lags behind. This can be a major challenge for sales managers who are tasked with motivating and guiding their team to success. But what if we told you that, with the right tools and techniques, you could transform these so-called "lazy" salespeople into superstars? In this article, we'll explore the power of gamification, behavioral psychology, and sports to help you achieve this seemingly impossible feat.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the coach of a sports team. You have a group of talented athletes under your wing, but there's one player who just doesn't seem to be reaching their full potential. They have the skills, but they lack the motivation to push themselves and excel. Your job, as a coach, is to figure out how to ignite that spark and inspire them to greatness. This is not unlike the challenge faced by sales managers looking to motivate their underperforming salespeople. By taking a page from the playbook of sports coaching and applying principles of behavioral psychology and gamification, we can unlock the hidden potential within these "lazy" salespeople and unleash their true sales prowess.

The Power of the Right Incentive: How Behavioral Psychology Can Awaken the Slacker

At the core of behavioral psychology lies the understanding of human motivation. In order to motivate a seemingly lazy salesperson, we first need to understand what drives them. Human motivation can be classified into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, driven by personal interests and a sense of accomplishment. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is driven by external rewards or pressures, such as bonuses or fear of job loss. By understanding these motivations, sales managers can tailor their approach to better engage and inspire their salespeople.

Take, for example, the world of professional tennis. Coaches are tasked with understanding the individual motivations of each player in order to develop a personalized coaching strategy. For some players, the drive to compete and be the best is their primary motivator. For others, the financial rewards that come with success are more enticing. A great tennis coach knows how to tap into these motivations to help each player reach their full potential.

Digging Deeper to Uncover Hidden Motivators

To get the most out of your salespeople, it's important to dig deeper into their motivations. Surface-level motivators, such as monetary incentives, may not always be the most effective way to inspire your salespeople. Instead, consider looking for more personal and meaningful motivators, such as a desire for recognition, autonomy, or mastery of their craft. By uncovering these hidden motivators, you can better tailor your approach to tap into their true potential.

An unexpected example can be found in the world of professional cycling. In the grueling and often thankless sport, a cyclist's motivation may not stem from fame or fortune, but rather from the camaraderie of their team, the thrill of pushing their limits, or the opportunity to represent their country in international competitions. By understanding and embracing these deeper motivations, coaches can inspire their cyclists to push through the pain and achieve greatness.

Customizing Incentives for Maximum Impact

Once you've identified the unique motivators of your salespeople, it's time to customize your incentives to align with their individual needs. This may mean offering public recognition for a salesperson who craves the spotlight or providing additional training and mentorship for someone seeking to improve their skills. By offering personalized incentives, you can create an environment in which every member of your sales team feels motivated to excel.

In the realm of professional basketball, coaches often use customized incentives to motivate their players. For instance, a player who thrives on public praise may receive a glowing shoutout on social media, while another who values personal growth may be offered a coveted one-on-one coaching session with a legendary player. By understanding and leveraging these unique motivators, coaches can inspire their players to reach new heights of performance.

Armed with a deep understanding of individual motivations and the power of personalized incentives, you're now ready to tackle the challenge of engaging and inspiring your disengaged salespeople. But there's more to the story: how can we create an environment that fosters motivation and drives sales performance? The answer lies in the exciting world of gamification, which we'll explore in the next section.

Gamification: The Secret Sauce for Engaging the Disengaged Salesperson

Now that we've explored the power of individualized incentives, let's dive into the world of gamification. Gamification is the process of applying game design elements and principles to non-game contexts, like sales. By incorporating elements of competition, rewards, and feedback, gamification has the potential to engage and motivate even the most disinterested salesperson. In this section, we'll explore how gamification can be applied to sales, and draw inspiration from the world of sports to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Leaderboards: The Race to the Top

One popular element of gamification is the use of leaderboards, which rank participants based on their performance. In a sales context, a leaderboard might track metrics like revenue generated or deals closed. By making these rankings visible to the entire team, salespeople are motivated to compete with their peers and improve their standings.

A great example of leaderboards in sports can be seen in professional golf, where players compete in tournaments to earn points and improve their world rankings. As players vie for the top spot, their competitive nature is ignited, pushing them to up their game and perform at their best. Similarly, a well-designed leaderboard can ignite the competitive spirit in your salespeople, encouraging them to strive for success.

Badges and Achievements: Celebrating Milestones and Mastery

Another gamification element that can be applied to sales is the use of badges and achievements. These are digital or physical tokens that recognize a salesperson's accomplishments, such as completing a training module, closing a particularly challenging deal, or surpassing a sales target. By offering these badges and achievements, you can celebrate your salespeople's successes and encourage them to continue growing and improving.

In the world of martial arts, the use of colored belts is an excellent analogy for badges and achievements. As practitioners progress through their training, they earn new belts to signify their mastery of specific skills and techniques. This system of progression provides a sense of accomplishment and motivates martial artists to continue striving for the next level. Similarly, badges and achievements in a sales context can inspire salespeople to push themselves to achieve their full potential.

Challenges and Quests: Turning Work into an Adventure

One final gamification element worth exploring is the use of challenges and quests. These are tasks or objectives that salespeople must complete in order to earn rewards or advance their standings. By framing work as a series of exciting challenges or quests, you can make the sales process more engaging and enjoyable for your salespeople.

An unexpected example of challenges and quests can be found in the world of professional mountaineering. Climbers often set goals for themselves, such as reaching the summit of a particular peak or completing a difficult route. The pursuit of these goals fuels their passion for the sport and motivates them to push their limits. By incorporating challenges and quests into your sales process, you can similarly inspire your salespeople to tackle their tasks with enthusiasm and determination.

With a deeper understanding of gamification and its potential impact on sales performance, you're well on your way to re-engaging your disinterested salespeople. But motivation alone isn't enough to guarantee success: a winning sales culture is essential to fostering long-term performance improvements

Building a Winning Sales Culture: Learning from Sports Teams

While motivation and gamification are powerful tools for re-engaging a disinterested salesperson, creating a winning sales culture is the key to sustaining high performance in the long run. In this section, we'll explore the elements of a successful sales culture, drawing inspiration from the world of sports to illustrate these concepts in action.

Team Cohesion: United We Stand

A strong sense of team cohesion is essential to the success of any sales organization. When salespeople feel connected to their colleagues and identify with the shared goals of the team, they're more likely to go the extra mile for the greater good. To foster team cohesion, it's important to create opportunities for salespeople to bond and develop camaraderie, both inside and outside of the office.

One example of team cohesion in sports can be seen in the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, known for their pre-match haka, a traditional Maori dance. The haka not only unites the team, but also serves as a powerful display of unity and determination, inspiring the players and intimidating their opponents. While your sales team might not perform a haka, organizing regular team-building activities and celebrating shared successes can help to create a sense of unity and pride.

Clear Expectations and Accountability: The Path to Success

Another critical aspect of a winning sales culture is setting clear expectations and holding salespeople accountable for their performance. By establishing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals, you can provide your salespeople with a clear roadmap for success. Regular check-ins and performance evaluations can help to ensure that salespeople stay on track and receive the support they need to excel.

In the world of sports, coaches like the late John Wooden, who led the UCLA Bruins basketball team to ten NCAA championships, emphasized the importance of setting clear expectations and holding players accountable. Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" outlined his expectations for his players, both on and off the court, and served as a blueprint for their development. Similarly, by setting clear expectations and providing ongoing feedback and support, you can empower your salespeople to reach their full potential.

Continuous Learning and Development: A Commitment to Excellence

A commitment to continuous learning and development is another hallmark of a winning sales culture. By providing salespeople with the resources and opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge, you can foster a culture of excellence and continuous improvement. This can include offering training programs, workshops, coaching sessions, and other professional development opportunities.

The world of sports offers numerous examples of the importance of continuous learning and development. Elite athletes like Serena Williams, for example, work tirelessly with their coaches to refine their skills, despite being at the top of their game. By promoting a culture of ongoing learning and development within your sales organization, you can inspire your salespeople to keep pushing their boundaries and striving for greatness.

With a winning sales culture in place, you've laid the foundation for long-term success. However, it's crucial to remember that sustaining high performance requires ongoing effort and attention. Let's explore some strategies for maintaining momentum and avoiding complacency in the final section.

Sustaining Momentum: How to Keep Your Sales Team Energized and Engaged

Now that you've learned how to motivate a lazy salesperson and foster a winning sales culture, it's time to explore strategies for sustaining momentum and avoiding complacency. In this section, we'll delve into some advanced and unexpected concepts that can help you maintain high performance within your sales team over time.

Incentivizing Continuous Improvement: The Power of Stretch Goals

Setting stretch goals can be an effective way to keep your sales team engaged and focused on continuous improvement. Stretch goals are ambitious targets that go beyond what is easily achievable, pushing salespeople to think creatively and develop new strategies for reaching these objectives. By regularly setting stretch goals, you can encourage your salespeople to strive for excellence and avoid falling into complacency.

A great example of the power of stretch goals can be found in the story of the four-minute mile. For years, it was believed that running a mile in under four minutes was impossible. However, in 1954, Roger Bannister shattered this barrier, setting a new world record of 3:59.4. His achievement inspired other athletes to push their limits, and within just a few years, numerous runners had broken the four-minute mark. Similarly, by setting ambitious stretch goals for your sales team, you can inspire them to break through their perceived limitations and achieve greatness.

The Role of Friendly Competition: Harnessing the Power of Rivalry

Friendly competition can be a powerful motivator for salespeople, helping to drive performance and engagement. By creating opportunities for salespeople to compete against one another in a supportive and positive environment, you can fuel their drive to succeed and encourage them to continuously improve their skills and results.

One way to foster friendly competition within your sales team is by hosting regular sales contests, where salespeople compete to achieve specific objectives, such as closing the most deals or generating the highest revenue within a set time frame. To keep things interesting, consider incorporating elements of gamification, such as leaderboards, badges, and rewards, to recognize and celebrate the achievements of your top performers.

In sports, the spirit of friendly competition can be seen in events like the Olympic Games, where athletes from around the world come together to compete at the highest level while celebrating the values of sportsmanship and fair play. By fostering a similar sense of friendly competition within your sales team, you can create a dynamic and engaging environment that drives high performance.

A Focus on Well-Being: Balancing Performance and Burnout

Finally, it's essential to recognize the importance of well-being in sustaining high performance within your sales team. While it's important to push your salespeople to achieve their full potential, it's equally important to ensure that they have the resources and support they need to maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout.

In the world of sports, elite athletes understand the importance of balancing intense training with rest and recovery to avoid injury and maintain peak performance. Likewise, by promoting a culture of well-being within your sales organization, you can help your salespeople stay energized, engaged, and focused on achieving their goals.

Final Thoughts on How to Motivate Lazy Salespeople

Throughout this article, we've explored various strategies and principles rooted in sports, behavioral psychology, and gamification to help you motivate and transform your lazy salespeople into high-performing superstars. The key takeaway from this discussion is that each salesperson is unique, and it's essential to understand their individual motivations and strengths to foster their growth and development.

By applying these advanced concepts and fostering a positive, supportive, and competitive environment within your sales team, you can not only help your salespeople achieve their full potential but also drive the long-term success of your sales organization. Remember, turning slackers into superstars isn't an overnight process, but with persistence, creativity, and the right approach, you can make a significant impact on your team's overall performance and morale.

As we conclude this exploration, let's remember the insightful words of Pat Summitt, the legendary women's basketball coach: "Winning is fun. Sure. But winning is not the point. Wanting to win is the point. Not giving up is the point. Never letting up is the point. Never being satisfied with what you've done is the point." By instilling this mindset in your sales team, you can guide them towards excellence and success, turning even the most unmotivated salesperson into a true sales superstar.

Outfield is pioneering performance-based CRM with the industry's leading sales gamification software. Learn how our modern approach boosts output up to 3x.


Recent Posts