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What motivates sales people? It’s not what you think

Source |  BY: Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick


After reviewing the results of tens of thousands of people who’ve now taken our Motivators Assessment, a few interesting trends have emerged. For example, more than 5,800 assessment takers classify themselves as salespeople; and in sales, the most common top motivators are not what you might think.

Topping the list of sales motivators are:

  1. Family—balancing work and home time
  2. Impact—doing work that’s important
  3. Learning—trying new things & growing
  4. Problem-Solving—findings solutions in a crisis
  5. Friendship—developing close relationships at work

Coming in second to last—ranked 22nd out of 23 possible motivators—was money. Only 17 percent of sales people have money ranked in their very top motivators after completing the 100-question Motivators Assessment.

Now, this doesn’t suggest compensation isn’t important to people who sell—that’s ridiculous! Money is how they keep score. And who would say no to more of it? Also, we can’t forget that money is a strong motivator for 17 percent.

Now, what we take away from this data is that money is more of a satisfier than a motivator in sales. If a salesperson can’t make enough to survive and really thrive, if her compensation system is not fair, if she has ridiculous limits or onerous quotas placed upon her, she may become dissatisfied and might leave. But it’s not money that gets most salespeople out of bed in the morning; there are other factors contributing to engagement on the job for successful sellers. As Charles M. Schwab once said, “The man who does not work for the love of work, but only for money, is not likely to make money nor find much fun in life.”


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