Great leaders in business, especially those in the sales world, have often regarded people skills as their greatest assets in motivating as well as leading.

There are lots of opportunities for sales managers to motivate even during mundane every day activities. They could be anything from, taking corrective action, to criticism, to anything during the normal course of business, there is always the opportunity to motivate. Don’t understand the power of some of these very simple techniques. This is the stuff that separates the men from the boys, and the women from the girls when it comes to superior sales management; motivating under ordinary circumstances.

We are going to give you 4 techniques to motivate and lead, while still staying true to your own management style. One thing we advocate is for you to be your own type manager, and to manage in your own way. Some of these techniques you can adapt to your own circumstances based on your own personality.

Let’s get into the 4 techniques on motivating gently:

1. Using humor as a motivator. An example of someone famous, Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill was a tremendous motivator and the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II. He made speeches to the House of Parliament as well as throughout the community in Great Britain. After he wrote his speech, he would leave the text of the speech for his secretary to proof read in the late afternoon. He would review her corrections the next morning. Often times he would stay up very late, have a glass of brandy and a cigar, and write all night and then leave it on the desk to be reviewed the next day. In an address to be delivered to Parliament, one of his key sentences ended with a preposition. As many of you know, you are not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, although we all do it from time to time. However, in the margin, the secretary had pointed this out, and suggested an alternative that lacked the impact that he was looking for. Instead of responding and saying, “that’s a lousy suggestion”, he responded with a short note that spoke volumes about his motivational leadership style. The note was this: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put”. Of course ending his admonishment with a preposition.

Another example, Charles Schwab, who lived until 1939, who was a very successful industrialist, he ran US Steel for quite some time. In the 1920’s the economy was booming. He was walking through the steel mill plants in the early 20’s when he saw some of his employees who were enjoying a cigarette break but, they were doing it in front of a ‘no smoking” sign. Instead of yelling at them or doing something we might do, “what are you blind, can’t you see the sign?” Instead, he walked up to his embarrassed employees and offered them a cigar and said, “I’ll appreciate boys, if you’ll smoke these on the outside.”

Imagine the big boss doing that to you. You have saved face, but you have gotten the message. This is the kind of thing that real great motivators do on a consistent bases and it something that I highly encourage you incorporate.

Another great example of a great historic figure that used humor to lead was Ronald Reagan from the 1980’s. He used humor to quell the tension in the White House during staff meeting. He would let these killer one liners go. There would be this great sense of relief, and the meeting could go forward. There are many aides that still have a Reagan Alumni Association, with 5,000 members of people, who loved him so much. What he’d typically do is let the room boil up to a fever pitch, and then he would interject a devastating one liner right into the middle of it. It would dispel the tension. It’s a great leadership intervention strategy, and Reagan did this very consistently. He left a fairly good legacy. He is very well regarded as tremendous leader and a very good communicator.

The bottom line is that motivating and leading are intertwined. If you want to motivate people you can do it gently. You don’t necessarily have to call them out to the carpet when they make mistakes. People obviously don’t want to screw up, but when they do, and when things get tense, using humor to dispel the tension and keep people on track. And lead them all the way. That is our first tip to motivating very gently, is by using humor.

2. To avoid criticism if at all possible. If you want to motivate someone, you avoid criticizing them directly. It doesn’t change behavior; it raises their defenses and makes them resentful. You can bring about change with a positive approach. If you can avoid criticism like Winston Churchill, he obviously was admonishing his secretary for giving some criticism on his writing, however, he didn’t call her out on the carpet and he avoided criticizing her, instead he made light of it. One of the things that you want to do as a leader is to keep your sales people supercharged at all times. Remember, we are dealing with highly emotionally charged people. Sales people are emotionally charged. Why is that? Because, they live and die by the numbers. For someone that goes out every day and faces rejection and failure 90% of the time instead of success. You as a sales manager have to be acutely aware of this, and constantly in a positive state because there is so much negativity in sales. Typically in sales there is a lot of rejection, there are a lot of “no’s” for every “yes”. One of the companies that I used to work with we calculated that for every 200 calls equaled 10 appointments, and out of 10 appointments there was one sale. That is a lot of rejection. Because there is so much frustration, you have to be a master motivator in order to get the best out of people in the sales world. I think that is what makes it most fun being a sales manager because there is that constant challenge of bringing people up, of supporting them if at all possible. And using positive motivators when at all possible. There are negative motivators as well, but typically a sales manager should be motivating in a positive way because the vocation that we have all chosen is rife with rejection and negativity.

As Ken Blanchard once said in the “One Minute Manager” “Helping people feel good about themselves is the key to getting more done”. You want to make people feel good about what they are doing. The more positive your sales people are on a day to day basis the better they are going to be able to sell.

3. Instill a desire. People, for the most part, are self-motivated. To persuade people to do something that you want, create within them a desire to do it. These are the basics of human psychology. If there is one secret to success it lies in the ability of getting the other persons point of view, and to see things from that person’s angle, as well as from your own. Henry Ford said that. There’s no doubt about it, you have to persuade people to see what’s in it for them. What is it that they want? What is it that motivates them? What is at the core of it all? Then align yourself with their goals, and together you can achieve things together. If you instill that desire in them, and lead them to aspire more, then you have been able to instill a desire. It’s one of the huge keys to success to motivating sales people well.

4. Speak to people’s interest. Theodore Roosevelt routinely amazed people with his knowledge. He was another very successful President of the United States. No matter who is guests were he spoke on the topics that interested them. A key to motivating people is to get to know their people and get to know what they want, get to know their families, get to know their kids, their desires and wants, get to know where they want to be later on in their careers and get them to the point that you understand what they want. Unless you figure out what they want, or you’re never going to get what you want. Help them get what they want, and you will ultimately get what you want. With Roosevelt, he would stay up all night and research those subjects that he knew would grab that individual. We do this with our customers. Good sales people understand this and know if a customer is fishing guy, or if they are a family person, or if they have a big garden. Even if they don’t have interests in alignment with that. It’s the same thing that you should be doing as a top performing sales manager, to research and understand what people are most interested in and then speak to those interests. Find out what motivates them and what their true desire is and then speak to that all the way through. In the case of Teddy Roosevelt, he knew that the road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things that the person treasures most. Dale Carnegie, who was very influential and a motivational expert, it’s the same kind of thing with your sales people. Motivate your sales people by finding out what the key to their heart is and using that to motivate them and then you will start to achieve the results that you are looking for in your sales organization.

• Use humor where possible
• Avoid criticism
• Instill a desire in people, and enhance their motivation
• Speak to people’s interests

Think about how you can start using these beginning today.

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