Sales managers are the key to a company’s selling success. Their job is to move sales people to do what works. This is a three part article that reviews the key elements of the previous statement about a sales managers role – move, do, and what works.


In the book Drive by Daniel Pink, Pink suggests the carrot and stick (reward and consequences) as being a less effective, dated, and at best a temporal motivator. Although the concept of self-motivation or intrinsic rewards, as better motivators of people, has been around since the 1940’s, it is now starting to be used by more and more companies and proving to be far more powerful and lasting.

This is where an individual wanting to succeed pushes him or herself to achieve. In the corporate world it’s fostered by and environment of autonomy, mastery and purpose. The individual is free to do his own thing. He’s driven by the desire to master his role, and he does it because he sees the greater social purpose of his.

Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose

Autonomy works in selling by letting a sales person run free to make sales – use his own method/style, manage his own hours, call on those prospects he feels are appropriate / important and or necessary to make his goal, which could be different than his assigned goal.

The idea of mastery is twofold. The sales person must have the desire to get better at selling. He buys books, seeks coaching, role plays and does whatever he can to improve. However, the manager has the responsibility to help him master by being available to mentor and coach, provide formal training, make calls together to instruct, and doing whatever is necessary to help the sales person master selling.

Purpose is all about the sales person seeing the bigger picture of why his sales are important to his community – world, country, company, family and/or himself. In other words he feels the products he sells better mankind, help companies succeed to employ others, helps his company succeed and support his town, enables him to raise his kids to be contributors to society, helps him donate to his neighborhood, etc.

With autonomy, mastery, and purpose your sales person will drive himself or herself to succeed.

Now this is a little radical even for me, but after getting over my skepticism, I’ve realized there is a lot of truth to this concept. For twenty years I have been training and coaching thousands of sales people and sales managers. The best of every company I work with have these characteristics, qualities, and tendencies and work in this environment.

The Best Sales People

First they are always very anxious to learn new ways to tweaked their selling approach and skills. They ask questions to learn rather than to hear themselves talk. They participate in role playing, and they make efforts to implement. They are also good at trial and error. They pick-up what works and modify what’s not in an effort to make it work. The mediocre and less successful rarely make an effort to improve. They usually have reasons why training won’t work and seldom try to implement anything new.

Second, the best do have autonomy. When a sales person is preforming well, managers tend to leave her alone. Actually, when a manager’s numbers are down, if they’re smart, they will lean on their best sales people and if the manager wants the best results, s/he will just tell the top sales people the team needs more and the manager would appreciate another 10%, 20%, etc. The top people will respond to help the team, which goes to purpose. If the manager tries to micro-manage the top people by telling them where to go and how such and such customer should be good for more, he’ll reduce the drive of these top performers.

Third, top people seem to have a solace about what they are doing. They are close with top management, they don’t get rattled. They get the job done, and enjoy it. They seem to know there is a good reason for selling their products and this purpose emanates to their customers and prospects. In other words they are not just in it for the money.

Now all of this presupposes the sales people have a good income – something that can sustain their style of living. This being the condition, the studies suggest monetary sales incentives are not that powerful a driving force, especially for the better performers. When money (an extrinsic reward) is used, it is only effective for a short burst. If continued, it loses it motivational power. For the mediocre and poorer performers, money doesn’t seem to help either because if it did, they’d be better.

How Sales Managers Can Use the Self-Motivation Concept

Since recruiting is one of the most important tasks of the sales manager, s/he should not focus so much on what the recruit has done, but more on how s/he did it. What were the driving factors that got this candidate going? Be careful however. We have been conditioned to think a great sales person is driven by money, and a smart recruit will say money is everything in order to impress. So as a follow-up, pursue what else has gotten, or will get that person going. Look for autonomy – the ability to succeed on their own; mastery – the desire to get better at selling and; purpose – why does this person want to sell your products and services or work for your company?

As for your current staff, take note of the mediocre and poorer performers. Help them with mastery and see how it’s accepted. More importantly, what effort is being made to implement. Is he willing to try, and modify if he errs? Can she work on her own, or does she need constant supervision/attention to get her job done. Does she have any passion for the products, your company, her customers or your industry? If this person doesn’t have autonomy, mastery or purpose, she’ll be tough to motivate and a constant challenge for you. Maybe it’s time to go to your bench or new recruits.

Think this through. Many companies are now moving in this direction, Google being a prime example. If you don’t believe me, do some research on your own. The carrot and the stick may have run its course or it may not be as effective as it once seemed to be.

And now I invite you to learn more.

Author's Bio: 

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Sam Manfer is the leading expert on selling to CEOs and powerful people. Sam is a sales strategist, entertaining key note speaker and author of TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER$, The Complete Guide to C-Level Selling – getting to and influencing top level decision-makers. Sam makes it easy for any business owner, manager or sales professional to generate quality leads, and beat the competition. Grab your FREE E-Books, Articles and other Advanced Sales Training Tips at