Non-Monetary Motivators


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published September 12, 2005

Contrary to popular belief, salespeople are not motivated by money alone. Researchers have demonstrated that three other factors strongly contribute to a salesperson’s motivation. These are Job Security, Task Autonomy, and Perception of Valued Contributor.

Job Security

To fully perform, salespeople need to believe their job is secure. They won’t be motivated to develop their sales funnel if they don’t expect to be around when the prospects are ready to close. If the sales funnel isn’t constantly being filled and developed, closed opportunities won’t come out the other end. Salespeople need to believe that their job is secure in order to fully invest in prospects.

Task Autonomy

In the best of scenarios, salespeople are similar to franchise owners. They have a license from the company to represent its offerings and develop their territory in the manner they believe is best. (Sales territories are often defined geographically, but can also be defined by industry vertical, product category, or any other target market segment.)

In most cases, this level of task autonomy is not achievable. Rather, task autonomy derives from the manner that the salesperson makes phone calls, develops rapport, or manages any other daily task.

By giving salespeople task autonomy, the company is indirectly telling the salesperson that they trust him/her professionally and believe that they will succeed. Task autonomy is not the same as throwing a person into a job to let them sink or swim. It does require the use of coaching, rather than management, to support the salesperson’s attainment of success.

Perception of Valued Contributor

Salespeople need to believe that their efforts are valued by the company. Unlike production, research and development, or administrative personnel, salespeople spend most of their time and energy with people outside of the company, not in teams within the company. As such, they are prone to becoming disconnected from the corporate culture as well as the company’s support. To counter this effort, salespeople need to hear that their contribution is acknowledged and valued by senior executives, managers, and the company in general.

Perception of being a valued contributor to the company also derives from contributing to its strategic direction. Many times, salespeople claim that they desire to be involved in decision making. While this may be appropriate considering their knowledge and desired considering their potential development as managers, what they may really be asking for is the knowledge that they are working on developing a sales funnel that won’t become unimportant in the next quarter when the company changes its direction. Nothing de-motivates a salesperson more than the knowledge that their line of business will be discontinued before they can develop prospects and close sales.

The Key Differentiators

The non-monetary factors are the key differentiating factors for salespeople. When salespeople perceive job security, task autonomy, and valued contribution, they are more likely to extend the extra effort required to excel. These are also the key factors managers can use to keep good salespeople from jumping ship once a better offer is made.

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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.