How do you motivate the Motivators?

Scott Leese
Sales leader motivation

Anyone who’s been in sales knows that it’s a tough job. Sales reps need proper motivation to keep pushing to pick up the phone and send email after email. There are countless blogs instructing leaders on how to better motivate their sales teams. I’ve even written a few of them. However, sales managers often get overlooked in these conversations and it’s time to show them some love. 

Sales Managers are on the front lines and need to keep their sales reps motivated on a daily basis. But if the sales managers aren’t motivated, then you have a whole other issue on your hands. They can’t possibly transfer enthusiasm to the sales reps if they don’t possess the enthusiasm themselves. That becomes a bottleneck. 

So the question is: How do you motivate the motivators? 

The first step is to acknowledge that your sales managers need to be motivated as well. As a leader, that’s your job. It’s not enough to hire and promote intrinsically motivated people. A common trap I see is that company leaders just assume someone is motivated because of a successful track record or overall positive attitude. That’s not necessarily the case. Do you know anybody who is 100% motivated 100% of the time? Me either. We all need a little pick-me-up at times, and external sources of motivation should never be ignored completely. 

Here are three ways that I keep motivators motivated on a sales team:

Know what motivates them

I’ve written before that motivation is highly individualized. In order to truly motivate anyone, you need to know the person. It’s not just “a manager”, it’s Scott. Scott isn’t just a robotic manager. He has thoughts, fears, goals, and dreams. You need to spend time getting to know each of these managers on an individual basis and know how they feel about things. 

There are two ways that I learn about someone. First, I’ll ask them about who they are as a person. Where did they come from, what activities did they enjoy as a kid, what bosses have they loved and hated in the past? 

I’ll directly ask: What motivates you? What gets you fired up? Equally important, what demotivates you? Trying to understand who this person is at their core to get a feel for what has excited them in the past can only be done by spending time with them and genuinely caring to know them. 

The second way is through trial and error. Sometimes people aren’t as self-aware as they think they are. They say they don’t care about money but every time we have a cash prize for a contest, they go all out. You need to observe how people react to different scenarios. 

Someone’s motivation is also a moving target and will adjust over time. Maybe I was initially focused on career development and pivoted to be solely focused on financial gains because I want to buy a house for my family. You need to be able to shift your approach as your people change.  

The better you know your people, the better job you can do at motivating them.

Get them invested

Sales is a very numbers-focused game. If you have the right people on the bus, your sales team is attacking their quotas like a hungry hyena. However, this can cause individual contributors and managers to have tunnel-vision and only look within the scope of their responsibilities. There is less collaboration because everyone is hyper-focused on their own quota. 

In this scenario, if someone next to me has a problem or question, I’m less likely to actually help them out unless it directly benefits me. There is so much focus on the trees (quota) that they forget about the forest around them (company’s success). 

Here’s a fix for that. Give your sales managers more equity in the company. Get them invested in the entire company’s success. Not only will this fire them up to perform better in their role, but it’ll increase collaboration across teams. Now you have managers communicating with each other, filling in to help out if needed, and working as a true team. 

You can also elicit a similar response by how you set up your bonuses. People respond to incentives, plain and simple. If I know I can make $5,000 by our entire team hitting our number this month, then you bet your ass I’m going to do everything I can do to make that happen. Why not unite all the sales managers behind one goal? They will be more likely to help sales reps not under their direct supervision, celebrate every deal closed regardless of who it is, and increase collaboration among peers.

Let your management team have skin in the game. Treat them like owners of the business and they’ll begin acting like it. It’s an investment that will easily pay for itself with the increased production. 

Give them the autonomy to own their job

Nothing strips people of confidence more than thinking their leadership team doesn’t believe they can handle their business. Your sales managers want the autonomy to run their teams. Sure, they need to follow company guidelines, but they should be able to do it their own way. 

This means that they’re running team meetings, they have the ability to hire, fire and train their team and can work to develop their own leadership style and philosophy. What I see too often is that the Executive leadership plays “Big Brother” on the mid-level managers. Their title says manager, but they’re not really allowed to do much of anything. Their boss (or boss’ boss) handles all of the difficult conversations. 

They’re going to mess up. Let them. They’re probably going to do a worse job than you think you would. That’s OK. They need the time and experience to fall down and learn how to get back up. That’s how you develop great leaders and keep them motivated to come into work ready to battle each day. 


To perform at the highest level, you need a team that’s motivated to do their best. While it’s important to hire the right people, it’s ultimately on the leaders of the company to make sure people stay hungry for growth. Too often we put our full emphasis on the individual contributors and forget about managers. We incorrectly assume that front-line managers don’t need external motivation, and should be entirely capable of motivating themselves. Even the best of us need a little support and a shot of adrenaline now and then.

The truth is that if you want to have a high-performing sales team, you need to have high-performing sales management. And to have a high-performing sales management team, they need to be motivated. You need to know each of them as a person. They need to feel like owners of the business. They need autonomy to do their job well. Get your managers fired up and watch how well the rest of your sales team performs. 


Scott Leese