The Science of Sales Team Motivation Series


Take a minute and picture your sales team in the office environment. If you’re there now, take a peek. What do you see and hear? A group of engaged and focused sales reps; a hum of excitement; high fives and fist bumps with every win? Or is it more like the bottom of the 8th with your team on the losing end of a 12-0 run? Low energy, no enthusiasm, blah. Chances are, whichever you pictured correlates directly to your team’s sales performance right now. But is your sales team motivation high or low due to the results they’re getting – or is it the other way around? It’s easy to blame poor motivation on external circumstances. After all, being a salesperson is like being a baseball player in that you strike out more than you score, and who wouldn’t get down from time to time. But that’s exactly why it’s incumbent on you, the sales leader, to motivate your sales team. The cost of not doing so is high, measured in turnover and lost revenue. Enter ‘The Science of Sales Motivation Series’. Over the next six blog posts, we’ll tell you what science says you can do to create a sales culture that motivates.  

True Sales Motivation Happens Here

  Brains! We all have ’em; some of us even use them. Most of us don’t know much about what’s going on up there (biologically), and maybe even fewer of us think there’s much we can do to control it. And why would we? We breathe, stand, walk, sit, see, and hear without giving it a second thought. Our hearts beat, our blood flows, our thoughts form, and we feel things all when our brains say it’s time. All goooood…  



Our brains dictate when we feel things? Like motivation? The answer is ‘Yes, but…’  

Yes, Our brains & biology have a big say in when we feel things.

Brains have a lot going on. There are all sorts of neurotransmitters, neurons, synapses, receptors, etc. that are continually doing ‘stuff’ (not the technical term). Long thought of as the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter that rewards us for doing good or receiving positive reinforcement, today it’s known that dopamine is released in anticipation of a reward – or avoidance of punishment. In other words, dopamine motivates us to take action. If we don’t pay attention, this process will go on of its own accord, and we’ll be motivated – or not – without any conscious understanding of why.  

  • Set incremental goals. A target number can loom large and the end of the month or quarter is too far away to get the ‘motivation molecule’ flowing. Have your team set incremental goals around the tasks that lead to meeting their target number: calls, meetings, proposals, etc. As they accomplish these goals and experience frequent positive feedback (as simple as meeting the goal), they’re rewiring the brain to attach a dopamine response to the task at hand.
  • Celebrate wins, publicly. Positive reinforcement works. We all like to be recognized, and our brains reward us with sweet, sweet dopamine. Make time to communicate with your team. Sales motivation, check!
  • Encourage exercise. Does your company have a fitness program? Encourage your reps to participate. Or encourage walking meetings, or lunch walks, or buy team Fitbits and hold a contest (you guys are competitive, right?). And remember, leading by example is always the best way.
  • Keep dopamine-boosting snacks readily available. Every sales office we’ve worked in has drawers full of candy. Since sugar is only a short-term dopamine booster, make sure to have plenty of tyrosine-rich foods on hand too: almonds, bananas, chocolate, green tea, watermelon, milk, and yogurt.

If this sounds simple, it is – too simple. There’s so much more to the topic of sales team motivation than just getting dopamine going. In next week’s Science of Motivation Series post, we’ll explore ‘The Power of Progress,’ a topic closely related to our first dopamine hack above. Please subscribe at the top of this page if you’d like to receive these blog posts by email.