Personality Crisis: Sales Motivation for Different Kinds of Salespeople

Rob Danna
Rob Danna

Every sports team is made up of people who are talented at different things.

Designated hitters can wallop a homer, right when it’s needed most. Outfielders can throw the ball an enormous distance. Pitchers can hurl a scorching fastball with pinpoint accuracy, inning after inning.

Your sales team is much the same. While different personalities help or hinder their ability to close a big sale, sales motivation varies from person to person.

According to Chuck Mache’s book on the topic, every sales team has four kinds of salespeople: Performers, Professionals, Caretakers and Searchers.

Let’s take a closer look at these different salespeople, what traits they have, what their challenges are—and how to motivate them.

The Performer

The Performer is like a toy inflatable punching bag: they take a hit, but they keep coming back for more. They view the world of sales as their stage, and they’re always putting on an act that your clients seem to love. And it works for them in a big way.

While they’re typically top performers on your team and can repeatedly knock it out of the park, they’re not without challenges.

Their Traits:

  • Intuitive
  • Impatient
  • Passionate
  • Extroverted
  • Very Competitive

Your Challenge:

Help them learn to control the highs and lows of their emotional roller coaster.

Motivation Tactics:

While the Performer’s flair for sales is undeniable, their passion and emotion contribute to ups and downs. One minute, they can be the life of the party, encouraging others to thrive. The next, they can be down in the dumps and beating themselves up.

Motivation for sales Performers on your team requires a focus on extrinsic motivation. Performers tend to be extroverted people, and they like to show off the latest and greatest gadgets or brag about the ever-growing wall of “salesperson of the year” trophies on their desk.

Keep the incentive awards, commissions and bonuses flowing and they’ll stay even-keeled through the high points and low points.

The Professional

If anyone on your team will spend time in their office poring over competitive research, it’s the Professional. He’s the guy who knows he’s always right and knows how to prove it, step by step. They’re a big success on your team, but there are still ways to improve.

Their Traits:

  • Analytical
  • Internally Passionate
  • Logical
  • Patient
  • Quietly Competitive

Your Challenge:

Broaden their selling strategy and extend their conservative approach.

Motivation Tactics:

The Professional thinks they’re razor-sharp—and they are—but that sense of immodesty can lead to an unwavering dedication to what may eventually be the wrong path. They’re attached to their approach to selling, and any suggestion from you to broaden their strategy can feel like a personal slight. That’s why it’s important to tactically approach your Professionals with ways to improve.

Motivating your salespeople in the Professional category requires a focus on intrinsic motivation. Sales is like a chess game to them, and when they find a way to checkmate the competition, they get a buzz from the status they’ve achieved in your organization. Feed into that feeling and you’ll get even more from them.

The Caretaker

They’re easygoing, affable and have been on your team for a long time. Too long, some of your other salespeople say. They’re comfortable with where they are and with the clients they have. They don’t want to rock the boat that much. That’s not to say they’re not productive—however, their productivity is sporadic and not to the best of their ability.

The Traits:

  • Stuck in a Comfort Zone
  • Hates Change
  • Doesn’t Do the Difficult Things
  • Passive-Aggressive
  • Inconsistent Production

The Challenge:

Get them out of their comfort zone.

Motivation Tactics:

The Caretaker is arguably the most important segment of your sales team to motivate. They’ve got the possibility to produce incredible sales—they’ve just gotten complacent. But getting them out of their rut, encouraging them to put in the hard work and maximizing their potential requires special tactics.

Motivating sales team members in the Caretaker category is best achieved with a one-two punch of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. While all four groups of salespeople are motivated by both, a balanced approach of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is most effective here.

The fear of failure, especially to a seasoned sales pro, can be motivation in itself to some of your Caretakers. But combined with the promise of an incentive travel trip, an award they wouldn’t have purchased for themselves or a bonus, you’ll see them take strides to put in the long hours and get the job done.

The Searcher

Maybe they came from a marketing background and thought they could make the leap into sales. Perhaps they’re fresh out of college and are curious whether your niche is a good fit for them. Or they’re just not cut out for sales in general.

Whatever the reason, the Searcher is lost. Not only are they not sure about how to sell, but they’re not sure whether sales is right for them at all.

The Traits:

  • Perceives Sales to Be Easy
  • Has No Intention of Making Changes
  • Honestly Hates Sales
  • Consumed With Fear
  • Usually a Victim of a Bad Hiring Decision

The Challenge:

Help them gain the courage to find another career.

Motivation Tactics:

According to Mache, motivating the Searcher is a lost cause. Whether they’ve come to terms with it or not, they already have one foot out the door.

Every incentive program is a double-edged sword. For every high achiever, there’s someone on the other end of the spectrum, and usually, these are the Searchers. Use what you’ve learned from your sales incentive program as leverage to encourage your Searchers to move on.

Or, if you don’t have a sales incentive program already in place, starting one can help you analyze how your sales team is performing at an individual level and will allow you to easily pick out who your Searchers are.

While potentially disappointing for the Searcher, this cutting of ties can keep your company agile and make way for new talent ready to achieve more for you.

While focusing on extrinsic and/or intrinsic motivation is a good start, the best way to motivate your sales team to succeed, no matter what kind of salesperson they are, is a balance of the two.

Rob Danna

Rob Danna

With a 25-year background in technology and sales management, Rob brings real-world performance improvement solutions to hundreds of large companies. As Vice President of Sales and Marketing at ITA Group, he prides himself by staying on the front lines of performance improvement technology and innovation.