Salespeople: What Motivates You?

May 18, 2013

Adam Schaffer

Adam Schaffer is Vice President, Tradeshows and Exhibitions for HelmsBriscoe and a member of the IAEE Senior Executives Programming Task Force.

I have probably interviewed well over 200 salespeople in the last 20 years when I was seeking to fill various positions. One question I always ask every candidate is:

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being ‘not at all’ and 10 being ‘obsessed’, how motivated are you by money?”

If you want to work for me, the answer needs to be a 9 or a 10.  Mostly, the response I get is “well … a 5 … because family and other things are more important …”   This is a great response also and family is, unequivocally, more important. However, if you are in sales, you need to be motivated by money. and there is nothing wrong with that.

Being motivated by money isn’t bad.  Some people fear admitting this.  It simply means that you understand we live in a world where money allows you to make decisions. 

My motivations include providing for my family, sending my kids to college, traveling, saving and having a nice TV where I can watch my USC Trojans play football.  Yours might be to donate a lot of money to your church or temple, or to a charity you are passionate about, or drive a special car, or buy shoes. 

Of course, underneath the money is the real motivation: success and achievement.  Hopefully we are all motivated by this in whatever we choose to do.  Sales people are a bit unique as most are paid on what they sell – the old ‘eat what you kill’ paradigm.   Money IS a way to measure success and achievement, but certainly not the only way. 

As the tradeshow business evolves to a relationship sales model (See my “In Event Sales, Relationships Matter” blog HERE) one of the most rewarding things that can happen are a client referring another client, securing a new big account and ,of course, winning an account from the competition.  In sales, you also learn a lot about a client’s business.  That is exceptionally rewarding – and fascinating.  You can become part of their own sales and marketing solution.

Of course, one of the real rewards is in the relationships you develop over the years.  I have dear friends that are, or were, customers.  We have had dinner at each other’s homes, babysat the kids and even travelled together.  These relationships are definitely more important than money, but they are all part of the overall reward that comes from being in sales.  And there are many rewards.

So … I ask:  What motivates you?  Think about it.  You work hard, deal with rejection and fend off the competition all for a host of rewards.  Sales is a career, not just a job.  And it should be about more than the money, but that focus is an excellent window into what really motivates you. 

Good selling.

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