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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Increase Sales Performance With a Pat on the Back – Not a Kick in the Pants!


I’m sure those of you who are parents can relate to my recent struggle to get my 8-year-old to clean her room. A messy bedroom is often a bone of contention between parents and children. I tried numerous tactics to get my daughter to clean her room, and I heard every excuse for why she couldn’t clean up including, “I can’t because my hands are tired.”

Then, it dawned on me! Why am I threatening her with unpleasant consequences like timeout or no TV time, when I know a little encouragement works like a charm?

Focus on the Individual

I often coach managers on the best strategies to motivate their salespeople. While many salespeople are motivated by money, recognition or competition, each individual has his or her hot buttons. What is highly motivating to one person may not be to another. But the common thread when motivating people is encouragement—not anger, threats or bribes. Those will not net you long-term performance results.  
I recently heard a quote that perfectly illustrates my point, “A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.” 

Styles of Coaching 

What kind of sales coach are you? One who is constantly giving salespeople a verbal kick in the rear, or one who is consistently giving pats on the back?

Anger and threats won’t motivate an underperforming member of your sales team to turn things around, but encouragement will.     

Here are three ways to boost performance with encouragement:

1. Give Frequent Feedback on Performance

Observe your salespeople and spend time with them in the field often. You can’t give them specific feedback when you’re not there. Then, focus on the positive, and let them know what went well. If there is a coaching opportunity you could say, “Next time I would like to see…” or “I wish I had seen….” Try to practice the 5:1 rule, and give five positives to one corrective. Always start and end the conversation with a positive. 

2. Praise Good Behavior  

Devote the majority of your time focused on your salespeople's strengths, not their weaknesses. Praise their efforts, and don’t let their successes go unnoticed. Catch them doing things right, recognize them, and be specific. Praise will make them want to repeat the behavior. 

3. Build Relationships 

Be proactive in building meaningful relationships with your team members. Spend one-on-one time with each person, and give them your undivided attention—no checking email on your phone. Ask them about their personal goals, find meaningful ways to show your support, and celebrate their personal achievements.

Praise Really Does Work

My 8-year-old may never enjoy the tedious job of cleaning her room, but receiving praise is a hot button for her and I enjoy letting her know what she does well. So far, it’s paying off in better results with less resistance. 

Master the art of encouragement, praise your salespeople and you’ll see it pay off in performance. 

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