Here’s a tool that works. It will work for you, for your children, and for the salespeople you lead.

All sales leaders and sales managers are concerned about motivation. They are worried about the level of it in the people they hire to sell, and, many research studies show that as it increases so do sales for the company and the income for the reps. 

But what keeps it going? Sales contests and kickoffs with exotic trips as their prizes? Is it the company’s minimum quotas?  Dr. Valerie Good, of Michigan State University, discovered a gap in previous studies. Researchers had focused on extrinsic rewards such as compensation, contests, incentives, and quotas. She decided to explore the motivation related to intrinsic factors like a sense of purpose, and what she found was in opposition to what most sales organizations focused on. The best salespeople, the very best, were “true believers” in what they did for a company that made an impact on the world. The extrinsic stuff like money (which obviously needs to be high enough), trips, and other fringe benefits did not motivate the sales forces as a whole to be loyal or want to refer their friends to work there. 

We can talk about this in-depth when I review Lisa McLeod’s book Selling with a Noble Purpose, How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud.

For now, I want to introduce you to a simple tool called a Vision Board – one that has profound benefits for increased sales team results.

A Vision Board Success

Years ago, I was hired to teach a small group of salespeople how to manage goal achievement. They worked in Knoxville, TN for what would later become a Verizon center. Here’s what I did. After spending a day teaching them about paradigms, self-limiting or expansive thinking, how to set a goal, how to a create plan, beginning the plan’s actions, measuring and monitoring progress, and how to stop and make adjustments without forgetting to celebrate along the way, I walked into the room in our first follow up session and threw a bunch of magazines on the table along with scissors, tape, magic markers and poster boards.

Here’s what I told them, “Over the next few minutes I want each of you to design a vision board that gives you a picture of where you, or you and your family, will be in 5 years. It will show you what goals you achieved and what hopes were fulfilled, how your financial condition has changed, where you live, and any other life enhancements that have occurred and the emotions you’ve experienced. While you’re designing your vision board keep this in mind – when you finish, you will present your board to all of us and tell us the story they tell and the emotions you will feel. Now, begin!”

A frenzy erupted. The magazines began flying as the reps bent over them picking the ones they wanted. The scissors were cutting, each person working hard on their board, pasting, writing, and adding color.

Here’s one result I remember. A young single mom, let’s call her Jessica, got up and explained that it was just her and her daughter now trying to make it day to day and how she wanted to make enough money to put her daughter through private school to give her the opportunities she never had.  Jessica’s performance was in the average middle of the performance curve for her team. Over the next few months, her performance increased 55% and she began to challenge the top rep who, because of his own competitiveness, increased his own sales by 30%. As a matter of fact, this middle market Knoxville team led the entire company for years operating at about 167% of quota. Do you know why?  Because quota was not the main focus. Their life was more important and needed to be funded and fought for. They became clear and emotional about “why”.

Oh, by the way, I saw Jessica ten years later working for another wireless carrier, Sprint, and she made sure to tell me that she did put her daughter through private school.

I hope you can see how this story simply proves the science of very personal and intrinsic motivation. If a team of people believe in a company’s vision of purpose, that’s not some carelessly stamped mission statement, or if individuals can plan out a better life that has purpose and meaning behind sales made and income earned today, a longer and more consistent motivation occurs with powerful strength beyond the fun trinkets, trips, and money that usually only the top salespeople earn and enjoy.

The Importance of Personal Goals for Sales Leaders and Managers

A few years ago in Florida I asked 21 sales leaders what their goals were and only 2 could tell us they had any. Most of them defaulted to the company’s quotas and operational targets, or they began to look away when I questioned them to think about it for the first time.  Only two had personal, motivating sales and income targets for which they could look right at me and explain with sincerity and conviction. Only two could tell me what their goals were and how they felt about them. 

So, what was the business result? This caused the entire leadership to allow an operational focus to limit their goal achievement. The sales leaders and managers were leading sales teams without their own personal goals.

It was actually kind of sad. Being without personal purpose or meaning limits creativity, innovation, new strategies and breakthroughs. It’s kinda like cattle corralled within an electrified fence.

But this is not you. You will help your reps set income targets and sales goals that will change their life because you will ask questions and listen to help them discover and understand how the money they make can be used to help them along with the significant people they love. In other words, how their future will be made better.

Do the same for how you will operate as a team with customers. Decide how your team will change the world and make it better for others by how you sell and what you sell. You can decide this whether you’re selling windows, cell phones or insurance

Encourage your reps to put the boards up at home and to talk about them with their spouses and children. Have them place their Vision Boards where they can see them and where they will remind them of why they work – their purpose.

Here’s my promise and it’s backed up by science and common sense. This type of sales and intrinsic motivation creates stronger long-term commitment and perseverance when built with care and with a heart that wants to make life better in a specific and visual way.  It’s better for you.  It’s better for your reps.  It’s better for your family.  

Finally, Dr. Davis, in her Psychology Today article, “What Is a Vision Board and Why Make One” writes, “Initial research suggests that a vision board can help us more easily reach our goals. This may be due to how Vision Boards help us gain self-awareness and self-reflect on what is important to us.”  

Today, we don’t spend much time self-reflecting on exactly what we want life to be like 5 or more years from now. We get caught up in today’s demands and making our present moments “feel-good moments”, and we miss making time available for these actions now that will create a better future:

  1. Long-term Goals
  2. New Beliefs
  3. New Values
  4. New Attitudes
  5. New Habits

Whether you design this in concrete images is not the point. The point is that creating a Vision Board gives us one more strategy to make us think and decide about what’s important and why it’s important to behave in a certain way now to achieve a goal in the future for the benefits we will enjoy later.

Now, go and get it done and let this exercise energize you and others!