May 2, 2019

An employment aptitude test can help you hire those most likely to succeed for any given sales role you are trying to fill. By choosing those who possess the personality traits and natural talent for an outside sales hunter or inside farmer, the battle is half-way won already. Once onboarded, however, even the most gifted salesperson needs motivation to stay on track and hit their production targets.

In this post, I will cover what we have found most effective in motivating salespeople, as well as the least, to help you decide where to best invest your employee development dollars. Let’s start with an exploration of the extrinsic and intrinsic factors which affect motivation and performance.

Extrinsic factors

Extrinsic factors are external factors which are out of the control of both the salesperson and his or her company.


  • Government laws or regulations. While some companies can literally be wiped out by new regulations making their operations untenable, others can capitalize on new laws and make more money than before.
  • Market conditions. If the price of oil drops by 70 percent, production at refineries is likely going to plummet. This will make it hard for a salesperson who sells piping maintenance or boiler equipment to make quota.
  • Actions by their competition. Amazon and Walmart have wiped out many mom and pop businesses through their low pricing, made possible by economies of scale smaller businesses cannot compete with.
  • The general economy. During the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, credit dried up and firms held onto their cash. This made it hard for some salespeople, but others found it a windfall, such as real estate agents who specialized in short sales and REOs.
  • Adverse world events. Political strife can disrupt commerce but also provide new opportunities for those who can pivot.
  • The weather or seasonal fluctuations. Drought or natural disasters such as tsunamis can put customers out of business or cause potential new ones to spring up.
  • Changing processes of buyers. A salesperson might have struggled with a buying committee at his largest customer before, but now enjoys a one-on-one relationship with a single buyer thanks to a reorganization. Out of the salesperson’s control, but a welcome change nonetheless.

Intrinsic factors

In all of the above extrinsic examples, success or failure still depends more on how salespeople choose to react to them rather than the factors themselves. So, the intrinsic motivation which comes from within still plays the paramount role. People with a high goal orientation (as revealed through an employment aptitude test) are usually naturally motivated to roll with the punches and keep going despite negative extrinsic factors and to milk opportunities provided by positive ones.

That being said, managers and executives can also affect the motivation of their salespeople in several ways. These would be intrinsic as far as a company is concerned because they can control them:

  • Putting them in the correct role based on natural aptitude. This means hunter, account manager, inside sales, CSR, etc. where they have a lot of natural aptitudes (right seat on the sales bus). Again, an employment aptitude test can help in this endeavor.
  • Compensation plans. Salespeople like clear, understandable commission schedules and bonuses for beating quotas.
  • Product knowledge training. Teach them the ins and outs of what they are selling to improve confidence.
  • Superior sales skills training. This should include role-playing, interactivity and group exercises
  • Supporting company sales and marketing processes. The key here is to avoid bureaucratic procedures and paperwork as much as possible and to align sales and marketing’s objectives – which can often be at odds.
  • Providing the appropriate technology. This includes smartphones, CRM software, a tablet with videos of their offerings, the sales navigator level on LinkedIn, etc.
  • Bringing in motivational speakers. Good keynote speakers can inspire and motivate action.

The Bottom Line: Most and Least Effective

Least effective:

We have found that the factor that has the least amount of benefit for salespeople is providing a motivational speaker. As revealed in research by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghause, 90 percent of what a motivational speaker covers is forgotten within 3 days. This can be improved with follow up training, coaching, and reference materials, like a book written by the speaker. This is not to say a motivational speaker isn’t of value, it’s just that you need to reinforce to get the maximum ROI.

Most effective:

The factor that has the highest benefit for salespeople is sales training. When employers invest in employees, through training, development, mentoring and time, salespeople feel supported and appreciated and their intrinsic motivation increases dramatically. Furthermore, once salespeople realize that they will be able to close sales competently and FASTER with the new knowledge and skills gained, they also become more highly motivated.

And don’t neglect the employment aptitude test before you invest even one penny in training someone. Some people just aren’t suitable be a hunter or a farmer, and you want to find this out before you invest all that money and effort in training them, hoping they have what it takes. Hope is not a strategy when hiring salespeople!