Hierarchy of Sales Motivation

Heirarchy of Sales MotivationA little success can demotivate. It looks like this: after weeks, months, or years of effort, your pipeline produces sales that:

  • Earns commissions
  • Appeases management
  • Provides breathing room

Congratulations: you’re now in the “what have you done for me lately” phase. With the burning platform cool under your feet, the challenge is how to re-motivate yourself to sell more.

And no matter what sales management says, motivation falls on your shoulders alone.

Motivation Hierarchy

While Maslow researched his Hierarchy of Needs, I’m pulling this Heirarchy of Sales Motivation out of somewhere else: personal experience.

However, like Maslow’s Hierarchy, sales motivation can shift around; different motivations from different levels can occur at the same time – but, ultimately, one motivation works better than others at putting us back into high gear.

A New Pyramid

The sales motivation pyramid stacks this way, from the bottom up:


Of course money, and it can mean freedom and power too, but it’s at the basic level, it puts food on the table, a roof overhead, and says no to the wolf at the door.

But once that’s attained, our human nature aspires for more, it drives us to want…


After one begins earning money, there’s that sense of wanting others to know you’re good at what you do, that you’re successful in terms they value – you’re a star, a top performer, a member of the President’s Club.

But that’s not the end, the better angels of our nature press us further, to seek to…

Help our Team

Although salespeople are typically independent contributors, once they’re earning money and recognized as top performers, they begin to feel part of a team, department, or business unit.

And as a team member, they want the team to do well, they feel responsible for their sales contributions, knowing the more they sell, the better off their team.

When the team is doing well, salespeople look for motivation, and it comes from…

Joy in Work

After attaining external goals, motivation comes when salespeople fall in love with what they do – performing the work becomes a joy in itself.

Sales motivation comes when work is streamlined, innovated and flawlessly performed. You know you’re motivated at this level when:

* Your self-expectations are higher than your manager’s
* You’re open to new ideas & are driven to learn from everyone

But nothing’s forever. Even the joy in work can lose its vigor, and motivation begin to lag. That’s when a higher calling is heard; when salespeople seek motivation by…

Serving Humanity

Serving humanity by selling? In this case, humanity is defined as those who benefit from your sale, up and down the supply chain. Not distant strangers, but your customers, their families and all those they support.

Like you, they’re dependent on their jobs, and their employers for financial sustenance.

Some even find meaning for their existence or self-identity in what they do.

Salespeople selling contributes to healthy companies, markets, and financial prosperity; and when clicking on all cylinders, salespeople are motivated by this bigger picture.

“Selling makes a difference to individual lives and sustains the world.”

Heady stuff.

Using the Hierarchy of Sales Motivation

When you find yourself feeling flat, when one form of motivation isn’t working, you’ll know it’s time to re-motivate.

These levels of motivation may not be accessed in order – it may take some jumping around. So switch to a shinier, sparklier motivation and rev up.

Consider these action steps:

Focus on it:

Pick a motivation level, reflect on it, define it in concrete examples, and look for more examples in the outside world.

Make it manifest:

Paste up images on your refrigerator, change images on your desktop, write a note to yourself and read it first thing on waking, and create tasks in to-do apps that prompt actions to align with that motivation.

Fantasize the story:

In your head, run a movie of what success now looks like. Be detailed: who are you with? where? what are you wearing? what does it sound like? smell or feel like?


It’s called self-motivation because that’s who owns it.

In real life, motivational engines wind down, and low feelings can set in like a March day in Seattle. Everyone needs to re-motivate at some time. Have a few options to go to.

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