How not to incentivise your salespeople

Many of us are incentivised to perform certain functions or achieve specific results. Commissions, bonuses are supposed to influence behaviour and provide some motivation to perform better.

However the strongest form of motivation is intrinsic, it’s built in to the person to behave in a motivated way and incentives can often get in the way.

Ronnie O’Sullivan recently turned down the chance to go for a 147 break in a tournament because the prize fund of £10,000 was “too cheap”. If there were no prize he might have gone for it, for the sheer thrill – the intrinsic motivation to achieve excellence.

There was a famous study of a kindergarten in Israel where small fines were introduced if the child was late. The number of latecomers actually increased. Before the fine, it was goodwill, by helping out staff that drove attendance.

In the same way the ridiculous fining of parents who take children out of school outside of holidays has not only upset parents, but many are taking their child out of spite, especially after Jon Platt won his case in the high courts.

Incentive payments get in the way of true intrinsic motivation, the desire to achieve, to hit targets, to inspire others, to develop skills and achieve the best you can. Classic Hertzberg motivators. Money is merely a hygiene factor and one that can actually damage motivation, not improve it.

As Dan Pink says – take the problem of money off the table, and your people will perform – so pay them enough in the first place, set the environment for opportunities to shine, be praised, achieve success, grow and let their intrinsic motivation take over.