How to Really Motivate Salespeople

by Doug J. Chung

BEFORE I BECAME A BUSINESS school professor, I worked as a management consultant. One engagement in particular had a profound influence on my career. The project involved working with the Asia-based sales force of a global consumer products company. This company practiced “route sales,” which meant reps spent their days visiting mom-and-pop convenience stores, servicing accounts. One thing about the organization surprised me: Its sales managers spent inordinate time listening to the reps complain about their compensation.

The complaints were based on what the reps saw as a myriad of problems. Their quotas were set too high, so they couldn’t possibly reach them. Or their territory was subpar, ...

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