Profile Picture
The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

CW 90: Chris Watson

How to motivate your salespeople to perform at a high level?  The answer might sound too simple, but it is because we have been conditioned to think we are great communicators.  

In order to motivate, inspire, & support your people you must begin to understand how they are motivated, what future they desire, & what makes them feel most appreciated.

In this episode, Chris Watson details a framework that every sales leader can utilize when motivating their salespeople to increase or maintain their performance.

Chris discusses the importance of every leader knowing that not every salesperson is motivated by the same thing, money. He explains that salespeople are conditioned to say they want to make more money, but that it is typically just the surface level reason to perform.

The best part about this episode is that this framework can be used with anyone & everyone.  

Grab a pen & learn how to communicate strategically. Connect with Chris Watson.


Welcome to Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday. I’m Chris Watson, and I am excited to be back with you all today for my second episode. Today, I’ll be talking about how do we effectively communicate with our salespeople? And I want to highlight the salespeople because in organizations, without the salespeople, the organization cannot continue to run because we have to make sure that we are increasing sales over time in order for the organization to grow. We have to make sure that our salespeople are aligned with the organization, with its leaders, with its core values, who they are connected to the organization. And so when we think about communication, we have to think about it as it is a high performance skill. It’s not just something you pick up overnight. It’s not something that is just specifically natural, I’m a natural communicator, and I love the natural communicators, but I find there’s some strategy to it.

So let’s talk about sales people in general and what strategy can go into, or what strategies can go into working with talking and leading sales people. I like to use storytelling as the framework for which a lot of the communication takes place. Why? Because I think we all think in stories, we all consume and metabolize information in story form as well and quite honestly, we all think in stories. When we think of a situation, we play out a story that is either a previous experience, or we play out a story of what we believe is going to be the future experience based upon what we are visualizing in the moment. I can think back to being a salesperson at a fortune 500 company. And at this fortune 500 company, there were many times that quite honestly I would show up to the job and the story that I was telling myself as a salesperson was not one of excitement, was not one of belief in the organization, was not one of knowing that I was at the right place, the right organization, that was gonna help me get what I wanted in life.

But I had a manager, his name was Todd Johnson, and I’ll never forget Todd, because Todd came to me, he was a young salesperson. And he said, Chris, as your manager, I’ve recognized something. And I want to have an honest conversation about it. And man, when your manager says that, I’m thinking, “oh no, I’m gonna get fired.” We were on a ride along, so we’re in a close proximity. We’re in the car. We pulled off to the side and that’s what he says to me. And I say, “okay, Todd, I said, what would you like to talk about?” And he said, I can tell that, you know, this is not the thing that you want, do the rest of your life. I know I’ve seen, I can see the career salesperson and a lot of people, but that is not you. So what I want to know is I wanna know what you really want to do.
What’s the future that you act actually want in your life. Now, at that time, the future that I wanted in my brain was I wanted to open up my own sports complex. I wanted to raise the money, open up a sports complex. I wanted to hold tournaments. I wanted to become the premier sports complex in the city I lived in at the time. And so I took a chance. I thought, “you know, I think I can trust him. I think he actually cares about my future.” So I shared with him, “look, I love working at this company. I enjoy working with you. I’ve had a really great month this month. I’m at 200% of my quota. Quite honestly, though, what I really want to do is I want to own my own sports complex.” I told him all about it. I told him all the stories.

I told him everything I wanted. And he said, “that’s incredible. I think you can do that. I believe that you can do that. If that’s what you want to do in your life. If that’s how your life turns out phenomenally, you’re going to do great at it.” He said, “but what I need you to do is I need you to come to work with a sports complex in mind. I need that every time you have success, you remember the sports complex that you want to build. Every time you have failure that you remember the sports complex, that you’re excited to have one day that young kids will come and remember as their best memories of their life. I need the sports complex to be your motivation.”

Now in that moment, I was like, yeah, let’s, let’s do this. I’m ready. And I kept that sports complex in my mind.Now it was a couple years later and they had decided to shut down our remote satellite office. No such thing, technically as remote work at this time.

So I’ll never forget Mr. Johnson coming to me early before they make the announcement. And he said, “Chris, he said, I got bad news. And he’s like, no one knows this. You’re the only one that I’m telling ahead of time because I want you to be able to go find that job, because I want you to get that sports complex.” And he told me about that they were going to be shutting down the office and that I could travel If I wanted to, to a place three hours away and take a job, they would have me, but it didn’t work out in my life. Not only did it not work out in my life, but I never did own that sports complex, but I learned a very valuable lesson in the way that Todd led me. Todd leaned in and tried to understand what my motivation was as a salesperson. The formula that I use, the framework I use to help motivate people, no matter who they might be is, what is their story?
What is their motivation? What do they want? What is my story? What’s the story that I’m conveying. The one that I’m telling. And then lastly, what could our future, our story be together? And that’s the framework that I use whenever I’m working with a team, an organization, an individual, a prospect, a partner, a friend, my wife, because I think that’s all the framework that matters. Quite honestly, I’ll go as far as saying that every relationship is really dictated by that formula, because we’re always thinking about, well, like what is my story? Where am I at? So let’s start there as a salesperson. We have to know what our motivation is when we show up. But our manager, our leader, if you lead sales people, the first thing that you need to know about your sales people is what is the story they’re telling themselves?

What is the story telling themselves when they show up every day? What’s the story they tell themselves when they have success? What is the story they tell themselves when they have failure? What is the story that they tell themselves when they are considering another job? What is their identity? That’s all part of their story. What are the experiences before? What are their present moment thoughts, and what are they thinking in the future? If you can ask those questions, begin to learn those questions. Be very perceptive. As a leader if you can learn those things, then you can understand your sales people’s stories. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that we try to make our story their story. We try to as a manager, try to tell them what their story should be. And what I have seen in my time of working with leaders and salespeople is that most salespeople never want to be seen vulnerable or weak or out of control.

So what do they do? And you’ve heard this term before they drink the Kool-Aid, they play the part. They tell the right story. They tell the story back to the manager, the way they think the manager wants to hear it. And in my case, Todd didn’t do that. Todd came to me and said, well, what’s your story? What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to become? And it motivated me, and I hit numbers and I did extremely well. In fact, it brought us so close that he felt the need to then come and tell me about the change that was happening in the organization. Now, not only do you have to know their story, the salesperson’s story, underst their life, understand what their motivation is understanding who they are, and the future they want to understand their identity. But you also have to know what is my story?

So as a leader, what’s your story? What’s a story that you’re conveying every day you go? What’s your identity? How do you see your sales people? How do you see the sales department? How do you see the organization as a whole? How does your sales people see the organization’s story? You know, this is where we really get into some transparency, some honesty. I think a lot of times that we as salespeople as an employee, we wonder how much of what we’re being told as a facade is make believe isn’t real. And how much is actually truth is honesty, is directness is the reality of what’s going on. And as you’re listening to this, you probably have heard organizations recently that they said one thing was going on, and then very shortly after they’re laying off people, they’re letting them go.
So you must know what is, what is your story as a leader? What is your story as the organization? And then you have to be able to scaffold that, to think about, do my salespeople know me? Do they know the core values of this organization? Do they know the team as a whole? Do they know my story of who I am and why I care and why I believe in leading them? Because those are the type of leaders that salespeople want to work with because that’s when they believe that they can open up. And I will tell you that it is more valuable to understand your sales people’s story than it is for them to completely know your story. Their story is always more important. At times we practice the law of reciprocity, meaning you may have to share a vulnerable moment, an honest moment in order for them to open up and share.

So their story, your story. And then lastly, what’s our story together? And so when we think about this, when we’re communicating to sales people, they need to see that we’re aligning, we’re aligning in that I want to help you get to the future that you want, the future story in your mind. And I want to share with you three things, three major concepts that you can use in this. Number one, you need to know what is the motivation of my people? What are they motivated by? How are they wired up? We tend to believe most of the time that a person’s motivation in a sales position is money and it’s not bad to make money and people can have a motivation of only money. But I find that it’s not typically the number one reason why they want money. It’s just the initial service level thing that they say, “oh yeah, I’m trying to make as much money as I can.”

Well, why? Well, I want to buy a new house. Or why? I want more time with my kids. Or why? Because I want to own my own business. Or why? Because I want to send my kid to college because I didn’t get to go, whatever it might be. You gotta dig. You gotta peel back that layer. So when we think about motivation, the more you can understand how someone is motivated, the more that you can communicate to them, according to their motivation, help them see why the change is happening in the organization. Help them understand the KPIs and why they actually help that individual. Help them know why they may have to stay late, help them know why they have to make some sacrifices, help them understand when they have success or they have failure of how does this align with your motivation? How can I help keep you motivated according to how you’re motivated?

The next thing is we have to really think about that every single in individual in our lives, they’re all pursuing a very specific future of their life. You may not have a hand in all of that, right? But I think that we have a huge impact in a large portion of it. Whether it be relationships, whether it be happiness, whether it be you know, time and it shifts, right? Because if you remember my story, I wanted to own a sports complex and that didn’t happen. But what did end up happening is I opened up my own soccer clinic organization, where I would train goalkeepers and strikers all over the state. And I was afforded that because I was doing well in my sales job that I could take the time to go and referee soccer and meet kids and basically impact all the kids that I possibly could just as my dad had impacted my life my dad had passed away shortly after I had had lost that job.

And I remember him saying, “Hey, you have the ability to impact a lot of young people if you can just use the, the strengths and the skills that God gave you.” And so that’s what I chose to do. But the future may change and it’s okay because whatever we’re focused on right now for the future, we can use in the way that we communicate. So make sure you understand what are your salespeople’s future goals? What do they want to be? What do they wanna become? Who do they want to be with? What does that future look like? And then lastly, how do they want to feel appreciated? What kind of feedback do they want to get when they’re performing at a high level? Now I’ve broken this down into a couple categories here. Number one, is it money? Retirement? Is it gifts?

Is it things? Sometimes they do us want money. They want a gift. They want to like, “yeah, look at that trophy that I got for what I accomplished.” Some people are, that’s how they want to feel appreciated. They wouldn’t want to be able to tell the story of the money they made, tell the story of the gift or they see, and they’re happy to get the other types of feedback and appreciation elsewhere. Secondly, time they want more of their time back to do whatever they want. And if we can offer them processes, if we can offer them actions to take, according to their motivation, they can get more time. Next might be promotion or whatever their future role is within the organization. As a salesperson, if that’s what you’re motivated by, which I know I was motivated by for a time. I wanted my manager, my leader to come to me, my director to come to me and say, “Chris, if you keep doing that someday, you’ll have my job. Chris, if you don’t learn how to develop this, there’ll be no way you’re able to do my job.”
That would’ve motivated me. Unfortunately, a lot of times what I got was, “hey, you can make more money if you do that. Well, money for me, wasn’t the motivation. I want to make money. I want to make a lot of money, but it wasn’t my core motivation. It wasn’t the way that I wanted to feel appreciated in the job. It wasn’t the way that I wanted to get feedback. The next is peer recognition. And what that means is that I want the email to go out. I want everybody to know what I did. I want to be able to show off you know, not in a negative sense, but show off the skills that I have, the things I’ve developed, the time I put in. Maybe it’s an email. Maybe it’s the way I’m prospect. Maybe it’s my presentation skills. Maybe it’s my proposal. Maybe it’s just a really tough deal that I waited through.

I find that sales people naturally want to educate and they want to help. And so giving them the opportunity to do that on their team, and it only benefits the whole team. It’s when there’s too many egos in the room that we don’t listen to our peers. So for some, the way they want to be appreciated, the way they want to receive feedback, when they’re performing at a high level and you see that in them is give them peer recognition. That’s the big memo. That’s the email. That’s the next sales meeting. Let ’em train, let, ’em, let ’em talk to their peers. Let ’em share a victory. And the last one is affirmation. Ithink of this as very personal. A handwritten note, something very personal to them. For me if Todd would’ve brought me something, handed me something that was specific to the soccer complex the sports complex that I wanted it to create.

If he had handed me that and said, “keep it going.” That would’ve been very affirming. I’m doing the right thing, and he believes in my future. Communication is a high performing skill and it can lead to high performing teams. But there is time that you have to invest empathy, sympathy, investigation, intentionality, all these words, but you got to learn your people, because if you don’t know their story, they don’t care about your story. And I can promise you, they’re not worried about the future story together. And in fact, because the stats tell us that 18 months is the average for most salespeople and they’re onto another job. It’s because they don’t see a future there. They don’t see that the people, the team, the leader, the organization, is going to help them achieve the future that they truly desire. But, if I don’t know their future, how can I convey to them that we believe in the future that they want, that we believe in where they want to go?

Even if that means that future is not within our organization. Even if that means that that future doesn’t spell “10 year veteran here with us.” That’s okay. Because our goal as a leader is to communicate in a way that we get the highest performance out of this individual for the longest amount of time. And I can promise you to increase retention and performance, we must strategically communicate. Now, the easiest thing for you to do is start learning your people’s story. The more of story that you can learn, the more of the company’s story that you can share, and lastly, the more that you can cast a vision for them of what the future story is, if they stay with ABC incorporated.

I really believe that leaders are going to have to begin to see that the most valuable thing that they can do for their people is understand the future that their people want, to understand the future that their people believe will happen if they stay at the organization. Begin to know your teams, your sales people’s story. And I can promise you you’ll begin to understand the future that they desire.

Thanks for listening to this week’s BTG Contributor Wednesday, you can connect with me Hope you have a phenomenal week.

Comments are off this post!

CW 90: Chris Watson