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Motivating Sales Teams – Sound Science

Daiv Russell asked:

Modern psychology attempts to explain human behavior and its underlying motivations. Understanding human behavior is critical in order to effectively control or influence human behavior in a desired manner. An advanced understanding of modern psychology can help individuals improve their personal lives, as well as advance their careers.

Maslow was in innovator in the field of psychology. He authored an important paper in 1943, developed after his extensive experience with others, to explain the motivation for human behavior based on the needs of people. Before this paper, only animals and pure theory had been the main sources of psychological doctrines.

He was also revolutionary by focusing on what constituted positive mental health, instead of what was abnormal or deviant, thereby making his theory more applicable and relevant to the general human population. This theory is why Maslow is now considered the father of humanistic psychology and also of modern management.

Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs defines human motivation to satisfy those needs in the form of a ladder or pyramid. His theory is that people must start at the bottom, can only advance after completing the current step, and must complete each step in order. He lists physiological needs as the first step to attain, followed by safety, social, esteem and finally self-actualization.

Maslow’s theory has a lot of relevance today for the business manager. People require the basic necessities of life such as food, water, shelter and sleep. Without it the motivational development stage is essentially frozen. The inherent need to survive will be the driving force to ensure these needs are met. So in applying Maslow’s theory, the business manger still needs to ensure that the sales force has the essential ingredients for success. This means providing lunch breaks, a safe working environment and of course sufficient compensation so that sales staff can obtain the necessities of life.

After fulfilling the basic physiological needs, the employees can think about their future security and safety. It is necessary for them to feel that their workplace is safe. Their maximum efficiency and effectiveness cannot be met when they experience fear of threat in their surroundings. Job security and physical threats can be overcome by employing security guards, responsive management people and cameras.

Next is the step of social needs. People want to fit in with other people. Participating in a team building event can help employees gain a sense of belonging to a group. Working in a nice environment with specific goals and rewards based on group accomplishments can go a long way to promoting this community spirit.

The fourth stage is esteem. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued. They want recognition from their employers and co-workers. Without recognition, morale decreases and so does performance. Most people are defined by their worth which is determined by the recognition they receive. To fulfill that basic need, recognition can be in the form of plaques, certificates or even winning prizes. They way the business manager chooses to recognize the employee is not as important as the recognition itself and the feeling of esteem that is given.

The last step of the hierarchy is self-actualization. This fifth step focuses on people’s desire to reach their full potential. Self-awareness allows them to think abstractly and focus on intangible goals, and to make long-term plans. These areas typically include career development, creative hobbies and other aspects of personal growth. Managers can support this need by assisting with continuing education, sponsoring memberships in professional organizations, and offering a career path that allows for career growth.

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