“Love of the Game”
(Name of clause in Michael Jordan’s Bulls’ contract allowing him to play in free, pickup games)
We often hear from sales managers who have tried to change or drive their salespeople’s behavior by changing their compensation plans, only to discover that, while succeeding in frustrating their salespeople, behavior does not change. In fact, changing compensation plans without taking a larger perspective is almost a sure way to create a hostile relationship between management and salespeople that can last for years . . . sometimes forever . . . as part of a culture of mistrust.
So why doesn’t simply changing compensation plans often change behavior?
The reason can be found in the psychology behind motivating high-Drive salespeople.
High-Drive salespeople (Drive is a characteristic shared by almost all top performing salespeople) are not motivated by money. SAY WHAT?!!! OK, they are motivated by money, but not the way you might think.
To high-Drive salespeople, money is part of a greater world view that revolves around a burning need for achievement. When you read about high-Drive athletes like Michael Jordan, for example, he has always said he enjoyed playing intense pickup games (for free) as much as playing in the NBA. In fact his favorite game of all time was an impromptu practice game when he was on the Olympic “Dream Team,” and the best went at it against the best with no money involved whatsoever.
John Wooden, the legendary coach, said he enjoyed coaching in high school every bit as much as his NCAA championship teams . . . the process and the wins were every bit as sweet regardless of the money. High-Drive salespeople use money as a way of keeping score . . . as part of the fruits of the achievement game.
When we develop or consider changing compensation plans, we need to step back and put the program into a larger perspective that includes other emotional elements, including new ways a salesperson can “achieve” even more, perhaps in the form of intelligent risk/upside reward, expanding responsibility or territory, promotion or stock ownership. High-Drive salespeople love the chase, the challenge and the satisfaction of achieving. Yes, they love the money, but as part of, not as the only factor, in pursuing a high achievement life.
The next time you are consider changing salesperson compensation plans, you may want to think hard about how the change will be perceived from this achievement centric psychological perspective.