Lack of Motivation?  Really?


I often see sales leaders write off a new sales person too early in their career.  They think that they are lazy and have a lack of motivation.  I want to challenge your thinking on that today.

The majority of work you do in life is based on effort, physical resistance, accomplishment, and reward. You put forth the effort. Your body experiences physical resistance to the effort. You continue the effort until the result is achieved. Then you receive the reward for your work.

But in sales, there is an added element involved. You still must put forth effort and overcome the physical resistance to do the activities. However, between physical resistance and accomplishment comes something I will call external negative feedback. We hear “No” quite often. And that external negative feedback often feels like a mountain climber getting hit by a snowstorm.

“External negative feedback is why success in sales cannot solely depend on a mathematical expectation. Instead, this success requires motivation. More importantly, it requires that we understand motivation and how to manage ours.”

– Jeff C. West

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines motivation as…

“a force or influence that causes someone to do something.”


The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle basically brought the idea of motivation down to being either the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain.

When you think about either of those definitions, it is easy to understand why most motivation is only temporary.

In the case of Webster’s definition, a force must be applied that causes someone to take action and move. In the vacuum of space, that would be enough because Newton’s first law of motion comes into play:

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

– Isaac Newton

Once the force causes the object to move, the object will continue to move at the same speed and in the same direction.

However, for the time being, we sell or lead salespeople here on Earth.

In the sales world, the net result of Webster’s definition would be that as soon as the force is no longer applied, the someone would stop doing what they were doing before.

Thus, this type of motivation may be effective, but it is only temporary.


Now let’s take a look at Aristotle’s thoughts on motivation. Although his version is somewhat hedonistic, you can certainly see the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain in how corporations and sales leaders attempt to motivate their sales teams into achieving company goals. It is the typical “carrot versus the stick” mindset. If you hit the target, you receive the reward. If you miss the target, you receive employment consequences.

However, we human beings are tricky at times. When we learn that we can “live without” the pleasure, or “live with” the pain, this type of motivation loses its power. This is evident when you watch a strong-willed child as they grow up. Once a child learns that the consequences of disobeying their parents are tolerable, if that parent has not already successfully taught their child the reasons for their boundaries, that parent will find the child pushing the limits more and more.

Thus, this hedonistic version of motivation can also work, but it is only temporary as well.


The reason that these predominant methods of motivation only work for a short period of time is that they are based on external motivation. They may motivate you toward a positive course of action, but they depend on someone or something else applying their influence on you. When that influence is no longer applied, the motivation is gone.

In the next post, we will discuss ways you can better manage your motivation.

QUESTION:  Do sales contests really motivate anyone?