Cultural Differences with a Sales Force Evaluation

I was in New Orleans speaking at the Gazelles Coaches Summit, a prelude to the Fortune Magazine Sales Summit. I was asked a question about cultural differences with the Sales Force Evaluation: Is the lack of Money Motivation on an entire sales force in Ireland a cultural difference? My questioner went on to say that the good people of Ireland, when asked if they would like a cup of tea, need to be asked three times before they’ll say yes – even though they really want that cup of tea.

The Money Motivation issue has only three possible outcomes:
1. Everyone is money motivated
2. Some of them are money motivated
3. None of them are money motivated

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that #2 is the most common finding and we can break that finding down even further:
1. Most of them are money motivated
2. Most of them are not money motivated
3. About half of them are money motivated

I frequently see American sales forces where none of the salespeople are money motivated yet I am never asked if it’s a cultural issue.  You may recall this post about the Japanese sales force where the sales engineers all lacked Commitment. When an entire American sales force has a Commitment problem I am never asked if it could be a cultural issue so why the cultural questions?

Let’s pretend that you just learned that none of your salespeople are motivated to earn more money (the actual finding is “not motivated to earn more money” as opposed to “not money motivated”). Wouldn’t you be thinking, “That’s impossible – There has got to be a mistake”? You would, but what kind of mistake would lead to a finding like that? If the finding was true it would mean that you hired the wrong people, so maybe the assessment is invalid.  And if you are in another country you would ask, “Could this be a cultural difference?”

What is really going on?

The Money Motivated finding is usually directly related to compensation. When an entire sales force is Not Motivated to Earn More Money, I can guarantee that the compensation is all or mostly salary. Who will take an assignment like that? Salespeople that put a premium on a sure thing, prefer to be associated with a large company, or are risk-averse. Those people would probably not take a position where a large part of their income is derived from commission. Conversely, when the entire sales force is Motivated to Earn More Money, the compensation plan is usually weighted more heavily toward commissions. So the all or nothing findings are more indicative of the company’s compensation plan than anything else.

So when is the finding more meaningful?

Let’s say we have 10 salespeople on a compensation plan that’s weighted more toward commission. 8 of the 10 show up as Money Motivated and 2 don’t. In this scenario, the 2 who aren’t motivated to earn more money could be problematic when it comes time to develop them and attempt to improve their performance. Or, let’s take the same sales force of 10 on a compensation plan weighted more heavily toward salary and 8 of the 10 show up as Not Motivated to Earn More Money. The other two? It would be worth changing their compensation in order to provide an opportunity to earn more if they sell more.

Back to Ireland and the Culture.

Chances are, this sales force simply has a group of people that aren’t motivated to earn more money working on a compensation plan weighted toward salary. If it was merely a case of not honestly answering the questions, then we would have to question all of the findings. Because Money Motivated was the only finding that was challenged, it is safe to say that culture had no impact on the finding.