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How to Get and Stay Motivated when Selling

by John Chapin

Sales is a profession that requires you to be “up” and motivated most of the time. It is also a profession in which you can get knocked down very quickly from the amount of rejection that’s required for success. As a result, one of the biggest questions I get from salespeople is: “How do I get and stay motivated?” Here’s my answer. 

4 Paths to Motivation 

There are only four forms of motivation. They are: external negative, external positive, intrinsic, and peer motivation. 

Motivation Source #1: External Negative 

Or as my first manager used to say, “If I put a gun to your head you’d do business.” This is a negative consequence or penalty for not doing something. This was third place in Glengarry Glen Ross, or as Alec Baldwin’s character said in the movie, “Third prize: You’re fired!” This motivation is all about accountability and consequences. 

When motivating others a sales manager usually starts with a probation period followed by loss of one’s job for failing to do the necessary work or make quota.

When motivating oneself, the most effective form is usually a financial penalty. For example, when putting off some scary calls to big prospects, I finally told a friend that if I didn’t make the calls in the next 30 days, I owed her $1000. By the way, I made the calls on day 29. Yes, sometimes I struggle with this stuff too.   

Motivation Source #2: External Positive 

External positive was first and second place in the Glengarry Contest: “First prize: a brand new Cadillac. Second prize: this fine set of steak knives.” This is a reward for work done or a goal achieved. This is not as powerful as the first motivator as generally we respond more to pain, but is still a way to get leverage on ourselves and others. 

To motivate others this could be $100 for the person who makes the most calls in the next hour or a limo lunch for whoever closes the most business this week. 

To motivate ourselves this can be dinner at our favorite restaurant, a dream vacation, or some other indulgence upon the completion of a goal. 

Motivation Source #3: Intrinsic

This is the most powerful motivation among high-achievers. This form has the most potential power and, if strong enough, can be used all by itself. This is the “personal WHY”. In other words, what are the personal reasons you need to be successful?  

To motivate yourself, decide what you really want out of life. What do you want your life to ultimately look like? What do you want for your family and your kids? What do you want to do and be? If you had no limitations on time or money, how would your life be different? What will your perfect day look like 20 years from now? What drives you? Is it your dream lifestyle, taking care of your kids and future generations, to leave a lasting legacy, a combination?  

To motivate others, help them find their WHY. Where do they want to be in their career 5, 10, or 20 years from now? Ask them: If they had no limits on time or money, what would they have and do with their life? What is their endgame? Do they want to retire and to where? 

Motivation Source #4: Peer

This is who you spend your time with personally and professionally. People usually rise to, but rarely above their peer group. “Birds of a feather do flock together.” This also relates to your environment. If you have an office of negative people in which no one is held accountable, any success will be fleeting or completely non-existent.   

To motivate others provide a work environment that is positive and professional and one in which people are held accountable. Have them look at the people they hang out with. Aaron Hernandez and Tom Brady have/had different peer groups. 

To motivate yourself means hanging out with positive people who have goals and are achieving big things. It also means getting rid of negative people and negativity in general. 

Some Other Ways to Motivate Yourself 

  • Write out your goals in the morning and at night and have them in front of you during the day.
  • Create a vision (dream) board.
  • You can’t watch the news and be positive. Keep negatives out and put in plenty of positives through books, thoughts, images, and inspirational and motivational ideas.
  • Have rituals and routines in place to create self-discipline.
  • Announce goals to friends, family, and in public forums, and have people hold you accountable.
  • Have a coach, mentor, or mastermind group hold you accountable to your goals and dreams.
  • Accept that there will be problems and see them as challenges. 
  • Have a support system in place, people who are positive and up-beat and will help you turn around a tough day.
  • Take 100% responsibility for your life. Where you end up will come down to you and what you do, not the economy, the job market, who’s president, or anything else.
  • Realize that doing what you need to do is ultimately a question of character and integrity.
  • Who wins when you win and loses when you win? Who is for you and against you? Make sure the right people win.
  • Every call gets you closer to a sale. If a sale is $1000 and you have to make 100 calls, each call is worth $10 regardless of what happens.
  • If it will ultimately take 10,000 hours of work for success, every hour you put in gets you closer.
  • Every day you either grow or die based upon the effort you put in. Chose to grow today.
  • The quickest way to motivation, self-esteem, and self-confidence is to get the job done, especially when it’s hard or you don’t feel like it.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable and face and conquer fears. Do something that scares you every day.
  • Your legacy, your future, and the future of those closest to you, are all at stake every day. What’s required is that you do what has to be done and push and stretch yourself to your potential.

Realize that you won’t always be motivated. That’s why it’s important to form good habits through self-discipline. If you have an ingrained habit of making all your prospecting calls every day from 9 to noon, then on the day you feel a little down, that habit will help carry you through.

Also, whether or not you are motivated, you have a job to do and promises and obligations to live up to. You have to find a way to get the job done. In life there are things we don’t want to do that we have to do anyway. If you simply put in the hours, make the calls, and do the necessary activity, you will be successful.


John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker and trainer. For his free newsletter, or to have him speak at your next event, go to:  John has over 29 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia. You can reprint provided you keep contact information in place. E-mail:

# 1 Sales Rep w 29+ years’ experience, Author of the 2010 sales book of the year: SALES ENCYCLOPEDIA (Axiom Book Awards) - The largest sales book on the planet (678 pages).

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