Behavioral research studies show that all human activity—including the salesperson’s job behavior—is directed toward satisfying certain needs (that is, reaching certain goals). Patterns of individual behavior differ because individuals seek to fulfill different sets of needs in different ways. Some salespersons, in other words, are more successful than others because of the differing motivational patterns and amounts and types of efforts they exert in performing their jobs.
How particular individuals behave depends upon the nature of their fulfilled and unfulfilled needs modified by their environmental and social backgrounds. The motives lying behind any specific action derive from tensions built up to satisfy particular needs, some beneath the threshold of consciousness. Any action taken is for the purpose of reducing these tensions (fulfilling a need or needs to reach a goal or goals).
Needs are either primary or secondary. Primary needs are the inborn or physiological needs for food, water, rest, sleep, air to breathe, sex, and so on, the fulfillment of which are basic to life itself. Until primary needs are satisfied, other needs have little motivational influence. Secondary needs arise from an individual’s interaction with the environment, and are not inborn but develop with maturity. Secondary needs include those for safety and security, belonging-ness and social relations, and self-esteem and self-respect.
1. Hierarchy of Needs
A.H. Maslow, a psychologist, developed a theory of motivation based on the notion that an individual seeks to fulfill personal needs according to some hierarchy of importance. He suggests the general priority of need fulfillment shown in Figure 12.1.1 Maslow suggests that after an individual gratifies basic physiological needs, he or she proceeds to strive to fulfill safety and security needs, then belongingness and social relations needs, and so on—the individual’s level of aspiration rising as needs on higher levels are satisfied. Not every individual and certainly not every salesperson, of course, establishes the order of priority of need fulfillment suggested by Maslow. Some sales personnel, for instance, appear to assign earlier priority to filling the esteem need (for self-respect) than they do to filling the need for social relations within a group.
After meeting basic physiological needs, it probably is impossible for most individuals to satisfy fully their needs on any higher level—needs seem to multiply along with efforts to satisfy them. As a particular need is satisfied, it loses its potency as a motivator, but other unfulfilled needs, some of them new, gain in potency. Individuals continually try to fulfill ever-larger portions of their need structures, and the unsatisfied portions exert the strongest motivational pull.
What, then, motivates salespeople? Salespersons’ motives for working vary according to the nature and potency of the unsatisfied portion of their individual hierarchies of needs. We must also recognize, however, that some of the salespeople’s needs are filled off the job as well as on it. One salesperson works because of the need for money to feed a family; another because the job is seen as a means for gaining esteem of others; still another because of a need to achieve (self-actualization) the maximum of one’s abilities, seeing job performance as a means to that end.
If sales management knew the makeup of the unsatisfied portion of a salesperson’s hierarchy of needs at a particular time, it could determine the best incentives. The fact that an individual has needs causes him or her, consciously or not, to formulate goals in terms of them. If management can harmonize the individual’s goals with those of the organization, then individual behavior is channeled along lines aimed at achieving both sets of goals. For a salesperson worried about providing for a child’s education, an important individual goal becomes that of obtaining money to remove the uncertainty. If management sees how furnishing the salesperson with an opportunity to earn more money will also further the attainment of organizational goals (perhaps that of increasing the size of orders), then offering the salesperson the chance to earn more money for obtaining larger orders is a powerful incentive.
Money, however, loses its power as an incentive once the individual has gratified physiological needs and most safety and security needs. Other incentives (for example, a chance for promotion, which is one way to fulfill esteem and self-respect needs) become increasingly effective. The promise of more money becomes a weaker incentive the farther up in the hierarchy an individual’s unfulfilled needs are pushed. Whatever power a larger income retains is related to unfulfilled esteem and self-actualization needs and the extent to which income can gratify them. Of course, too, the threat of receiving a lower income, a negative incentive, endangers the fulfilled part of an individual’s need structure, and to the extent that this threat exists, money continues to have power as an incentive. Notice that whereas motives are internal to the individual, incentives are external. Sales management influences the behavioral patterns of sales personnel indirectly through the incentives it offers.
2. Motivation-Hygiene Theory
Frederick Herzberg and his co-researchers developed the motivation- hygiene theory. According to this theory the factors that lead to motivation and job satisfaction are not the same as those leading to apathy and job dissatisfaction. In other words, the contention is that job dissatisfaction is not the opposite of job satisfaction—two separate groups of needs are involved, one related to job satisfaction and the other to job dissatisfaction. While most needs have potentials for influencing both the relief of job dissatisfaction and the increase of job satisfaction, each need serves predominantly either a hygiene or motivator purpose.
Deficiencies in fulfilling the hygiene needs cause job dissatisfaction. These needs relate to the working environment, compensation, fringe benefits, type of supervision, and other factors extrinsic to the job. Fulfilling the hygiene needs does not lead to job satisfaction, but in the achievement of a neutral point known as a fair day’s work. Performance at this point does not result from motivation.
At the “fair day’s work” point, the individual is ripe for influence by the motivation factors, ones intrinsic to the job itself. These factors reflect needs for personal growth, including achievement, recognition, nature of the job itself, responsibility, and opportunities for advancement. The motivation factors represent needs that, when fulfilled, lead to job satisfaction.
Figure 12.2 shows the considerable similarity of the Maslow and Herzberg models. Herzberg’s division of the need hierarchy into two factors—hygiene and motivational—implies that for many people, including most sales personnel, only Maslow’s higher-order needs (esteem and selfactualization) are primary motivators. Yet even these people must satisfy the lower-order (hygiene) needs for maintenance of their job satisfaction.
Motivation-hygiene theory has two important implications for sales management. The first is that management must see that the job provides the conditions that prevent job dissatisfaction (to get a fair day’s work from the salesperson). This means that management needs to provide an acceptable working environment, fair compensation, adequate fringe benefits, fair and reasonable supervision, and job security. The second implication is that management must provide opportunities for achievement, recognition, responsibility, and advancement (to motivate performance beyond that of a fair day’s work).
3. Achievement-Motivation Theory
David McClelland, in association with other researchers, developed achievement-motivation theory. According to this theory, if a person spends considerable time thinking about doing his or her job better, accomplishing something unusual and important, or advancing his or her career, that individual has a high need for achievement (nAch). Those who have high need for achievement (1) like problem situations in which they take personal responsibility for finding solutions (ones in which the possibilities of reaching them are reasonable), (2) tend to set attainable achievement goals, and (3) want feedback on how they are doing.4 In practical terms, nAch is a motivation to exceed some standard of quality in personal behavior— individuals who are self-motivated and who continually strive to improve their performance are in this category.5 Many individuals like this are attracted to personal selling jobs, especially those where compensation is largely in the form of commissions—jobs characterized by opportunities to influence outcomes through personal efforts, challenging risks, and rapid feedback of results.6
What are the implications for sales management? If individuals with high nAch can be the best performers in the company’s sales jobs, then management might target its recruiting toward such people. McClelland and his coinvestigators used the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) in their research on achievement, so management might consider including the TAT in the sales selection system.7 But management would want to make certain that the sales job environment was one in which high achievers flourish.
The fact that nAch drives individuals to act from an internally induced stimulus is noteworthy. People with high nAch are self-starters—they require little external incentive to succeed and constantly challenge themselves to improve their own performances. Such people do not require motivation by management other than that of providing the right kind of job environment. Understanding the concepts behind nAch, and the conditions that individuals high in nAch seek in their jobs, helps to explain and predict the behavior of sales personnel.
4. Expectancy Model
The expectancy model, developed by Vroom, conceptualizes motivation as a process governing choices of behavioral activity. The reasoning is that the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends upon the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on that outcome’s attractiveness to the individual. Put differently, an individual’s desire to produce at a given time depends on that individual’s specific goals and perception of the relative worth of performance alternatives as paths to attainment of those goals.
An expectancy model, based on Vroom’s, is shown in Figure 12.3. The strength of an individual’s motivation to behave in a certain way (in terms of efforts) depends upon how strongly that individual believes that these efforts will achieve the desired performance patterns (or level). If the individual achieves the desired performance, then how strongly does the individual believe that the organization’s rewards/punishments will be appropriate for that kind of performance, and to what extent will this satisfy the individual’s needs (goals)?
The expectancy model raises motivational issues of concern to sales management. Does the company reward structure provide what sales personnel want? Do individual sales personnel perceive the kinds and amounts of effort management anticipates that they will make to attain set performance levels? How convinced are individual sales personnel that given performance patterns lead to given rewards?
Sales management, however, must recognize that this model is concerned with expectations. Sales personnel need counseling to view their own competencies realistically. They also need sales management’s support in developing the skills that lead to improved performance.
Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.