How to Demotivate Your Entire Sales Team with Just One Comment
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Welcome to the Year of the Rooster!


To many people, the Year of the Rooster might be a year of uncertainty and volatility.  In years like these, perhaps your greatest asset will be that of a sales team who could still grow your business whatever the challenges or difficulties faced.

The sad news we got, however, was a real case where a company de-motivated the entire sales team with just a few words.  This is worse than lifting a rock and smashing at one's own feet.

Hence, this month's topics:
  1. How to De-Motivate Your Entire Sales Team with Just One Comment (and How to Motivate Them Instead); and

  2. 3 Simple Steps to Implement Effective and Meaningful Change

This issue's main article is on "How to De-Motivate Your Entire Sales Team with Just One Comment (and How to Motivate Them Instead)", and we analyse key factors that motivate and de-motivate your sales team


In brief:

  • While the performance of the sales team could be critical to the performance or even survival of a company, some companies actually take steps to de-motivate their sales teams;

  • The key drivers to motivating sales teams, besides merely using money;

  • How you can make your sales team stay in focus, and motivate them to achieve outstanding results.   Read on... ...

To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here ( 

How to De-Motivate Your Entire Sales Team with Just One Comment (and How to Motivate Them Instead)

by c.j. Ng


Sadly, at the beginning of the Year of the Rooster, we have a case where with just one comment, a company actually achieved the near impossible: to demotivate the entire sales team for a sustained period of time..


And since this is based on a real story, the names have been changed to protect the guilty, as well as the innocents who are still working in the company.


We had a client (a Training Manager) whose Sales Director wanted a 2-day business acumen training for their sales staff, in conjunction with their annual meeting.

After much discussion, we got what the Sales Director wanted, and all is set for a roll out in 3 weeks.

Then, just yesterday, the client called and said it's cancelled.  Their China Managing Director had vetoed it.

After further probing on our part, the China MD was actually kind of like undecided. It was their HR Director who vetoed, telling their China MD "What's the purpose of up-skilling the sales people in business acumen? It's better that they don't know too much"

It turned out that the HR Director had hired the Training Manager to do ALL trainings in-house, so as to eliminate costs for external training. Also, being a former Legal Counsel, the HR Director could also be mitigating risks in case if the sales people really knew too much and could act against the interests of the company.  I know this sounds strange that a company not trust its entire sales team, but the legal profession has been trained to mitigate risks, no matter how remote these risks are.

And so the business acumen workshop was shot down, and we are scrambling to tell all our partners the bad news etc. However, if we look at this closer, it could be just the most efficient way to demotivate the entire sales team.

Firstly, the Sales Director lost face big time. He lost face now, and he'll lose more face during the Sales Meeting because it's going to be an internal training session (again).

Not only that, the Sales Director is going to lose credibility, for not able to obtain benefits for the sales people. Hence the sales team may not be as willing to work harder for the Sales Director, much less the company. Vetoed by the HR, no less.

And guess what, there will always be recruiters eyeing good people, esp. good sales people (and managers or director).

This is probably a highly destructive but effective chain reaction caused by just one single comment from the HR Director, and supported by the Country Managing Director.

On a bigger picture though, it also portray dysfunctional leadership at helm. Here you have the top manager who wanted to micro-manage, but was indecisive and unable to form his own ideas. Such behaviours could be a result that the top manager not really knowing what to do, but wanted to be seen to be actively deciding, and yet not willing to listen to different opinions.


So How are People Motivated?


To make things simple, here’s a very simplified formula for motivation:


And we can analyse them individually.


People will be motivated to do something IF they know they can succeed.  The chances of success could be reliant on:

  • The skills level;

  • The opportunities available;

  • The support and resources given, etc

Now, it gets complicated for the part on Expected Pay-off. In a way, it may seem to be monetary or material rewards, but there are a lot more variety of pay-offs available, such as:

  • Money (salary increases, bonuses or other payments);

  • Career advancements (promotions or having a more prestigious job title);

  • Recognition (public and private recognition of good contribution);

  • Freedom (flexible hours, working from home);

  • Satisfaction (the achievement is a pay-off in and of itself);

  • Security (can I keep my job for the foreseeable future) etc

The tendency for many managers is just to focus on the top two, and forget that there are actually more cost-effective options other than money or career advancements, that could be implemented by middle managers.

But there is a different dimension to managing the expectation of Expected Pay-Offs, such as:

  • How soon will the pay-off be?

  • How frequent?

  • How big?

In general, if the pay-off is not large enough, then people would want have it as quickly and as frequently as possible.

To illustrate this, we can use the case of industrial equipment or solution sales as an example. Typically, the sales cycle of industrial equipment can be months if not years. So if the sale people are looking forward to the monetary rewards of the sale, it will take a long while before they get anything.

So how can managers motivate sales people dealing with long sales cycles, so that they maintain their enthusiasm throughout the sales process? Here are some clues:

  • Sales people may feel motivated if they are able to advance the sale to the next stages. That can be a sense of achievement, or it can be a higher probability of eventual success;

  • Sales people may feel motivated along the way if they are getting the support and resources from others in the company;

  • Sales people may be motivated if they are given frequent recognition for getting the right things done, such as gaining appointments with the right people or putting up proposals that delight customers, etc.

And of course, people will be inclined to do those things that require as little effort as possible to get what they want. Some of the factors that may reduce the amount of effort required are similar to those that increase chances of success, including:

So How Do We De-Motivate The Entire Sales Team?


So referring back to the case we mentioned at the very beginning, here are some reasons why the entire sales team could be very de-motivated, despite the fact that there are no changes to the amount of money they get, or their job titles.

When the sales team didn’t get their training, it’s not just a “training workshop” that they lost. It could be:

So while the sales team and their Sales Director should be happy and contented since they will be paid their bonuses for meeting targets, but that may not translate into motivation and affirmative action in the coming year. And if the coming year is one that is tougher with more competitive pressure, they will be further demotivated.

Need help in motivating your staff to achieve outstanding performance?  Simply e-mail or call +86-21-6219 0021 or WeChat: cydj001 and arrange to have a deeper discussion.

Power Breakfast Hour: 14 Mar 2017

How to Motivate Your Sales Force to Outstanding Performance

  • How to avoid issues that might demotivate your sales teams, and how to make them stay motivated;

  • How to make tough decisions that might demotivate your sales team, without actually demotivating them;

  • How to ensure your sales teams stay focused and motivated on their goals

VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)


DATE: Tuesday, 7 Mar 2017


TIME: 08:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.




To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations too


Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Tips for Managers:
While You can Motivate Your Employees to Contribute More, But You May Not Make Them Stay Longer with You


by c.j. Ng

One of the more common questions that our clients ask is: "How can we improve the productivity and loyalty of our employees?"

After some deep reflection, here's what we advise our clients:

  1. As a middle manager, you probably can do quite a lot of things to motivate your staff to contribute more

  2. However, as a middle manager, there's not much you can do to retain your staff; and

  3. There's a significant difference between staff retention, and staff loyalty

Let me explain.

As a middle manager, you probably can do the usual things such as coaching, training, giving recognition when it's due, giving timely feedback, showing care and concern, providing opportunities for growth etc.  As long as the company is managed in a fair and just way, and as long as the staff is paid reasonably well, these actions should motivate the staff to contribute more.


However, a motivated and sometimes highly engaged staff member, may not be one that may stay longer.


The reason being that there are more external factors at work that might lure your highly motivated and talented staff away.  These factors could range from someone else offering salaries that are drastically higher, to other companies that really have career development opportunities that do not exist at your company.


As such, even if you have been a great manager and leader, and that your staff is highly motivated, you still may not withstand the onslaught of such external factors.


Having said that though, we need to distinguish between staff retention and staff loyalty.  While a staff member may not be working for you for long, that does NOT mean the staff is not loyal.  Loyalty simply means factors such as:

  • Does the staff member always act in the interests of the company?

  • Is the staff fully committed to the goals and objectives of the company? etc.

Traditionally, we tend to think that a loyal staff is someone who could stay with the company for a long time.  However, in today's much shorter retention periods, we probably have to rethink that definition.


So if you have a capable and committed staff member who left for some other company, that does not mean the staff is disloyal.  As the Chinese saying goes, “人各有志", or "to each his own".  Almost no one stays in one single company for their entire careers.   People will leave their jobs for a variety of reasons, which is NOT an indication of loyalty, and in most times, are beyond the influence and control of their managers.

What This Means to Managers


There are a few implications for managers.  These could be:

  • Think less about staff retention, but more about staff contribution;

  • Always keep an eye on succession, because your best staff member might just leave suddenly; and

  • Your staff member's career development could take place inside or outside your company, and who knows they might rejoin you again in future, etc.

Some managers may lament that after spending days and nights training and grooming a key staff member to be a great performer, that staff member promptly leaves for somewhere else.  This can be very disheartening.  Some managers may even feel being betrayed for all the trust that had been placed on that staff member.


However, as cruel as it can be, this is merely part of the life of being a manager.  The old saying was "what if you don't train them, and they stay?", and the results could be even more disastrous.   


If managers could not accept this reality, however harsh it is, then DON'T be a manager.  This may not be written in the Job Description of a manager, but seeing your staff member leaving after investing all that time and effort training them is a fact of life for managers.

We are But Stepping Boards


In a way, managers are the stepping boards for our staff members.  They join us, learn something, and then go somewhere else, hopefully better.


So one of the key measurements of a good manager is: how good are you as a stepping board?  When your staff member leaves, did he or she get bigger roles, better pay and greater developments?  If yes, then you really have made a difference.  Sad as it will be to see your staff members leaving, but if they left for better places, that should be a source of pride for managers.


And given the fluid nature of today's career path, who knows if you and your staff members will get to work together again in the near future!


Need help in getting over the leaving of your key staff member? Simply e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia.


Using the Belbin Team Role Profiling is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as Delphi Packard, InterContinental Hotels Group, Alcoa Wheels, Standard Chartered Bank, Merial, ThyssenKrupp, Lowe's Global Sourcing, Diehl, Kulzer Dental etc.


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