Why Distributors Don’t Sell: The Challenge of Motivation in Direct Sales
If you’re having trouble motivating your distributors to make more sales, it’s not for lack of trying. You’ve probably offered elaborate compensation plans, held exciting events, run promotions, and hoped that your various levels of upline were properly motivating their people.
These kinds of efforts only go so far (especially if your company is one of the many that doesn’t even measure the results of these programs). Before you can really get the most out of your people, you have to understand the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. To do that, consider the difference between working at a “day job” and being a distributor in a direct selling business.
You’d probably agree that most of your distributors have a complicated relationship with their day jobs. They appreciate the steady paycheck. But they’d like to leave that job once and for all and let direct sales generate their entire income.
Why? The alarm clock seems to go off earlier each morning. The daily commute grows ever more harrowing. And the boss expects them to follow procedures, show up to meetings, and meet deadlines.
All of these things are bummers. But all of these things are also forms of extrinsic motivation. This motivation spurs them to get things done, whether they like it or not. And this motivation is often lacking in direct sales.
So whether you’re a distributor yourself or you manage a company that relies on distributors, you’d better make sure you’re providing exactly the kinds of motivation your people need most. After all, even your low- and mid-performers will be extremely important to your bottom line if you can help them reach their potential consistently for years to come.
What Are the Types of Motivation and Why Do They Matter?
As we mentioned, day jobs tend to come with a lot of built-in extrinsic motivation. This is motivation that comes from outside of you—from deadlines, from peers, and especially from your boss. Hey, you may not like having your boss stop by your cubicle for those constant check-ins, but you have to admit they keep you on task.
The specific motivations in this case are twofold. The positive motivation is the prospect of getting a raise or a promotion. The negative motivation is the fear of getting demoted or even fired.
Now, what happens when someone hates their day job so much that they don’t care about losing it? Well, then they’ve lost their only motivation. The 1999 cult classic Office Space explored this topic through the character of Peter Gibbons, who kept showing up to his mind-numbing job (late), but failed to do any actual work once he was there. To Peter’s surprise, his insubordination broke the system and he ended up getting promoted. Your results may vary.
Back to the real world: many direct sales distributors start their businesses part-time while holding onto their day jobs. They dream of the day when there won’t be any deadlines, any morning commute, any boss checking in on them.
But without these extrinsic motivations, they get nothing done. If they go weeks without contacting a single potential customer, nothing happens. If they put off learning about the products they’re supposed to be selling, nothing happens. If they don’t make a single sale all quarter, nothing happens.
Sure, they’ve essentially wasted $200 on their unused Starter Kit, but it’s not a life-changing amount of money. And there’s still a paycheck coming in from the day job.
Without extrinsic motivation, distributors like these get stuck. They’ll probably blame your company for their lack of success, and they’ll eventually quit. What can you do about it?
You can help them tap into their intrinsic motivation.
The Value of Intrinsic Motivation in Direct Sales
You’ve probably met those precious few distributors who went “all-in” on a direct sales business as their sole source of income and became wildly successful. In fact, you may be one of them.
People like these have incredible intrinsic motivation. They’re what we might call “highly driven.” The bad news is that most people lack this level of intrinsic motivation. But the good news is that most people are motivatable—you can help them find this intrinsic motivation.
Your direct selling company can provide extrinsic motivators—such as training, competitions, cash bonuses, and promotions—to push your distributors to get the best out of themselves. But beware: there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to motivating your distributors. In fact, trying to train all of your people in the same way and at the same pace could be seriously hurting your brand and your business. In our next article, we’ll describe how to personalize your motivational campaigns for maximum impact.
We have a lot more to share about how you can address your retention problem. It’s probably easier if you read our eBook: How Direct Selling Can Use AI to Solve The Age-Old Retention Problem
Learn how PM-International achieved up to 25% revenue uplift over 6 months by extending the lifespan of its distributors and customers around the world. Download the case study here