Have you ever encountered sales reps reluctant to take training? Maybe reps are excited and motivated as new hires, but less interested to invest time into training once they have been on the job for awhile. They might be used to working a certain way and don’t want to learn your new sales process or add another product to their offerings.

You’ve tried to explain how the training will help them sell better (and earn more commission) but to no avail. Trainers and sales managers are frustrated, and the C-suite wants to know why the numbers look bad. But before anyone drops the hammer, let’s explore why your reps seem disconnected and examine the driving force behind employee engagement: motivation.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Think about what motivates you. Maybe you have a hobby that you participate in just for fun. Maybe you like playing a game because you find it exciting or solving a puzzle because you find the challenge fun. If so, you are intrinsically motivated to do so. Your motivation is internal and you engage in a behavior for the sake of personal enjoyment or satisfaction.

If, however, you do something to gain some type of external reward (i.e. money, awards, etc.), then you are extrinsically motivated. Researchers have found that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation differ in how effective they are at driving behavior. For example, extrinsic motivators such as incentives do little to produce lasting attitude and behavioral changes.

And herein lies the problem when talking about sales reps. This role is motivated by the commission or the bonus check. These are powerful extrinsic motivators that may actually motivate reps not to take time for your training! If they can’t connect how the new sales process or product will help them sell more and do their jobs better, they will resist. If the training is hard to access or time-consuming, they will resist even more.

Why Incentives Aren’t Enough

First things first; stop dangling shiny things in front of your reps.

Social scientist, Alfie Kohn, at the Harvard Business Review agrees. “Incentives … do not alter the attitudes that underlie our behaviors,” Kohn says. “They do not create an enduring commitment to any value or action. Rather, incentives merely — and temporarily — change what we do.”

Sure, every sales rep wants a nice commission check, but it’s not just the money that motivates them. It could be the feeling of achievement that comes from making the sale, a sense of mission or purpose associated with your company, or the desire to support their family.

So when it comes to long-term motivation, consider using these alternative methods to internally motivate and engage your reps:

1. Show reps how the training will benefit them

Past experiences have taught sales reps that training is simply time spent away from selling. This is why you must clearly connect training to a desirable outcome for the rep. For example, make sure reps understand how selling your new product will help them gain market share or how using your new sales process will allow them to build deeper relationships with their customers.

Try to balance both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. After all, winning more business will always be a powerful motivator for sales reps!

2. Connect sales reps to their products

The most motivated people aren’t the best paid, but those who feel a connection with their work. Help your reps truly understand and believe in the product they’re selling. How does it improve people’s lives? When they feel like they know their product, your reps gain a sense of purpose and responsibility, which increases motivation.

3. Encourage managers to structure coaching around meaningful progress, not just hitting targets

A sense of progress and personal growth is crucial for employees to actually stay engaged. One study shows that making progress in one’s work is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event. You can help enable progress by providing clear goals, frequent feedback, and the necessary resources to accomplish those goals.

The greater progress your reps make, the more competent and confident they become. So rather than having sales managers focus their coaching on hitting sales targets, make sure coaching is focused on continual, meaningful progress. In turn, your reps will be more internally motivated and satisfied in their roles.