Motivation Doesn’t Solve A Skill Problem

by Kenny Pratt

This is the first post in a series I will publish over the next few weeks about creating a sales culture in your self storage business. These posts are probably most relevant to people who have responsibility for more than one location, like self storage owners, asset managers, directors of property management or operations, district managers, or directors of marketing and sales.

I know that many of my readers are store managers.  Although these posts aren’t directed specifically to you, I think you’ll find something of value here too.

Are You Addressing The Wrong Problem?

I talk to lots of self storage owners and operators who want their store managers to “lease more units” or “sell better” or “stop quoting the price up front” or “score well on their mystery shops”.  If this is you, I am also willing to bet that you have some sort of program (like a bonus program) to incentivize these outcomes.

The problem with this approach is that if you look carefully, you are trying to solve a skill problem with an incentive.  It won’t work.

Let’s take that line of thinking to an extreme to show how problematic it really is.  Let’s assume you were as rich as Bill Gates and could afford to give incentives that were beyond most people’s dreams.  Unfortunately, you are diagnosed with a brain tumor that will be fatal if not operated on.

Would you grab your co-worker and say, “I’ll give you fifty million dollars to operate on my brain.  I really want to make sure you do the best job possible”?

Of course not.

There is no amount of motivation that is going to endow your coworker with the skills to operate on your brain.  Motivation matters only if there is skill, otherwise you are just messing stuff up faster.

Your Manager Wants to Do A Good Job

What you need to accept is that the vast majority of people you hire already want to do a good job.  They want to be successful.  They want to please you and please the customer.

Rather than focusing on motivation, you will be better served by helping them build the skills they need for success through training and practice.

Fearing some confusion, let me clarify that my point isn’t that you should stop using a bonus program if you have one. My point is that you should stop trying to expect your managers to become more skilled just because you dangle a carrot.  When you are being slowed down because skills are lacking, then do something to help your managers learn AND practice the skills they need.

Sales Professionals Are The Wrong Comparison

Professional sales people have been paid on commission (the ultimate sales incentive) for a long time and they continue to be paid that way in many, many organizations.  One difference between them and your property manager is that these are professional sales people. In many cases they are hired specifically because they already have all the skills they need.  Furthermore, some of the most remarkable sales forces in history, like IBM and Xerox are not famous for their commission and bonus structures, but rather for the world class training they have developed for their employees.  One last significant difference is that in many commissioned sales positions the salesperson has a primary role in generating leads as well as selling to those leads.  From management’s perspective, they don’t necessarily need their sales people to sell better, they just want them to work harder (at lead generation).

You are not in the same position.  You are not dealing with career sales people (for the most part).  Furthermore, if you are successful, you are using the internet and other marketing channels to generate most of your leads rather than relying on your manager as the primary source.

In Conclusion

If you want to build a sales culture you need to help your store managers gain sales skills.  Simply working harder or trying harder isn’t going to get you the results you want.

Other  Posts In The Creating A Sales Culture Series

Focus On Behavior To Improve A Property Manager’s Selling Strength

Small Wins Lead To Selling Success

Storytelling – A Secret Weapon In Your Effort To Create A Sales Culture

6 Ways To Make Selling Practice Easy

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