Is money the best motivation for a sales team?

Ed Fotheringham, Premier Inn

Ed Fotheringham, Premier Inn

December 7, 2016: It’s amazing what motivation you can inspire with a plasterboard half-moon stuck into a plant pot, says Ed Fotheringham, head of sales at Premier Inn.

The sales leader revealed his unexpected and inspirational technique to drive results at his hotel chain in a recent APS seminar on money and motivation.

We get out of bed for money, right? Wrong, says Fotheringham, if you listen to the research, and – more importantly – to your own staff.

Of course, the basic package needs to be in place: your status, job security, salary, working conditions and holidays. Staff may lose motivation if they are absent, but they don’t motivate in themselves.

Fotheringham quoted a recent survey* which revealed that 39 per cent of employees feel under-appreciated at work, with 77 per cent saying they would work harder if they felt better recognised. Crucially, it reveals that pay doesn’t necessarily make the difference. “Cash is the third or fourth motivator,” said Fotheringham.

In his table of nine motivations, good leadership was a key reason people will stay with a company, or leave.

Also included in the league table were questions about how well staff feel they fit into an organisation, and the chances they are given to prove themselves. “That’s what millennials tend to do,” said the sales executive. “You have this opinion of me, but I want to prove you wrong.”

Fotheringham put career progression fourth on his list but said, for many people, this was often cited as their main motivation. In hierarchical organisations like the military, progress is clear; but in many companies the structure is flat. However, progression doesn’t have to be going up the ladder. It can be broadening skills.

Ed Fotheringham holding Premier Inn 'Moonie' award that he uses as motivation for his team

Ed Fotheringham celebrates as colleague Robert Short (R) is presented with the Premier Inn ‘Moonie’ award

So what about the plasterboard moon? “It’s called a Moonie,” said Fotheringham. “The half-crescent moon is the company logo. We cut it out, attached it to a wooden stick with a bit of ribbon around it, put it in a plant pot and that’s the reward to recognise, in the moment, the members of the team in the office for either their great behaviour or a great result. We have a leader board of people who achieve that.”

How successful is it? “Really good. We share photos on WhatsApp. There’s a pride about getting it. There’s a mini competition, that one of my colleagues may have got it more times, so how can I? And it’s good self-PR.

“The award could sit on your desk for two minutes or a week. It’s whenever something is seen or heard that is recognised.”

Fotheringham calls this gamification – fun competitions and leaderboards to increase sales motivation. In a breakout session during the seminar, delegates looked at various ways that games can be used to inspire and drive performance.

APS members shared experiences as they discussed plans for staff competitions. One said that her sales team, with their big salaries and luxury cars in the company car park, still felt the motivation of a £10 voucher towards Christmas lunch. It wasn’t the money, it was the recognition that a particular person had performed well.

So does money make our jobs more enjoyable, or can higher salaries actually demotivate us?

As Arnold Schwarzenegger once put it: “Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million, but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.”

Or, in Fotheringham’s words: “People are not coin-operated.”

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Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey