7 Psychology-Backed Hacks for Boosting Your Motivation

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Leslie Ye
Leslie Ye



Motivation is crucial in sales. Every call can end with rejection (and many do), yet you can’t let what happens in one conversation affect the next.

But this is easier said than done. Stress and discouragement make it hard to stay positive, and you’re bound to encounter days with more bad than good.

So we’re here to help. We’ve compiled these seven science-backed tips to help you keep your head up and stay positive through even the most frustrating times.

1) Remind yourself of what you love about sales.

There are two fundamental types of motivation -- extrinsic and intrinsic. When you’re extrinsically motivated, you’re driven to act because of external incentives, like money, recognition, or praise.

Intrinsic motivation, behavior driven by the simple enjoyment of a task, is a more powerful force. Richard Griggs, a psychology professor, writes, “A person’s intrinsic enjoyment of an activity provides sufficient justification for their behavior.”

Presumably, you got into sales for more than just a commission check, so remind yourself of what you love about the job. Try writing down a physical list of everything you enjoy about sales, or keeping a running tab of on-the-job moments that made you happy. The important thing is to be able to quickly refer back to a list of positive moments that will provide you a jolt of intrinsic motivation.

2) Find your “why.”

The intrinsic-extrinsic dichotomy is further explored in the push-pull theory of motivation. According to this theory, humans are either pulled to do something because of internal motivation, or pushed because of external factors.

“Pull-based motivation is about tapping the desire to achieve something,” entrepreneur Jonathan Fields writes in Psychology Today. “It’s about taking action not to remove a current pain, but to bring yourself closer to a deeply desired end.”

So when you’re feeling discouraged, remind yourself of why you got into sales, and what you’re striving for long-term. With a clearly defined purpose, finding your intrinsic motivation to keep going is far easier.

3) Expect a certain amount of rejection.

You know by now that sales inherently includes rejection. But instead of treating rejection as something to be afraid of or an unpleasant surprise, build the expectation that a certain number of prospects are going to say “no” into your day.

Expectancy theory, pioneered by Victor Vroom, states that people choose to act a certain way based on their expectations of what will happen.

If you’re being helpful, clear, and only calling on buyers who would be a good fit for your service, you’re likely not the reason prospects are saying “no.” Odds are, their rejection has nothing to do with you. Maybe they’re having a stressful morning, or are running to a meeting. So don’t feel like you need to change your entire playbook every time you get shot down. Just remind yourself that this response is normal and keep doing what you’re doing.

A caveat: This only applies to a normal level of rejection. If every single one of your prospects is hanging up on you or shooting you down, it might be time to take a closer look at your approach with your manager or peers.

4) Frame potential pitfalls as opportunities.

Research shows that high achievers tend to be achievement-oriented, rather than failure-avoiding. Achievement-motivated people gain satisfaction from succeeding at difficult tasks. Failure-avoiding individuals are primarily concerned with -- you guessed it -- avoiding a screwup.

Failure-avoiding people “are less likely to attempt achievement-oriented tasks, and may give up quickly if success is not readily forthcoming,” according to psychologist Carl Beuke. Not too inspiring, right?

To put yourself in the mindset of a high achiever, frame risks as opportunities. Yes, every call you make has the chance to result in a “no,” but it’s more productive to view each outreach attempt as a potential deal you can sign. Coming from a positive place rather than a place of fear will go a long way to keeping you motivated.

5) Set specific short- and long-term goals.

It’s important to keep in mind your blue-sky goals -- that is, where you want to be in five or 10 years. But five or 10 years is a long time. What are you supposed to reach for in the meantime?

Sports psychologist Frank Smoll suggests setting goals for the short- and long-term. 

Short-term goals allow people to “see immediate improvements in performance and thereby enhance motivation,” Smoll writes in Psychology Today.

On the other hand, relying purely on lofty goals is actually damaging, as it ignores “the sub-goals needed to attain them.” And this results in a failure to achieve much of anything at all.

6) Remember that it’s not personal.

Once in awhile, you might encounter a prospect who actually hates you. But 99% of the time when prospects say “no,” it doesn’t really have anything to do with you.

It’s natural to take rejection personally because humans are inherently social beings. But in sales, it’s unproductive.

“Taking things personally keeps you tied to someone else,” psychiatrist Abigail Brenner writes in Psychology Today. And if you’re tying yourself to every failed opportunity, you’re going to become overwhelmed with disappointment in short order.

To get some distance from an unpleasant situation, Brenner suggests evaluating what the relationship you have with the person who upset you -- in this case, your prospect -- really meant to you.

Chances are, the relationship meant almost nothing. Of course, prospect relationships are incredibly important from a business standpoint, but from a personal one? You probably don’t know the person you just called from Adam. So remind yourself that at the end of the day, it’s not worth getting upset over.

7) Go take a walk.

The arousal theory of motivation proposes that humans act to correct imbalances in neurological activity. That is, that when we’re either over- or under-stimulated, we subconsciously behave in ways that bring us back to a healthy level of arousal.

You can stay one step ahead of your subconscious, however. If you feel yourself getting agitated or frustrated, remove yourself from the situation. Leave the office for a quick stroll, stop by a coworker’s desk for a quick chat, or just take a bathroom break.

If you try to keep on pounding the phones or sending out emails, you’ll quickly become fatigued and even more irritated than you were before. But by doing something relaxing, you’ll be able to center yourself and re-focus on the task at hand.

Your ability to keep yourself focused and positive is a critical factor to your success as a sales rep. There’s no sugarcoating it -- sales involves a lot of repetition and a lot of rejection. But keeping yourself motivated will allow you to approach each new call with the energy and drive you need to make it a success.

How do you stay motivated? Let us know in the comments below.

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