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Street SmartsSM:
Psychological Selling:
Motivating the MLS, Part II

By Amy B. Garvey

I am writing this series on motivation because the subject fascinates me. I also find that it inevitably becomes a topic of conversation when I'm around other industry veterans: How is it that we all manage to stay motivated?

Our product suites seem to change almost daily, it's hard to get support when it's needed, and we hear more No's and have more doors slammed in our faces than do sales reps in other industries. For example, compare merchant level salespeople (MLSs) to restaurant food vendors; food vendors are salespeople, too, but rarely are they told, No, we don't need ketchup this week.

Most sales revolve around consumable products. Although terminals continue to improve because of technological advances, we don't necessarily have a product that our customers will quickly run out of. So how do we manage to go out there and make the sale every day?

In his book, "The Human Side of Enterprise," Douglas McGregor noted that traditional management methods, which he called Theory X, might not be the only way to motivate people. He proposed and developed a different approach, Theory Y, which he suggested could achieve the same, if not greater results.

Theory X, or the traditional view of direction and control, assumes that the average person inherently dislikes work and will avoid it when he can. He must be coerced, controlled or threatened to put forth effort to better the company.

The theory also assumes that most people act based on a need for security rather than out of enthusiasm for their jobs. This leads to negligible personal responsibility in work. It doesn't leave much room for personal insight or exploration, and it has traditionally dominated the bankcard industry.

Although most folks involved in merchant services are steering away from the old school mentality of sales offices, there are still a few diehards out there who hire 20 new reps a week, educate them as little as possible and send them out into the world to run preset leads hoping that they will sell a few pieces of equipment and move on to their next venture. McGregor's Theory Y is behind most modern-day organizational approaches to motivation. It seems much more applicable to MLSs whom I've encountered over the past five years.

The theory assumes that most people have an innate capacity for ingenuity, creativity and insight. It argues that the physical effort involved in work is the same as the effort involved in play or rest; it is the same as the effort required for any normal human activity.

McGregor states that the average person doesn't inherently dislike work, and he is capable of self direction and control, so these factors don't necessarily need to come from outside forces. He further asserts that most individuals do not simply accept responsibility; rather, they seek it out. And despite this, most employees' intellectual potential remains untapped.

McGregor's final idea for this theory is that the level of our dedication to a particular task is inextricably connected to the rewards we gain upon its completion.

I agree with this concept. If we understand that privileges come as a result of fulfilling our duties, then we tend to seek out more responsibility (in work and in life), thereby permitting access to greater rewards.

Questions arise, however, when I think about the immediacy of the reward and value perceived by the recipients. If the privilege or reward is granted right away and is something held dear, the tendency to seek out greater responsibility is certain to increase, right?

What about delayed gratification? In the last "Street Smarts" column "Psychological Selling: Motivating the MLS," The Green Sheet, Nov. 28, 2005, issue 05:11:02), I used as an example the goal of earning $10,000 per month in residuals after having worked in merchant services for 10 years. While this is certainly a realistic and attainable goal, it does little to keep you as an MLS revved up from day to day, especially in the first few years.

Goal-driven motivation is a great model to use if you are in a place of growth. The need for growth, according to Abraham Maslow, an expert in motivational hierarchies, is the need for self-actualization: the need to belong to a group, be accepted, achieve, and gain approval and recognition.

While these are very real in most of us, a whole different set of needs are much more base-level. These must be met before we can move on to, and stay in, a place of self-esteem. Deficiency needs, as Maslow called them, are more motivating because we simply cannot live without them. These are the basic necessities: food, water, shelter, clothing, safety, security and comfort.

The problem with being an MLS and working toward a self-actualizing goal is that we often are stuck in a quagmire of deficiency needs. Wondering whether we will have enough money to pay our rent does not put us at the level of esteem-based motivation.

Our primary motivating factors are feeding our family, keeping a roof over our head and securing a future, however immediate that may be.

How do we move toward the self-actualization stage of our motivational climb, while still caring for our basic physical needs? Do we constantly migrate from one category to another depending on our current financial state, or do we live somewhere in between?

It is suggested that we should only use hierarchies and other similar theories as guideposts. Figure out in which group of needs you spend the most time, and see if there are ways for you to use the other categories to further your journey toward self-actualization.

For example, a Buddhist monk living in a monastery is focused on self-actuality and transcendence, but he is still motivated to eat.

Similarly, a homeless woman may have primary needs for food and shelter, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have profound thoughts or creative insight, long to be a part of a crowd, or lack the will to act on other non-necessity-based impulses.

The homeless woman may become the next great novelist, but she will never cease to need nourishment and security. The monk may eventually reach complete enlightenment, but it won't last long if he doesn't have a sip of water every now and again.

This is why motivational theories are simply ... theories. They are important and useful to become familiar with and to understand, but no single theory or interpretation of them will make sense for everyone in every situation.

The reason behind this series of articles is to introduce you to some of the major theories behind motivation. If one makes sense, learn more about it and find out how it works.

Specifically, what you need to do or learn to go to work every day, enjoy it and live profitably and peacefully.

Amy B. Garvey is Secretary of NAOPP. She works in the Upstate of South Carolina as a sales agent for New York-based Business Payment Systems. Call her at 864-901-8722 or e-mail her at agarvey@bpsmerchant.net .

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