Self-motivation is an important attribute for any salesperson. When the going gets tough, they need to be able to challenge themselves to see sales through. Of course, external motivators can also help agents press on, and there are a number of ways businesses can encourage their representatives to achieve and exceed expectations.

Recent research from Aberdeen identified some of the top motivators for salespeople. Unsurprisingly, individual financial compensation (such as salaries, commissions and bonuses) ruled the roost, with 91 percent of respondents citing it as the best motivator. Following closely behind was internal recognition for positive performances (61 percent), team-based financial compensation (17 percent) and external recognition for standout performances from customers, media, PR, etc. (17 percent).

While there are a number of ways to motivate salespeople, financial incentives are clearly the most effective. Businesses need to put a lot of thought into how they organize salaries, commissions and other forms of payments. By creating lucrative payment tiers, they can guide salespeople to complete mission-critical business objectives and create a force of motivated salespeople.

Companies need to realize that they can use bonuses and commissions to encourage specific actions. Commission management isn't about broadly motivating agents to make sales, but using incentives to almost micromanage salespeople by prioritizing certain actions.

"Wikipedia currently defines a 'spiff' as an immediate bonus for a sale," Aberdeen's report explains. "Wise sales leaders recognize that in addition to base salary and commissions, sometimes a short-term incentive is an effective way to drive sales team behavior. Sixty-four percent (64 percent) of the best-in-class companies in this research have a process to incentivize rapid activity around a particular product, an end-of-cycle push or even a way to dispose of excess inventory using spiffs."

If businesses are having trouble realizing broad objectives, they may want to consider looking at their commissions system – there may be a flaw that isn't encouraging agents to achieve specific goals. Incentive management compensation (ICM) and sales performance management (SPM) are two tools that organizations can utilize to help establish payment systems that do push sales agents to prioritize the products and services they sale and align themselves with company goals.