Non-monetary Motivation – Rewarding Your Team Beyond Pay Plans

“How can I motivate my salespeople?”

It’s a common question I get from management teams when I do training sessions at their dealership.

After spending countless hours coaching automotive leadership teams, I’ve observed these 2 sad facts about our industry:

  • Managers do NOT understand that people are motivated by different things
  • Managers overestimate the value of money as a motivational tool

Some dealerships change their pay plans every other month, come up with a new spiff every weekend, offer cash as incentives or focus on unit-based bonuses hoping it will motivate their sales staff.

While commissioned employees in general are more motivated by financial rewards compared to those who are salary-based, many managers are overusing money as a motivational tool.

The majority of those in leadership fails to use other effective motivational methods.

I’ll describe just one example of non-monetized motivation in this article – recognizing your employees and expressing appreciation for what they do.

That’s right, how you make your team feel is often more important than how much they earn!

Consider these facts:

  • Feeling under-appreciated is the number one reason employees leave their jobs 1
  • The majority of people find recognition more fulfilling than financial rewards 2
  • The most desired forms of recognition are public or private acknowledgments, such as praise, awards or certificates 3

If you’re a manager, there are simple and effective ways for you to motivate your team beyond offering them more money! Plus, these methods will cost you nothing or very, very little.

What could you start doing today at your dealership to use recognition as a motivational tool?

Here is a list of 10 things you can start doing to create a culture of recognition at your store:

  1. Take your top performer out to lunch

Spending one-on-one time with your top producers will show them you value their contributions. Treating them to lunch is a great option! Use this time to get to know them, ask about their goals, and get their feedback on ways they can help the store’s production.

  1. Flexible schedules

On my Facebook page, I asked recently why people leave the car business. Long hours and lack of work/life balance were in the top 3 reasons. Dealership life is hard, so why not recognize your employees by allowing some flexibility in their schedules? One example is implementing split shifts. Or, you could allow occasional telecommuting, especially for BDC. Here is my favorite – let your top performers set their own schedules!

  1. Wish them a Happy Birthday

Do you remember your sales staff’s birthdays? You don’t want to be the only person who didn’t take a second to say “Happy Birthday!” It’s such a small gesture, but will mean a lot coming from a boss. Also, consider giving a card, flowers or putting balloons on their desk. If you make their day, you’ll have a happy and energized person who will do her best.

  1. Reward smaller achievements

You don’t have to wait till someone become the # 1 producer for the month or the salesperson of the year to offer recognition. Make it a habit of acknowledging your staff for things they do well on a daily or weekly basis. In your next sales meeting, acknowledge those who get the most referrals, have a high closing ratio or use social media to generate their own leads and sales.

  1. “Traveling Trophy”

If you’re working on improving a specific task or behavior, reward your sales team with a “traveling trophy.” Whoever does the best job with a specific goal gets the trophy for the day or the week.

  1. Website feature

When customers visit your dealership website, how easy is it for them to know who is the best on your sales team? Consider rewarding your top performers by having their name featured on your website or your Facebook business page.

  1. Recognition unrelated to performance

Too often management focuses solely on performance-based metrics, such as how many cars were sold, as a motivational tool. But there are many other ways salespeople could be adding value even if they’re not at the top of the board.

Is there a team member who’s always positive? Do you have a sales veteran who has a mentoring spirit and makes new hires feel welcome? Is there someone who understands social media and shares tips on how to use it? All of these actions contribute to your dealership’s healthy culture and overall performance, so take a minute to acknowledge these efforts, both privately and publicly.

  1. Take interest in their life

I see some managers not caring about their salespeople and then complaining that the salespeople don’t care about helping the store! I’ve had many private conversations with sales staff who are under severe financial stress, grieving because they lost a family member, or have just been diagnosed with cancer. But when I asked if their management knows, their reply was, “They don’t know anything because they never asked.” As a leader, taking interest in your team and showing compassion when needed will show them you care.

  1. Let me help you”

What is the last time you helped one of your team members with a specific project or idea they’d like to implement? You could help with scripts to make calls to orphan leads, find resources for someone who wants to use Facebook to sell cars, or sit down with a saleswoman to brainstorm a plan on how she can become the preferred sales representative for an apartment complex. Actively look for ways to be a coach, to offer practical advice or to find resources.

  1. Token gifts

Sometimes all a person needs to get motivated is a token gift! Do you have someone who loves energy drinks? Giving them a pack of Red Bulls can be all the motivation they need that day. Or is there a salesman on your team who’s always talking about the next Marvel movie? Buy them a movie ticket! Think of small token gifts you could give to your staff as a way of saying “I appreciate what you do!”

Using these simple but effective non-monetary motivational methods will help you encourage your team to do their best, show them you care, and create a healthy culture at your dealership.

If you’d like a custom coaching session on leadership and management for your dealership, contact me at or 612-387-7776.

1 Globoforce data

2 Psychology Today

3 Gallup survey


  1. C. Taylor-David on July 5, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Actively engaging “Mindful leadership” pays off big when done right.

  2. John Kostakos on November 9, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Solid. On your game jon. An unstoppable human spirit making our industry better one store at a time

  3. Courtney on May 1, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Great article and on point!

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