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It’s an idiom that we’ve been using for almost a century now: the carrot and the stick.

And if anyone understands the metaphor, it’s sales people. The carrot or the stick. They live and die by it. What did you do for me, lately? Did you hit quota this month? If not, bye bye. If so, here’s your giant commission check so you can buy that new Porsche.

Perhaps because quota and the extremes of reward and punishment are so ingrained in the sales culture, as sales managers we sometimes forget that living and dying by quota is not the same thing as managing.

It’s important both for your individual reps, and for the team as a whole, to celebrate!

Winning is fun. Celebrate it! And do it now!

Celebrating little victories can go a long way towards boosting team morale, releasing the constant pressure of the job, and generally keeping everyone focused on what’s most important. And do it as soon as you can. It may seem a little harsh to compare people to puppies, but it’s important that you do. If you’ve ever trained a dog, you know that giving him a treat 10 minutes after he’s performed a new trick is going to be just as effective as spanking him for relieving himself inside after you get home from a day at the office — which is to say, not at all. The same thing holds for people. Of course, we’re capable of delaying gratification, and learning lessons long after the fact. Nevertheless, the instant reward and punishment is much more powerful from a psychological perspective — both for the individual and for the team. So when you have a chance to reward someone for a small win, do it as soon as you can.

There’s another, related management maxim — punish in private, praise in public. When something good happens, don’t call the rep into your office and give him a pat on the back. Instead, shout it from the rooftops!

Try it out for even a few months, and watch how much publicly praising even tiny wins improves your overall team performance.


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