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Why High Incentives May Be Doing More Harm Than Good with Jonathan Mahan

Published on June 27, 2022


In this episode of the Love Selling Hate Sales podcast, Joshua talks to The Practice Lab Co-founder Jonathan Mahan. Jonathan talks about the difference between external and internal motivation, and why the former may be doing more harm than good. Modern day selling and its heavy emphasis on commission tends to lean heavy on external motivation, which Jonathan argues is what gives the sales profession a bad name.

Instead of being thoughtful problem solvers that genuinely want to help their clients, sellers have to chase higher commissions at the cost of ethical practices and sometimes their own mental health. Instead, Joshua talks about the need to shift the focus to internal motivation and doing away with short-term thinking to the benefit not only of the salespeople, but of the whole company as well. 


You can love the act of selling but hate the profession
External motivators are not always the answer
Internal motivation is largely untapped in sales 
The pitfalls of short-term thinking 
Do you have the right seller-market fit? 
Business-level conversations need industry expertise 
External motivation might be doing more harm than good 
Building a pipeline for life 
A brain in the presence of fear is a poor performer 


Jonathan: “The actual art of building relationships, and managing your emotions, and reading other people’s emotions, controlling your communications both your nonverbal and your verbal communication, having tough conversations. All of this stuff is very difficult stuff to do, and these skills that make you so good at selling are the exact skills that you need to excel in all relationships in your life.” 

Jonathan: “For a hundred years, our whole economy and our ideas around business were based on this idea that external motivators are how you get the best work out of people. But for the last 50 years, the research has been showing that tasks that do involve a lot of creativity, tasks that are complex, that involve intuition, that involve authenticity, that involve advanced brain functioning, external incentives actually do worse than internal, but they also do worse than no incentives at all.” 

Jonathan: “Onboarding reps are not given a ton of time to onboard. Additionally, they also aren’t paid commissions until they start selling things. Which means even if the company says, ‘take your time with onboarding this is important stuff to know,’ if you’re not getting paid half of your income until you start selling, you’re not gonna eff around listening to podcasts, and reading articles and becoming an expert. You’re just gonna be like, ‘give me the phone I gotta call somebody.'”

Joshua: “We keep telling people to go have business-level conversations with executives. That’s how you sell. Well, you can’t do that with a script and a list of names. You need to know, one, to have a business conversation, you need to know the ins-and-outs of a business. And then, in your example, cybersecurity, you better know how cybersecurity companies make money, you better know what levers they pull.” 
Learn more about Jonathan in the links below:


About Josh Wagner: 

Josh is a growth advisor and the host of the Love Selling Hate Sales podcast. He specializes in helping executives understand modern marketing and sales to drive growth in a scalable way. 

To learn more about Josh and his work, follow the links below:

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Personal Website: https:///