How to stay motivated to sell every day, according to the Harvard Business School.

As a salesperson, it’s easy to feel unmotivated at work. Dealing with rejection after rejection, helicopter managers, and prospects asking for your “best price” can be exhausting. But salespeople (literally) can’t afford to be disengaged at work. Other roles in your company may be able to coast by doing the bare minimum, but salespeople need to wake up motivated to close deals and bring in revenue (and subsequently, those juicy commission checks). 

Disengagement in the workplace was first identified by William Kahn in the 1990s. Despite three decades of awareness, it remains a pervasive issue. Recent Gallup polls reveal that only 23% of people globally are engaged at work, while 59% are not engaged, merely putting in minimal effort, and 18% are highly disengaged, actively working against their organizations’ interests. An American Psychological Association survey found that 31% of workers feel emotionally exhausted, 26% are unmotivated, 25% prefer to keep to themselves, and 19% report irritability or anger towards colleagues and customers (we imagine 100% of salespeople would describe at least some of their customers as irritating). 

So what can salespeople do when they find themselves losing motivation?

To combat disengagement, we can look to what Harvard Business School researchers Robin Abrahams and Boris Groysberg have coined as the DEAR process: Detachment, Empathy, Action, and Reframing. These steps can interrupt the cycle of numbness and paralysis and restore a sense of agency. By reflecting on your work, caring for yourself and others, taking purposeful action, and reframing your perspective, you can stay motivated and perform at your best.


Detachment involves stepping back to objectively analyze your situation and feelings. This isn’t about withdrawing from responsibilities, but rather creating mental space to gain perspective.

  1. Reflect and Disconnect: At the end of the day, review what went well and felt meaningful. Then, mentally disconnect from work by creating a physical or digital ritual, like organizing your desk or signing out of email. This can improve mood and resilience.
  2. Meditate: Herbert Benson’s research shows that even simple meditation can improve mental health and reduce stress. Just 10-20 minutes twice a day can make a significant difference.
  3. Exercise: Physical activity reduces stress and enhances mood. Even brief walks or stretches can replenish psychological energy.
  4. Third-Person Thinking: Referring to yourself in the third person can help manage stress and view problems more objectively. This technique tricks the brain into seeing issues as less personal and more manageable.


Empathy, both towards oneself and others, plays a crucial role in re-engaging at work.

  1. Self-Care: Recognize that your thoughts and feelings matter. Start your day with something that makes you feel good, like a favorite coffee or energizing music (Megadeth).
  2. Humanize Interactions: Improve interactions with colleagues and customers by making eye contact, observing social niceties, and appreciating contributions.
  3. Ask Questions: Show curiosity about others’ perspectives and experiences. This builds relationships and intellectual engagement.
  4. Help Others: Offering help can make work more meaningful and reduce burnout. Engage in small acts of kindness or mentorship.


Taking action, even on small tasks, can create a sense of progress and motivation.

  1. Small Wins: Focus on completing minor tasks first. This can boost mood and pave the way for tackling large projects.
  2. Outside Activities: Invest time in hobbies or side projects. These can provide a sense of fulfillment that carries over into work.
  3. Role-Playing: Imagine yourself as someone else (yes, seriously), like a mentor or a character you admire. This can enhance performance and creativity.


Reframing your perspective on work can help align it with your larger life goals and values.

  1. Work Identity: Identify and embrace informal roles you play at work. This can highlight meaningful aspects of your job.
  2. Big Picture Thinking: Focus on the higher purpose of your work. Understanding how your tasks contribute to your larger goals can make them more fulfilling.
  3. Benefit to Others: Consider how your work helps others, whether it’s customers, colleagues, or your family. This prosocial perspective can increase motivation.

As salespeople, we’re on the frontline, facing rejection, demanding clients, and high quota targets. Over time, it’s easy to feel worn down and lose your motivation for the job. However, understanding the factors behind disengagement and employing effective strategies can help you stay motivated and thrive. Besides, what else are you going to do all day!?

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