Storytelling has the power to engage, influence, teach and inspire listeners. Science has proven that stories are the most powerful way to convey a message—our brain activity surges when we hear a captivating story.1 Such stories can also help you discover how people in your industry became successes, and how you, like them, don’t have to start out with a leg up.
Here are six motivational stories for sales inspiration:
Stories to Inspire and Motivate Sales Teams
1. Broke to Billionaire
Daymond John, FUBU Founder and CEO
If you've never heard of American Hip Hop brand FUBU, you've probably heard of their CEO, Daymond John, or have seen him on Shark Tank. However, it’s less likely that you know his background and the origins of his multi-billion dollar company. Back in the ‘90s, Daymond was a struggling 20-something with a dream. Today, he’s grown his style, sales experience, and hard work into the organization we all know.
If you're not making enough mistakes, you're not making enough moves. So it's the process. For most entrepreneurs, the key to what they do is they act, they learn and they repeat.
However, he wouldn’t be where he is today without the help of his mother, who taught him to sew and took out a second mortgage on her home to help him get his business off the ground. He also notes that without the assistance of friends from his neighborhood, his products wouldn’t have taken off when the company first began.2
Sales Motivation Lesson: It’s okay to rely on the people around you for help, be they your mentors, friends, or family. If you can’t sell the people closest to you on your ideas or product, then who can you convince to buy your product? Close connections can help you network and provide moral support if you’re struggling.
2. The Incentive of Getting Fired
Christopher Cabrera, Xactly Founder and CEO
This is one of the motivational sales stories Xactly holds close to heart. Before he founded Xactly Corporation in 2005 with Satish Palvai, Christopher Cabrera worked at a different organization as SVP of operations. He thought there was a strong possibility he was first in line to fill the position when his CEO was ousted after the company’s IPO. But, as fate would have it, the situation turned out very differently.
The board appointed a leader who was firmly set in his ways and wasn’t interested in the quick clip of technological advancements.
When Cabrera approached the CEO with new ideas for the company he didn’t react kindly. A few weeks after their conversation, he was let go. As his resentful feelings faded, they gave way to a former colleague’s inspirational words. It was then when he found his confidence to put all of his effort into what he knew was a great idea—Xactly!3
Sales Motivation Lesson: Looking back, Cabrera confirms that getting sacked was one of the best things that ever happened to him. He learned that disappointment can be extremely motivating and that if you’re too focused on the status quo you miss the opportunity for innovation. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is often where some of your biggest personal and professional strides happen.
3. Fall Down 77 times, Stand up 78
Ross Perot, American Business Magnate, Billionaire, Philanthropist, and Politician
Ross Perot was a top employee at IBM. In fact, during one of the years he worked there, he fulfilled his annual sales quota in a mere two weeks.
Yet, when he tried to pitch his ideas to supervisors he was largely ignored. This led him to leave IBM in 1962 to found Electronic Data Systems (EDS). To get the business going, he attempted to sell the products to large corporations for his data processing services. Perot was refused seventy-seven times before he was given his first contract.4
Sales Motivation Lesson: Never give up. You may have been turned down by 10 prospects in one day, but that eleventh phone call could be the one that helps you score your biggest deal of the quarter. In sales, the ability to develop tough skin and pick yourself up after losses or disappointments is critical.
4. Financial Failing to Fortune
Kimra Luna, Online Marketing Webinar Host
A few years ago, Kimra Luna was surviving on food stamps and government assistance while trying to provide for her young family. While her financial situation seemed dire, Kimra never stopped working for her dreams of owning a successful business.
She tried a few businesses that while successful, weren’t enough to sustain her family and give her financial freedom. However, these ventures led her to study digital marketing. In no time she was an expert in things like Facebook ads, social media branding, and live blogging.5
Luna began hosting online training sessions that offered marketing advice to entrepreneurs. Immediately, she started coaching business owners who wanted her help with marketing. Online marketing webinars became her sole focus and her sole source of income.
According to an insightful Yahoo! finance article, “When she began selling her online marketing webinars in mid-2014, she reached $10,000 in sales the first week. By year’s end, she earned over $160,000.” Today, Luna’s team earns $750,000 in sales annually.
Sales Motivation Lesson: Sometimes what’s standing between you and success is the picture of what you think it should look like. Kimra Luna had pictured herself at the helm of a food service business but found success in online marketing. Stay open to new possibilities and you never know what could happen.
5. Living in a Car to Owning Three Private Jets
John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell
In the beginning, John Paul DeJoria ran his business from his car. According to an Entrepreneur article, “DeJoria was born in Los Angeles, a first-generation American. He started out his business life selling Christmas cards and newspapers before he even turned 10.”6
He also spent time in a gang. The path ahead looked like a disastrous one for DeJoria. Instead, he created John Paul Mitchell Systems using a $700 loan.7 He lived out of his car and sold shampoo door-to-door.
Sales Motivation Lesson: We could all use some of Paul Dejoria’s determination and positivity. This is such a motivational sales story because Dejoria didn’t make any excuses. He easily could have used his homelessness as a reason not to start a business, but he didn’t let anything stop him—and neither should you.
6. From Minimum Wage to a Billion-Dollar Enterprise
Mark Cuban has become a face of entrepreneurship and investment thanks to his role on "Shark Tank," but it wasn’t all smooth sailing toward financial success. Cuban got his start as a door-to-door garbage bag salesman trying to make ends meet.
It doesn't matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once.
From that point on, he held a series of odd jobs to keep his bills paid. His big break came when he started a computer consulting firm that earned him his first million. From that, he saw an opportunity to turn his first gig into a web broadcasting empire that earned him his first billion. In 2000, he bought majority ownership of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and has turned them into a successful NBA organization.8
Sales Motivation Lesson: Keep the hustle alive and never lose sight of your objectives—Why do you work so hard? Why are you trying to do everything you can to succeed?
Mark has been described as notoriously hard-working and always on the lookout to continue to make more money. Picture where you want to be in life. By not losing sight of the reason why you’re working so hard, you can put yourself in a better position to achieve your life goals.
Sales Motivation as a Key Factor in Success
As technology and communication methods progress, it’s becoming more and more important to communicate effectively. Being able to relate and relay ideas and strategies with your teams via success stories can help them envision and understand what success looks like for your organization. This leads to higher levels of motivation, engagement, and productivity.
To optimize your sales force, you need to have a highly motivated team bringing their "A-game" every day. Having an inspired sales team is essential if you want to see consistent results. As you think about the motivation of your sellers, don't think just about money as a motivator. While the baseline of sales motivation should be driven by your commission structures and compensation plans, it never hurts to have a collection of motivational sales stories or outside resources that you can call upon to inspire your team.
Want to learn additional ways to motivate and incentivize your salesforce? Download the guide, “The 2021 Guide to Successfully Managing Sales Compensation”.