To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

What really motivates top salespeople: love or money?

Betsy D. Gelb (Department of Marketing, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA)
Joanna Pishko (Department of Marketing, Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, USA)
Carl Herman (Department of Marketing, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 24 June 2021

Issue publication date: 12 August 2022




This study aims to explore a previously unidentified antecedent of remaining in selling rather than leaving the field. That antecedent is “love of selling”: prioritizing intrinsic rewards over those that are extrinsic.


The differences between those with each of those priorities are explored here in a survey of 348 salespeople, both inside and outside, and also qualitative interviews with a 20-person subset.


Comparing salespeople who select on a questionnaire the option that they “love selling” vs respondents who primarily enjoy its payoffs, the authors find the former group significantly less likely to say they would leave the selling field if they could get another job that pays as well. They are significantly more likely to rate their own selling skills highly, but sales results between the two groups do not differ. Telephone interviews asking what their company does to reinforce love of selling, and what it could do, elicit comments on support – but also on administrative dissatisfiers.

Practical implications

Organizations benefit from encouraging a love of selling and can do so by training, by management efforts to build confidence, by emphasizing challenge and by reducing administrative barriers to enjoying the selling experience.


This is the first study to identify “love of selling” as a characteristic of salespeople that managers will want to understand and foster.



Gelb, B.D., Pishko, J. and Herman, C. (2022), "What really motivates top salespeople: love or money?", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 306-315.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles