The Closer Carrots And Sticks Are Both Long And Skinny

Published on August 25, 2023 by Sawyer Middeleer

The Closer Carrots And Sticks Are Both Long And Skinny

Intrinsic motivation often trumps extrinsic rewards when it comes to sales performance. Research in social psychology suggests that individuals are more motivated over the long term by internal drivers such as purpose, mastery, and autonomy, rather than external rewards like bonuses or the fear of punishment.

With that in mind, let’s explore how the metaphor of "carrots and sticks" applies to the nuanced world of sales motivation and performance, particularly as it relates to the role of the sales closer.

Understanding the Carrots and Sticks Metaphor

In the realm of sales, the "carrot" represents the incentives offered to motivate a sales rep: commission, bonuses, recognition, promotions, and other positive reinforcements. These are designed to encourage certain behaviors, like closing more deals or upselling.

Conversely, the "stick" symbolizes the penalties or fear of negative consequences such as lost opportunities, demotion, or even job termination. The "stick" is the pressure that keeps sales reps from becoming complacent or negligent.

"Carrots": Incentivizing the Sales Closer

When it comes to incentives, the closer's role is uniquely tied to the perceived rewards. However, the 'closer carrots'—those incentives specifically designed for your deal sealers—are often based on more than just the numbers. The closers are usually highly motivated individuals, so they might value personalized rewards, like:

  • Professional Growth Opportunities: A comprehensive career advancement plan can be a potent "carrot" for sales closers, who are often looking beyond the immediate transaction.
  • Meaningful Recognition: Public acknowledgment in front of peers can sometimes be more motivating than a private bonus.
  • Flexible Work Conditions: High-value closers may be incentivized by a work-life balance and autonomy over their schedules.
  • Access to Cutting-Edge Tools: Providing access to AI platforms like Aomni and the latest sales enablement tools can be a substantial incentive for closers who pride themselves on working smarter.
  • Engagement in Strategy Development: Involving closers in high-level strategy discussions can act as a significant incentive, recognizing their expertise and giving them a stake in the company's direction.

"Sticks": The Pressure on the Closer

On the "sticks" side of things, sales closers operate under a significant amount of pressure. The fear of losing a significant deal, falling short of quotas, or damaging key relationships can push a closer to perform. That said, reliance on "sticks" can be detrimental when overused:

  • Burnout and Disengagement: Continuous pressure without appropriate support can lead to burnout.
  • Short-Term Focus: Overemphasis on immediate results may lead to neglecting long-term relationship building or skimping on after-sale service.
  • Risk Aversion: Excessive punishment for failure can lead to risk aversion, causing closers to avoid innovative tactics or challenging deals.

Balancing Carrots and Sticks

The most effective sales teams find a balance between the two, often leaning towards a "carrots-based" approach. Creating a culture that values long-term relationship development over short-term gains is key for sustainable success.

Here are strategies to find that balance:

  • Set Realistic and Transparent Goals: Clear and achievable goals help your team understand what is expected and provides a tangible path for achievement.
  • Personalize Incentives: Recognize individual motivators. While one rep may be motivated by a cash bonus, another may value an extra day off.
  • Promote a Positive Culture: Cultivate an atmosphere where collaboration and support are constants.
  • Provide Continuous Training and Development: Offering career development can help maintain motivation and improve skills.
  • Introduce Peer Recognition Programs: Such programs can create positive reinforcements and build a team-oriented environment.
  • Use 'Sticks' Sparingly: When necessary, 'sticks' should be used thoughtfully and in ways that encourage growth and learning, not fear.

Long and Skinny: Patience and Persistence in Sales

Both the carrots and sticks are metaphorically "long and skinny," illustrating that in sales, shortcuts are rare and the road to success is a marathon, not a sprint. Here's why this metaphor is fitting:

  • Patience: Deals, especially big ones, can take time to close. Quick wins are great when they happen, but patience is fundamental in nurturing leads and building valuable relationships.
  • Persistence: Sales closers must be tenacious. The best salespeople don’t fold after the first “no”, they innovate and adapt their approach.
  • Precision: Just as with a lean carrot or stick, precision in a sales approach is essential. Closers need to carefully craft their pitches, know their products and understand their clients deeply.
  • Consistency: The narrow shape implies consistency — applying a steady, ongoing effort rather than fluctuating between extremes.

The Shift Towards Intrinsic Motivational "Carrots"

The trend is shifting towards a model that relies more heavily on intrinsic motivational "carrots." Here’s how innovative companies are adapting:

  • Empowerment: Sales reps are given more autonomy and ownership of their process, as well as empowered to make decisions.
  • Alignment with Purpose: Companies are aligning roles with the individual's sense of purpose. When a closer believes in the product and the value it provides, intrinsic motivation naturally follows.
  • Focus on Mastery: Encouraging mastery and competence in skills — not just outcomes — can fuel a rep’s daily motivation.
  • Maintain Work-Life Balance: Recognizing that even the most dedicated sales closers have lives outside of work fosters long-term engagement and reduces burnout.


While the basic concept of "carrots and sticks" still holds true in the world of sales, the meanings behind the terms are evolving. As a B2B startup, focusing on the intrinsic rewards and providing thoughtful, sustainable motivators can help create a high-performance sales culture that nurtures top-notch closers.

Ultimately, building a team that drives sustained performance and exhibits the resilience to go the distance with patience and persistence will yield not just immediate outcomes but long-term success. Remember, for a hungry team, the right mix of carrots can make all the difference — no sticks required.

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