I’ll never understand how you can work with someone on a daily basis and not need to understand how to communicate with them.

The inherent nature of sales is very competitive. Not only do you have to motivate and push sales people out of their comfort zone, but you also have to ensure they have healthy competition without breeding contempt. This age old problem is rarely solved because it’s viewed very linearly and singularly. Everyone thinks you have to motivate reps to move faster and close harder by showing them how much they gain to make and how they appear compared to their peers.

 


Point 1

Salespeople are driven by conative functions, not intrinsic or extrinsic forces

First point. A salesperson’s tendency to move on a deal, stress the action, if you will, and ultimately natural reactions to the prospect are largely driven by their conative functions, not any intrinsic or extrinsic forces. When a salesperson is moving slowly, asking questions that seem immaterial to the deal, not looking to actively set next steps, or doesn’t place value on ‘in the moment pivots’, we classify them as lazy or not having that killer instinct. Or that they don’t want the deal. The problem is, that’s not always the case. While yes, there are poor salespeople that make mistakes and are lazy. However, could there be an alternate reason? What if they want to be successful, but you see the way their brain functions in a meeting is naturally to Strategize, Systematize and Stabilize? You know they should look to Simplify, Adapt and Innovate. But they don’t. This is a function of that person’s conative ability. Now, it’s not to say they can’t change it, but the important thing is to understand where on the spectrum they land and how to build fail safes as well as triggers to ensure they don’t move too slowly and lose the deal in the process. It’s important to test the conative functions of your salespeople to better understand how to align with their workstyles so you can have the right people in the right seats.

Point 2

Sales teams don’t work as a team … there’s always a “winner”

The second reason why most sales teams fail to achieve their full potential is that they don’t work as a team. You see this in Formula 1 all the time. You tell two highly competitive individuals who are judged independently of one another that they are on the same team, however, one will inevitably lose to the other one. There is no win-win solution. You can’t have 2 drivers in the number 1 spot, just like you can’t have 2 or all salespeople be the top salesperson. Someone will win, someone will come in second, someone will finish last, irrespective of how well they play along. So this notion of “let’s help each other” is foolish and illogical. It ignores the obvious, which I just mentioned. The reason we are always left fighting the same battle is that the structure we’ve created is a hierarchy based on merit and accomplishment. That is further reinforced by a graduated pay scale. The more you sell, the more you make. Now, I’m not advocating for participation trophies or paying everyone the same. That will have an even larger disastrous effect. I’m all for ‘eat what you kill,’ there are no moral victories and there can only be one winner. Which is why I think there is a better way. Create a system that rewards top performers, look to incentivize the behaviour that you want. From an individual and team standpoint. Of course paying commission commensurate to revenue sold is the first part. But, then look to leave that there. It’s important to understand each individual on your team. Money is a soft motivator, it’s not enough until it’s enough, and the increase in earnings doesn’t always translate linearly to an increase in sales. So pay enough to make your salespeople happy, but then forget about it, because the more you bring it up, the more they will think they want + need because the money isn’t filling a hole left by their affective desires. Money isn’t an intrinsic motivator. The root cause could be stability, achievement, recognition, freedom, a whole host of different things. It’s important to understand the WHY behind why your team does what they do. It’s important to test the affective desires of your salespeople to better understand how to align with their desires so you can press on the right buttons. Simply telling them you’re a team and you need to work together won’t do anyone any good. They will be in a dog eat dog mentality if they are pushing hard. But to create a team full of hungry, high achievers, that don’t create infighting, have no cultural issues, and work together, well, that’s a thing of beauty.

Conclusion

High functioning sales teams are notorious for having a toxic culture. The reason is simply because the right behaviour, per the team member, isn’t reinforced properly. Work styles and desires are important to understand for each individual so you can speak with them at a 1 to 1 level. The structures are rarely the problem, competition, pay for performance, leaderboards, quotas, that’s all a part of sales. Removing those core fundamentals of accountability and transparency is the wrong correction. Rather, keeping such motivating factors but applying them with the right lens and positioning for each individual on your team, is what will truly allow your team to succeed without anyone running interference.

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