Sales Will

Besides a high level or enthusiasm and a high skill level what drives an indivual contributor to succeed.  The organization can build sales will or destroy it. 

Sales people armed with world class sales skills may still produce sub-optimal sales results.  To produce optimal results sales skills must be complimented with a strong sales “will”.  The will to succeed is far more than outward enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is contageous and exciting to be around but by itself will not push the organization to the highest level of output.

Sales will, at an individual and organizational level is driven by four variables;

  • Desire – the belief held in expectation that something important will happen if the task is successfully accomplished.
  • Incentive – the individual or organization sees a benefit that is proportionately motivational to the the difficulty of the task.
  • Security – Frequently the security that sales people want is delivered by credible field leadership.  They want to know that when they open themselved up for a challenge that there is a fair exchange of risk and reward and that their manager is there to help and support their quest.
  • Confidence – First the sales person gains confidence in themselves as the learn, practice and execute critical sales tasks.  For instance, setting appointments with new prospects.  Only when one has learned a script correctly and made hundreds of outbound calls will they gain the confidence they need to do that task well.  However it is more than believing in yourself.  It is also a confidence that sales people are supported with the tools they need and that the sales resources are aligned with helping move the prospect forward in their buying process.

A sales organization can detract or compliment a sales person’s sales will.  Sales Will, can be driven by the sales person’s perception of the following sales resources and programs;

  1. Compensation Plans – The proportion of salary and variable compensation is important.  If you want peak performers to substantially out earn those who make smaller contributions you need to put more emphasis on variable compensation and less on salary.  Peak performers (the top 10%) should make double the total income of average performers and at least triple that of marginal contributors.  Compensation for struggling contributors should be minimal so that they are continuously motivated to improve.
  2. Incentive Plan Design – Incentive plans are the “Holy Grail” of what you want from the sales people.  No matter what you say in town hall meeting or field memos, the sales people will figure out how to maximize their income through the incentive plan.  Plans should reflect a clear line of sight from the lowest level of sales position through the highest level of field manager.  Also the KISS principal holds true here.  Sales people are goal setters and you should make it easy for them to translate their personal goals into tactical sales plans.  Finally the incentive plan should be aligned with the sales strategy.  Too many times I have seen sales strategies that rely on increasing acquisition of Fortune 500 clients while the incentive plan is tilted towards selling more smaller accounts.
  3. Peer Recognition – For the sales person being recognized this is a huge confidence builder.  For those that are not recognized this is managements chance to demonstrate an example of the the results & behaviors they are see at important.  Peer recognition takes place in a variety of ways; recognition at gatherings (especially national & regional meetings) but it can also take place through the generation of local, regional and national reports that are distributed company wide.
  4. Family & Friend Recognition – This may be one of the most powerful tools to grow sales will.  Trips and other events allow winners to proclaim to others that they have achieved a high level of recognition.  Many companies sponsor recognition events designed to thank peak performers, sometimes with spouse attendance, for the contributions they made.  Some companies will have two “clubs” that sales people can earn.  Usually there is a “President’s Club” for the peak performers and then there can be a “100%” club for everyone who succeeded in delivering to a challenging quota.
  5. Training – Until recently company sponsored training was held classroom style with all or most sales people required to attend.  The subject matter was broad and included lectures, discussions and role plays.  Today many very good training programs are available online.  It is very important that a combination of both are used.  When the field manager identifies a particular sales skill is needed they can require that sales person to take the appropriate sales training class.  However, the most important training activity is the interaction between the sales manager and the sales representative.
  6. Coaching – Everyone needs a coach.  Coaches help spot small changes, they help players train and most of all they help players try new approaches that may produce dramatically better results.  First level field managers should be a coach first and a manager second.  Coaches also hold us accountable to lean relearn and practice those skills & tasks that make us optimally effective.
  7. Sales Support – “We’re from HQ and we are here to help”…every heard that one before.  Sales support can help sales people succeed or they can make sales success harder than it should be.  This should be a primary concern for the top sales officer.  Every time a sales person perceives a sales support function as an attempt to catch them doing something wrong, the sales will dimishes.  Every time that same organization treats each sales person as “their customer” the will to do the sales job increases.
  8. Reporting – Sales reports can build sales will or begin to erode desire and incentives.  Many of the companies I consult with view sales reports singularly as a management tool.  I try hard to get them to see publication of sales results can be used as an exceptional peer recognition tool.  Publishing national sales rankings from a variety of sorts can be very motivational for your peak performers…and also very motivational for strugglers, especially if you publish standings all the way down to last place.  On the opposite side imagine being a hard working sales person hidden away in a secondary market.  You keep your self organized and push hard to show your worth!  However, no one in a management position or headquarters ever sees the reports that showcase your results.  How long will you continue to push yourself?

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