Monday, November 7, 2011

Sticks and stones and carrots

I know a number of businesses that are looking for sales help.  By this I mean outside sales -- the "hunters" -- not the inbound sales reps that field incoming inquiries or walk-ins: the "gatherers."

Hunters are hard to find.  One of my colleagues (a sales training expert) posits that less than 10% of sales people have all of the skills and attributes to be successful hunters.  Hunters are also notoriously hard to compensate and motivate.  The conventional wisdom is that if you do not restrict ability to earn, the best will come knocking on your door.  Conversely, if the best you can compensate an outside salesperson is $50,000, then that's the level of professional you will get.

In other words, the standard industry practice is that the best sales pros are motivated solely by money...if you build a compensation system that allows salespeople to earn up to the limits of their ability, it should be a "win-win" for salesman and business owner.

But is that true?

Daniel Pink, in his best-selling book Drive, argues that "the secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world."

Pink's conclusion is that commission-based sales systems are counterproductive; that the old carrot-and-stick, punishment-reward system of corporate motivation systems run counter to what the science shows.

There are a number of videos of Pink speaking on the subject, the best (in my opinion) can be found here.

Pretty mind-bending, but then again, most game-changing ideas are. So, how will you manage and motivate your stars -- the ones your business depends upon?

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