What Winning Hearts and Minds of Salespeople Really Means

27 April 2015


There is a lot of talk in the sales world about winning the hearts and minds of salespeople? through training, but what does this really mean? How do sales managers win the hearts and minds of salespeople and what impact does it have on sales force performance?

If we take away all of the fluffy hearts and minds? language and examine the reason behind the reason,? we find that we are essentially talking about seller motivation. At the root of it all, we want sellers to be motivated to do what it takes to succeed in their job.

The two most common go-to motivators that sales leaders often rely on are compensation and ego (self actualization) rewards, but there is another motivator that often trumps all other motivators clarity of task.

Cleary Motivated

The idea of clarity of task as a motivating force is an underused concept, but it is not a new idea. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that clarity of task is strongly related to on-the-job performance and effort.* The study defines task clarity as the degree to which there is a clear and positive relationship between exerting effort and attaining results.? Sellers who have very clear task clarity have both higher levels of motivation and higher levels of performance.

The opposite is also true. The biggest killer of salesperson motivation is ambiguity ? not knowing clearly how to succeed in their job. This means, if you want to win the hearts and minds of your salespeople, you need to remove ambiguity and create clarity of task for sellers. However, in order to do this, both sales managers and sellers must understand the nature of the sales role, the pathways that leads to desired business results, and the processes that support seller activities.

Cleary Supported

Another element of winning the hearts and minds of salespeople is through support from their sales manager. Often times the link between task clarity for the salesperson and task clarity for the sales manager is not obvious. If a seller knows what? to do to succeed ? say it is winning more new accounts ? then the support and coaching that will be most helpful would be regarding that exact activity ? bringing in more new accounts and how to accomplish this important outcome. The manager’s interactions with the sellers that will be most valuable are related directly to the tasks the sellers must execute. This provides clarity of task for the sales manager and makes their coaching efforts meaningful and targeted.

The beauty of clarity of task is that it allows sales leaders to lead sellers to success without managing them to death. And if that’s not motivating for both sales leaders and sellers, I don’t know what is!

*What Counts Most in Motivating Your Sales Force? 1980. Harvard Business Review. Stephen X. Doyle and Benson P. Shapiro.?

About the Author

Michelle Vazzana is a partner at Vantage Point Performance, a global sales management training and development firm. Vazzana is also co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code. Vazzana has more than 28 years of successful sales and management experience.

About the Author
Michelle Vazzana

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