Are Your B2B Sales Reps Passionate In Their Work?

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John Hagel and his colleagues at the Deloitte Center for the Edge continue to spot important things occurring on the ‘edges’ of business transformation. In Passion At Work, they make the case that there’s a need to recruit and nurture passionate employees as a cornerstone in building higher performing businesses.

Why does it matter? Two reasons:
- passionate workers create a performance ‘edge’ [they're committed to continually improving results, as per Figure 2];
- they’re rare [less than 12% of US workers have a passion for their work].

In work environments where passion’s encouraged, passionate workers are dream employees. Constantly searching for new, better, solutions to challenging problems, taking meaningful risks to improve performance, improving their own performance every year, putting in the hard work it takes to learn anything, connecting internally and externally to folks in related domains, and cutting across silos to deliver results. Companies need these kinds of nimble workers who pursue improved performance by challenging the status quo and learning from what’s going on around them.

To attract such workers, passionate leaders and mentors are crucial. As catalysts by their own passion. And as role models, demonstrating the skills and tactics for effectively connecting and igniting their own passions. Note the recruiting implications: firms should look for what drives the passions in passionate workers. It’s not income [despite the fact that they’re amongst the highest earners]. Giving passionate workers a raise won’t increase their passion; what’s more important is a work environment in which they have the autonomy to take risks, improve their performance, and connect with others. Tactics for making this happen include:
- help individuals understand the impact they’re having on the firm’s performance [with performance analytics].
- create experimentation platforms [combining tools, processes, + mgt practices for rapid prototyping].

Their report says it’s a mistake to focus on attracting and retaining top talent. Focus, instead, on designing the right work environment, where workers can learn fast, unlock their passion, and improve their performance. Then, when recruiting, look for passion knowing you can ignite and harness it. Then, when on-boarding, be true to your word with analytics and experimental practices that passionately provoke performance with what’s learned from what’s done.

Are your B2B Sales Reps passionate? Are you igniting their passions to perform? If not, Passion At Work makes a compelling case that more passion for performance is the best way to relieve pressures for better performance.

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The wisdom and data in the above points is theirs; the translation errors, if any, are mine.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi John – I think the subject of sales rep engagement is really important. The quick answer most managers arrive at is to drive energetic action via incentive plans. That’s a necessary but not sufficient play.
    The authors got it right when pointing to what are considered three fundamental psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness (see, http://www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/basic-psychological-needs-scale/).
    One of the great things about working on this area of employee performance is that the fixes often don’t need to involve a ton of money. What drives passion and engagement are pretty fundamental things, like feeling like the mission of the company matters and that you can be successful/ good at what you are doing.
    In my experience, sales organizations that are focused largely or entirely on making their numbers — as opposed to serving prospects and customers — fail to ignite passion. Frantic effort, yes; passion no.

  2. Kerry: thanks for your feedback. Completely agree with your point re: ‘making their numbers’ and performance fixes often not needing a ton of money. What I’d add: performance fixes tend to be easiest to come by, and most likely to occur, when the components of what’s required are clear for all to see. In some professions, like B2B sales, there’s a measurement void that inhibits improvements. When the cause-effect connections between creating buyer value and sales practices are clear for all to see, behaviors change and results improve. Particularly with passionate employees driven to create value and improve their own performance. It’s the antithesis of frantic effort with no passion. – John

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