Do not tell your top sales people that they are the best!

In the late 90’s, Carol Dweck – professor of Psychology at Stanford University, did some very important research, that still haven’t really made its way to the consciousness of business owners and CEO’s. What she discovered in her research with schoolchildren is so very logical, that it still amazes me how no one is not implementing it.

Shortly, Dweck discovered that when you praise a person for their results – let’s say the amount of business you brought to the company this quarter – and stating that you are the best sales person of the company, the person thinks that the result is a direct effect from their competence. In some way it is, but in what way? He made the big business because he is the best, is not really the sole reason and if it was – why is he the best? To boil it all down, these are to two main problem with this way of praising:

  1. If your boss constantly tells you that you are the best; you are talented; you are a star or even the salesperson of malfoythe year – what happens the day you suddenly do not make those big number sales? You would have a major existential crisis, am I right? You would have to do everything to live up to that standard of being the best. You have the title of being the best and you would have to do, literally anything, to live up to that title. What do you do? You cheat off course. Please do not sneer at what you just read – we have all seen it: Good sales people cheating to meet the quota. Enron, the entire wall street, the entire mortgage with subprime mortgage and so on. That is what happens when you tell people they are good and they turn out not to.
  2. If you how ever want to be a better person and choose not to cheat, you still have a major problem with making your sales, because no one told you what you did right, when you did it right. Nobody told you why you were making sales, when you were making sales. Maybe they assumed you knew, since you are the best and all.

Dweck also discovered that if you on the other hand praise the person for their results – again, big business – with the praising of the person’s effort, what the person did correct or good, the person thinks that the result is a direct effect from their commitment to doing a good job. Now let me tell you why this is the better way of praising your sales people:

  1. If your boss tells you that, you are doing great because you are doing what he as your mentor has taught you to potterdo, you will not wear the title as “the best”. Even better, you will actually be more motivated to becoming “the best” well knowing you will never become that – because that kind of praise you just received taught you that you could always be better.
  2. If you one day find yourself in a situation where you aren’t really making the amount of sales expected of you, you would always know what to do if you just take a look inward and reassess what you are doing and just compare it to what your boss told you the last time he praised you for your work. Maybe he said; “I’m really happy about your work and it shows in your results that you have really been working with the technique I taught you about handling objections. I think the reason why you are on the top of the sales board is because you keep working with the costumer to overcome the objections”. Now you as a sales person can think about your sales presentations and ask yourself; “am I still working with the costumer to overcome objections?” if not – there you got it. If you are – just think back to another time your boss praised your work.

I know this looks to be somewhat close to the term “Feedback” but it really is not. It is about praising effort and method instead of results and “result-labelling” every good sales person. For some, this may also seem to be a “slower” method than just saying “good job” – but in the end, the “good job” and “you’re the best” is a very demotivating way of managing people and also one way that will make your sales people stupid and lazy.

I hope this post brought you value

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