It’s important to acknowledge that most CROs and VPs of Sales are too far removed from the front lines to be able to set sales targets effectively on their own.
They have all of the control but hardly any of the customer/ salesperson information. Sales reps on the other hand – have all of the customer/ salesperson information and none of the control.
In his book Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek explains this level of abstraction leads to Destructive Abundance. When selfish pursuits of leaders are out of balance and start to outweigh the selfless pursuits they have.
The further removed leaders are from the frontlines – the more abstract their perspective becomes. Salespeople become numbers and statistics on a spreadsheet as the connection and empathy towards individual employees is lost through multiple layers of corporate structure.
It causes people at the top to prioritize results OVER the people generating those results. It leads to creating dopamine centric incentives and bonus structures as the backbone of motivation, rather than instilling true connection with the purpose of the work.
With too much dopamine we become selfish and build a ME first culture to feel safe in our jobs.
So how do we fix this?
One possible suggestion is the people at the top need to COLLABORATE when setting sales targets.
Based on forecasts and revenue metrics the company needs to hit – leaders at the top set a team target; call it a 100K Pie that MUST be Eaten this quarter.
Then let individual reps divide the target amongst themselves based on what’s in their pipeline, if they’re taking vacation and how burnt out they are. For larger organizations this could be handled by frontline managers who are closer to their team.
Reward those who take on bigger pieces of the pie. Be ok with those who take on less and need to recover. Ultimately – rewarding the TEAM for achieving this type of target means you’re rewarding true COLLABORATION.
Think about how much more humane this process would be?
Obedience is giving a sales rep a target with no input and telling them to hit it. Responsibility is allowing the sales rep to take ownership of their target after including valuable information they’re hearing from customers and about how they’re feeling physically and mentally.
This will also create a clear feedback loop for leaders at the top. If targets are too aggressive or teams are experiencing burnout – leaders will be forced to listen because they will have less control. Remember we’re giving more control to those on the frontlines who have ALL the important information.
They are the ones closest to the customer and the ones closest to their peers generating revenue each day.
Avoiding Destructive Abundance
Today’s sales organizations operate like a sports team who has an executive calling plays from their private box. There is too much abstraction for this to work. The executive in the box isn’t close enough to the information on the field to call the right plays.
We need to empower our players and coaches on the field to make important decisions that will help the team win games.
“This will be disasterous… No one will collaborate… We have targets to hit!”
Yes – maybe at first.
There are growing pains associated with breaking any kind of dopamine driven addiction. Whether its breaking bad habits tied to social media, drugs/ alcohol or moving away from carrot holding as the prime motivator within sales; this is going to be hard.
But this change and discomfort is required if we want start putting people BEFORE numbers. If we want to shift our perspective towards long-term sustainable growth that doesn’t ruin the lives and health of people.
Thwarting destructive abundance in sales teams is going to require courageous leaders to give up control – something they worked so hard to achieve. But we’re talking about the health and well-being of real people here.
Leaders are going to have to break the wheel if we want to create a better world for tomorrow.
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About The Author
Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.
Jeff combines his sales (Sales Knowledge Institute) and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through a mix of sales mentorship and mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams improve their sales process, while helping them become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.