Sales February 25, 2015

How Business Leaders Can Empower Their Sales People


As eloquently described in Daniel Pink’s seminal book ‘Drive’ to maximise personal motivation three key elements need to be in place: Autonomy, Purpose and Mastery. I often think about how this applies to sales people and the over emphasis on the ‘carrot or stick’ approach. Very often, business leaders rely on incentive schemes (rewards) or ‘performance management’ regimes (threats) to try to drive the required sales behaviours. With this in mind I fear that many business leaders have much to learn about the noble art (or is it science?) of selling and what it takes to maximise the potential of each individual. How much ‘autonomy’ do we really give sales people.Ostensibly a life ‘on-the-road’ provides much freedom but the reality is that most companies concentrate on monitoring and control more than they do on empowering sales people to generate their own activity plans and owning them! (How many sales people have you met that love filling in there CRM reports?).

Here is a simple framework for enabling and empowering your sales people.

Sadly, the sales profession is still too often misunderstood, and under-valued. The approach which follows is an attempt to separate the reality from the mythology and nonsense. Consistent success in selling is all about the planning and on-going management of the three elements of sales activity which produce results:

In relation to the company’s marketing policies (and how well have these been articulated throughout the organisation?):

  • Which products / services are the best bets for the future, and thus require the most sales emphasis?
  • Which customers / potential customers will yield the best results for the future, and which ‘selection criteria’ have been assembled to ensure that the most applicable organisations are targeted for sales attention?
  • At what level(s) within the customer’s hierarchy do you need to be selling to be most likely to directly secure a buying decision?


  • Plan the amount of effort required.
  • Know the broad stages of your ‘sales cycle’ - from initial appointment-seeking telephone call, to successful conversion.
  • Know your ‘success (conversion) rates’ at each stage.
  • Use your regularly-updated knowledge of both to plan the action needed.


  • Know your products in hard-edged ‘customer deliverable’ terms
  • Which opportunities do they help your customers to exploit?
  • Which threats do they help your customers to offset?
  • Be aware of how this varies by customer type.
  • Know how your deliverables stack up against those of your key competitors.
  • Plan and execute your questions and overall sales approach around this analysis
  • Use it as the springboard for selling the real value of what you deliver for you customers, and where necessary, as the justification for resisting price pressure.

Simple, really, then. Forget the hype and mythology - and concentrate on getting each sales person to carefully plan and manage the three elements of sales activity which will produce the required future sales results. Empower your sales team using this framework. It ticks all of Daniel Pink’s boxes and you might be surprised by the results!

More from Vistage:

8 Sales Lessons Ebook for MDs

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