The secret to sales productivity eludes even the most modern sales leaders. Just when you create the perfect commission plan, new research reveals that those types of if-then motivators can inhibit “complex, creative or conceptual” work.
But social science might have an answer to the sales productivity problem: Grit. According to a study from University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan psychologists, grit leads to higher performance in both children and adults. Grit was a better predictor for success everywhere from West Point Military Academy to even the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Our reps need more sales grit.
What is sales grit?
Here’s how Dr. Matt Barney, who is CEO of Leaderamp and also an industrial-organizational psychologist, defines it: “Grit is this idea of really passionately persevering in spite of the fact that your sales aren’t always going to pan out or you don’t get a good price point or the full size of the deal that you wanted. And it’s relentlessly learning from that.”
Grit emphasizes perseverance. In sales, you’re not going to close every deal. The appropriate response is to maintain realistic optimism while not letting failures slow you down.
It’s the ultimate sales productivity tool. Reps are able to work longer, harder and with a positive attitude. We interviewed Dr. Barney to learn six lessons leaders can teach sales reps to cultivate grit.
6 ways to increase sales productivity with grit
1. Accept and expect failure.
“Every experienced salesperson knows that any given lead is not likely to work out. You need a whole bunch of them. And as a human being, it kind of sucks that a lot of them aren’t going to work out. You have to be a bit resilient. And you have to sort of pick yourself back up when a given lead doesn’t pan out.”
2. Maintain a growth mindset.
“[This means] concrete, practical things salespeople can do to actually make progress. Set a tone in the sales team meetings and help salespeople by saying, “All right, you might not have closed that deal, but what did you learn from it?” You can harvest some kind of gold out of even failures if you rephrase them as teachers, [like] crap you won’t do next time or things you’re going to do next time.”
3. Improve your team’s self-talk.
“What sales leaders can do is coach their people to constantly improve their self-talk. [Here’s] what goes on in their head: ‘Yeah, it sucks that i didn’t get the deal, but what can I learn from it? … What am I wishing for here? What’s my goal today or with this customer? What’s the obstacle and what’s my game plan to get around it?’”
4. Provide meaningful purpose.
“The honest truth is that salespeople perform a tremendously important service that I think is underappreciated. Good salespeople actually solve people’s problems. They educate others into why their offering is doing something that they can’t do without it, or not as well … Inspire reps to really understand there is a real important purpose that they serve for the customer, for the team.”
5. Be a role model of grit.
“So our purpose is to help solve the other problems. Whether it’s a service, or it’s a product, [inspire reps] through stories, through metaphors, teaching, role modeling grittiness. The leaders, themselves, have to be gritty and relentlessly pursue the sales goals, even when it’s hard. ‘Mea culpa [acknowledging one’s own failures],’ and learn from their own mistakes as a sales leader. Celebrate when people have been gritty. “
6. Foster a collaborative environment.
“There’s a lot of environmental [factors for] the culture and climate of the team, inspiring them. Create a climate where they help each other … become more gritty and catch each other when they fall … So a sales leader can create this type of environment, but it takes a lot of perseverance and a lot of willingness to chew through a brick wall to get to the other side.”
Ready to strengthen sales productivity on your team? You can find more information on grit from researcher Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”