The Secret to Smarter Sales is not the carrot as depicted on the current HBR cover. What we know from research by Kohn and others is that carrots, or tangible extrinsic rewards, only work if what you want is more and faster. But, they do not work if what you need is smarter behavior.
Kohn puts it in a colorful way in his article, The Great Jackass Fallacy (1993). Place a carrot at the end of a stick and complete the image. What is chasing it? Answer: A Jackass.
This plays out in sales in terms of the kinds of rewards businesses employ. Most rely on carrots, particularly for salespeople, like commissions, bonuses and prizes. This is fine if the sales team is selling a commodity where the buyer already knows what they need to know about the product. The decision is based on price and ease of acquisition. When I suffer from a runny nose, I know that an antihistamine will treat it and I buy one based on price and ease of purchase. I am buying a commodity and expert consulting, like visiting a doctor, does not create value for me.
But, when I was shopping for hip surgery last year, what mattered most was the trust I had in an expert consultant, in this instance an orthopedic surgeon. To complete the analogy, I was buying consultatively.
Sorry, Harvard. The secret to smarter sales required in major and complex settings is not the carrot. Rather, it is providing the powerful intrinsic rewards, carefully crafted to meet the unique individual needs of each salesperson. Our Adaptable Leader program (https://www.tildensst.com/course-descriptions) provides insights on how to determine what makes each salesperson tick and to enable them to work smarter, not just harder. Please contact me if you would like to learn more.