I confess. I do corporate training and consulting and do not subscribe to Harvard Business Review. In fact, I don’t even like Harvard Business Review. But, from time-to-time HBR features articles on selling that I must read because of the stir they create among my clients and potential ones.
The last time that happened was summer 2012 when the HBR theme was everything you have been doing in consultative or solution selling was wrong. The lead article, Dismantling the Sales Machine, called for a “focus on results, not process.” Hold on, doesn’t a good replicable process lead to results? But, I have already written about the shortcomings in the research that supports the article’s apocalyptic contentions. https://www.tildensst.com/2014/12/09/challenger-selling-friends-enemies/
Well, it has happened again. This time there is an article in the April 2015 issue on What Really Motivates Salespeople. Now, the author sounds like a nice enough guy. But, it makes my hair hurt when I read sentences without citations like, “Studies of personality type show that salespeople typically have a larger appetite for risk than other workers.” What studies! What personality model considers risk tolerance?
Here is another sentence that sent me searching for the ibuprofen, or something stronger:
“Some people are more motivated by cash, others by recognition, and still others by a noncash reward like a ski trip or a gift card.” Who says? Where is the evidence to support these assertions?
The cover for that fateful 2012 HBR issue depicts a carrot at the end of a stick. This choice of image reveals what was wrong with the HBR article on sales force motivation in 2012 and again 2015. The research (Deci 1972, 75, 80, 85, 96 & 2000) clearly shows that extrinsic rewards don’t work when you require work smart behaviors. Publishing an article on how altering the frequency, the size, or shape of the carrot, ignores the research that carrots don’t work in most B2B settings. Commissions and bonuses are still carrots, whether they are cooked or not.
Dear HBR, please catch up with the research. Salespeople are not jackasses chasing carrots.