Sales prospecting, the way most salespeople do it, damages their self-esteem. The psychological cost is clear, immediate and certain. The pain outweighs the potential, uncertain, long-term benefit of this dial.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The best explanation of human motivation is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow said humans need certain things – food, security, shelter, social interaction, self-esteem. Motivation comes from need and we all satisfy the needs in order, starting at the bottom of the figure below.

Clear and Present Danger; Why Salespeople Don’t Prospect

If you refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the reason sales prospecting is a problem becomes clear.

If my needs are met below the “Self-Esteem” level, I won’t do anything that risks my self-esteem.

Peer Pressure

You can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to understand and harness the power of peer pressure and motivate more sales prospecting.

We have to feel some challenge or threat at a lower level to take a risk at a higher level.

The level below “Self-Esteem” in Maslow’s Hierarchy is “Affiliation.” Affiliation needs trump self-esteem needs. Peer pressure (need for affiliation) trumps self-esteem.

For example, in order to drive mastery of the software sales methodology, I hold weekly game film reviews. Salespeople record their sales calls during the week and I review them and provide notes. Then the team meets for an hour weekly to review selected game film. This process drives adoption of the sales process because:

  • In the early going, the example of top performers impacts the beliefs of the rest of the team. Since actions are a manifestation of one’s beliefs, this process transforms your teams’ mental map, thus their behavior, thus their level of success. This makes doing the right thing easier.
  • Peer pressure also helps. The laggards will be compelled to performed due to peer pressure. This makes doing the wrong thing hard because they can’t hide. It is tough love, and it works.

Sales Prospecting Behavior Traps

Any desired behavior will be improved if you find a way to monitor it. Managers resist the idea of monitoring behavior and often call it micro-managing.  However, external accountability is a success habit.  Top performers do it of their own accord.

A top Cisco salesperson told me that consistent sales prospecting was the key to his success. He also said he hated to do it. One trick he used was to schedule prospecting time on his calendar – not as a ‘to do’ but as an appointment. He also arranged to have a partner come in and call with him. He said the buddy system made it more certain that he would make calls. Plus, the partner made dials he wouldn’t have made, thus doubling dials into his territory.

You can set behavior traps for your team, or you can teach them to set behavior traps for themselves. There are ways to do it that are palatable to everyone.

Structure for Sales Prospecting

Penny, who had a marketing background was put in charge of an inside sales team. She asked me to help her set up and manage the team. In the process, she remarked, “These college kids! They do great when we are doing specific campaigns. Calls are up then. Other times calls are down.”

Her lesson was that most of them needed the specific, short-term goals, ongoing monitoring and frequent feedback that occurred during a specific campaign – and they needed it all the time. The chart below summarizes the comparison.

Specific short-term campaigns, new product launches, or experiments all provide a premise for monitoring and measuring.

Maslow motivates!