Four Crucial Elements of Success in Sales Development — Part I

By Alex Bartholomaus

What sets the great sales developers apart from the good and mediocre in a challenging market?

Many people often look at techniques, moves, etc., when in fact you should be looking much deeper. It is not how you do it — it’s WHY you’re doing it.

Over the last 20 years, organizational research has pointed toward the realm of “Emotional Intelligence” as a key to superior executive performance. Thanks to the work of Daniel Goleman (see Harvard Business Review article, 1998 and many books on the topic) and other brilliant researchers and PhDs, Emotional Intelligence is receiving more press than ever before, especially in leadership circles.

The five components of Emotional Intelligence generally accepted by the world of organizational psychology are: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

While the research mentioned above explains the superior performance of leaders and upper-level executives, there are many other questions about performance in sales.

Before Emotional Intelligence became such a hot topic, Dave Kurlan identified the four crucial elements of success in sales in the 1980s. Kurlan, a leading sales blogger and author of two books — “Baseline Selling” and “Mindless Selling” — defined these four elements as desire, commitment, responsibility, and outlook.

His company, Objective Management Group, was the first company that offered a sales assessment created by sales executives, rather than researchers from a personality or behavioral assessment company. In the development of their industry-leading assessment, Kurlan focused on these four crucial elements of success along with other key factors for companies to consider.

First, let’s look at desire and commitment.

Element No. 1: Desire

It doesn’t take an expert to know that motivation is fundamental. Knowing the role each component plays in sales success is critical. Desire is how passionate you are about success in sales. In a competitive economy, how passionate are you about being a market leader in sales?

Michael Jordan personified desire in how he approached the game of basketball even after he had won an NBA championship. More than ever, this “fire in the belly” is needed to persevere through difficult economic conditions — as margins are compressing and prospects and clients are asking you to work twice as hard to earn their business.

Element No. 2: Commitment

The second crucial element, commitment, is a word often heard. This is about an individual’s willingness to do what it takes to succeed to hit a sales goal. You always hear stories about the outliers, but do you see commitment pushed to the limit by everyone on your team?

Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis is known for not leaving his character through an entire movie shoot — which can last up to nine months! You might laugh, but honestly: Do your salespeople train and work on their craft like an Academy Award-winning actor?

What happens in many cases is that your salespeople say they’re committed, when they should be telling you that they’re giving you their conditional commitment. This type of commitment means they will do whatever you ask, as long as they agree with what you are asking for, and as long as it is neither “too hard” nor “too scary” of a goal or task.

Have you seen conditional commitment before?

Commitment and desire are often the most challenging crucial elements of success to develop upward if they are low, or in decline. There are difficult choices facing the senior management of most sales forces around the world. They have to decide how much time, if any, they can devote to salespeople who are falling short in these key areas.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part I in our series on managing your sales team. In Part II, we’ll cover the remaining two crucial elements of success, responsibility and outlook. Read it here.]

Alex P. Bartholomaus is managing partner at People Stretch Solutions and works to help small to mid-sized companies drive growth and profits. He combines a non-traditional approach of psychology, behavioral science and emotional intelligence to help sales forces and leadership teams perform at higher levels.
Originally published: Sep 20, 2011

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