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How compassionate leadership inspires sales performance

Written by: Mark Hirschfeld, Vice President, Consulting Services, BI WORLDWIDE
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Sales teams everywhere are being challenged to realign themselves with changing market expectations. This requires strong sales leaders that, according to our research, should be leading with compassion.

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."  ~Jimmy Dean


Over the past several years, we have experienced the dramatic winds of market realignment and the associated changes in how we work and do business.

Those winds of change have impacted how buyers want to interact with our sellers and what they buy. Sales teams must be realigned to emerging market expectations and be trained and motivated to address those changes. These changes require strong leadership and, according to our research, the right kind of leadership.

Recently, we conducted a study of the workplace perceptions of sales producers. We asked them how they felt about their work experience, focusing on several factors that align with a well-known compassionate leadership model developed by Brad Shuck, Ph.D., University of Louisville.

Compassionate Leadership Model_Dr B Shuck.png

Sales reps rated survey items such as:

  • Were they understood by their leader?
  • Were their ideas taken seriously? 
  • Did their leader act with their best interests in mind?
  • If they did good work, would their efforts be recognized?

The results were clear: Sales employees who rate these parts of their work experience and sales leadership highly are, on average, more engaged and inspired than those who don’t.

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Sales representatives who indicated they had a compassionate sales leader:

  • Were more committed to their current employer,
  • Reported increased effort, and
  • Were bringing more creativity and inspiration to their jobs.

We also asked our sales representantive panelists about a time when they felt inspired at work. Some showed tremendous creativity and passion in helping customers and advancing the best interests of their employer:

  • A financial services representative developed a different strategy to work with his clients and, as a result, increased his sales by 80%.
  • Another helped her employer develop and test the messaging strategy for a new product.
  • Another representative committed to completing additional sales training programs to better handle emerging questions he would face in the market and as a result, improved his performance.
  • One salesperson worked to build the case for a new, improved process and convinced management to adopt his approach.
  • One panelist was passionate about helping a charity her employer supported and got more donations than her peers.
  • A retail sales representative took it upon himself to deliver a replacement part to an automotive customer so the customer could make it home.

These are outstanding examples of salespeople adjusting their sails to improve their sales.

Some panelists didn’t feel as inspired, and commented quite differently. Many couldn’t identify a time when they were inspired by their work, sadly saying “I’ve never been inspired.” Perhaps even worse, some sales reps reported that leaders were actually taking actions that demoralized them, including not trusting them and, in their view, micromanaging. It wasn’t surprising that panelists who weren’t inspired reported they were looking for a new job.

Compassionate leadership is the call for changing times. When sales employees are more inspired and engaged, they’re more likely to produce better sales results.

There are brisk winds out there. Reset the sails of your sales leaders to lead with compassion to experience remarkable results.

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Mark Hirschfeld

Mark Hirschfeld

Vice President, Consulting Services and Strategic Partnerships

Mark Hirschfeld is Vice President of Consulting Services and Strategic Partnerships at BI WORLDWIDE. He’s passionate about helping companies develop more engaged, productive places to work. Mark is the co-author of "Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort In Extraordinary Times", published by McGraw-Hill.

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