Blog post

When Work’s a Drag, Deals and Sellers Start to Disappear

By Colleen Giblin | July 15, 2022 | 1 Comment

SalesSales EnablementSales Strategy and Leadership

In our recent analysis of more than 70,000 B2B job postings, we saw keywords like “passionate,” “self-starting,” and “proactive” come up time and time again. Such traits are in particularly high demand in a challenging selling environment beset by economic worries, supply chain disruption, and understaffed and depleted teams. Sales leaders are increasingly concerned that this prolonged period of stress and uncertainty will eventually wear down even the most naturally motivated sellers. What can sales leaders do to keep sellers motivated?

We heard you loud and clear, so we got to work researching what you need to do if you want to spark more of that hunger in more of your sellers.

Through our research, we were surprised to learn that sales leaders were actually coming to us with the wrong question. Our survey of over 800 B2B sellers revealed that sellers already report high levels of what we call Drive:

Sellers experiencing Drive feel mentally engaged at work and ready to take action at any time. They persist in the face of obstacles and regularly take initiative. 

In other words, many sellers already are self-starting, proactive, and hungry for success. We found evidence that while Drive indeed predicts performance, there’s another lesser known character lurking in the seller motivation story – an evil twin of sorts whom we’ve come to call Drag:

Sellers experiencing Drag feel as if their workday is plagued by boredom and distraction. The desire to avoid work manifests in frequent bouts of procrastination, and progress on true priorities languishes as they find themselves merely “going through the motions” to satisfy activity tracking requirements.

Here’s the surprising thing: virtually every seller we spoke to reported experiencing Drive, but roughly one in two reported experiencing Drag as well.

The sellers we interviewed were not at all perplexed by what we found. Although certain aspects of the job were engaging, others were, well, a real Drag. 

Sales leaders have a tendency to invest their resources in chasing marginal increases in Drive. Yet our research reveals that sales leaders who properly diagnose and address Drag can expect to see even greater improvements in seller retention and commercial performance. 

In terms of seller attrition, we found that 70% of high-drag sellers report actively looking for a new job, compared to only 7% of low-drag sellers. As sales leaders know, between an open territory, the expense and time required for hiring, and ramp time for a new hire, turnover is costly.

Not only are high-drag sellers more likely to be out job hunting, but their performance also suffers. Relatively speaking, mean quota attainment for sellers reporting low levels of Drag is 1.7 times higher than for sellers reporting high levels of Drag.

To put this in perspective, consider two sellers with a $5 million quota. Our data suggests that Drag could account for a nearly $3 million difference in the revenue they actually bring in over the course of a year. While this is an extreme example, it speaks to the commercial cost of Drag.

The imperative for sales leaders then is to diagnose and reduce Drag.

Usually, Drag is a symptom of deeper organizational issues, and it can only be mitigated once you have properly identified and treated its true underlying cause, which may or may not be readily observable.

Further complicating matters, Drag isn’t cold and clinical; it’s often emotionally charged and expressed in terms of seller frustration–Why aren’t they doing anything about this? Why do they even ask what we think if they are just going to ignore what we actually have to say? 

To get beyond surface-level pain points, sales leaders must adopt a dramatically different approach to soliciting seller input by beginning to treat sales people as true collaborators in optimizing the design of the seller experience. And we’re excited to be sharing an action plan in our upcoming research events for how you can accomplish just that.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you in the comments: 

What signs of drag have you seen in your organization?

What have you tried so far to reduce it?

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1 Comment

  • Within the B2B tech sector, and the SaaS solutions arena in particular, I see salespeople struggle to articulate a strategic and compelling business case that senior decision-makers crave.

    The lack of a qualitative and quantitative discovery assessment is a common source of drag. The solution is to train and coach sellers to focus more on helping customers achieve their desired business outcome, and less on the product features and operational benefits of the proposed solution.

    The quest for meaningful and substantive outcome attainment matters the most to decerning senior decision-makers. A seller that is willing and able to address this key issue can compress an otherwise long and drawn-out buyer’s journey.