How Much Pressure Can Salespeople Stand?

The general thinking in managing salespeople is that the right amount pressure on salespeople is good for sales performance.

There have been countless articles on sales management and how to effectively manage sales performance without using undue pressure tactics. What about salespeople who put too much pressure on themselves when closing a large deal?

Recently, I read an abstract, The Impact of Pressure on Performance: Evidence from the PGA Tour February 2015 published in the Harvard Business Review written by Professors Daniel C. Hickman and Neil E. Metz. They used data analysis to determine the effect of pressure on making big money putts on the PGA golf tour. A key finding was that short putts that would result in winning significant amounts of money were not appreciably impacted by the pressure. But they did find that slightly longer putts of 6 to 10 feet were in fact impacted.

For salespeople and managers, an analogy to golf may be logical and no further discussion is needed. For me, the abstract reinforces the necessity for managers to ensure salespeople are working in environments that minimize mistakes and paralysis caused by pressure.

The takeaway is that large deals that are “more than short putts” and which will generate large rewards do result in a “choking” phenomenon for many salespeople.  Here are four recommendations to minimize pressure on large deals where there is a lot at stake.

1.      Match less experienced salespeople with seasoned pros. Experience salespeople will less likely be impacted by the pressure.

2.      Don’t leave a big deal to one person. Make it a team approach. The more support and help will alleviate the pressure on any one individual.

3.      Ensure the deal is sold before the close. Carefully review the sales and buying process to make sure each step was carefully executed.

4.      Test the proposal with the “customer champion” or a loyal supporter in the account to make sure everything has been covered before presenting.

By qualifying the account and thoroughly managing the sales process, longer putts become shorter putts. The shorter the putt; there is less pressure.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com)  works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. The Intellective team enjoys providing Customer Event marketing services. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS