by Frank V. Cespedes and Michael Wong

A stunning 70% of  workers say they are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” with their work, according to Gallup’s ongoing study of the American workplace from 2010 through 2012. Sales reps — the people who represent your firm with customers — are not an exception. What must you do, at a minimum, to regain the trust and recharge the talent of sales people? Two steps are foundational.


1. Understand and communicate, in the C-Suite as well as with the reps, the crucial role played by the sales force in strategy implementation.  Selling skills are now even more important. The options available to customers put greater pressure on the rep’s value-add during the sales experience, and this engagement has implications for the next foundational element.

2. Redesign processes with sales tasks, not the technology, in mind.

The role of data is not to make a manager sound “analytical.” In business, it’s more important to be contextually right and make decisions that people can execute effectively than it is to be school-smart or statistically significant.

New technologies can improve lead generation and qualification (through Search Engine Optimization techniques and tailored online communities), determination of specifications (the use of third-party websites, webinars, and online demo’s), and price negotiations and closing (online tracking systems and pricing algorithms). But despite good intentions, many Big Data transformations are failing because firms haphazardly download data onto sales reps. Communication is mainly one way and there is too little of it.   . Equally important, firms should use these capabilities to off-load administrative tasks from salespeople to increase selling time. And that’s a managerial and organizational issue, not simply a data or sales issue.  Ultimately, companies don’t execute strategy; people do. And talented sales people remain the key lever for strategy implementation in most firms. But companies must be worthy of real talent and, to benefit from that talent, provide the right environment for those people to flourish.

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