Don’t let reps operate with their willpower batteries drained

by on August 30, 2016 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Top Sales Dog
Don’t let reps operate with their willpower batteries drained

Everybody who has sold for a living and/or managed sales reps knows the critical role willpower plays in sales. A significant part of what salespeople do amounts to unnatural acts — cold calling, following up with prospects for the Nth time, responding positively to that intensely annoying customer — that require a strong will indeed.

But if you think of willpower as a Yes/No proposition — either a rep has it or he/she doesn’t — it’s probably not going to move you to deal with your reps in the very best way.

The truth about willpower, according to behavioral research, is that it’s a fluctuating quantity. People, including the reps you manage, have more of it at certain times than at others. Specifically, people’s willpower gets tired out when they use it, and needs to be recharged.

Cookies vs. radishes
One experiment with willpower is particularly striking. In it, researchers put a group of volunteers into a room where freshly baked chocolate chip cookies were laid out on plates, next to bowls of freshly trimmed and washed radishes. Some of the participants were told they could eat only the cookies, and others only the radishes. (The researchers disguised their intentions by telling participants the experiment was about taste perception, not willpower.)

After a few minutes, all of the participants were given a series of puzzles to solve. The puzzles were unsolvable, but the participants weren’t told this. The idea was to see how persistent they would be in trying to complete them.

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And as it turned out, those who had eaten only radishes gave up more than twice as fast as those who had eaten cookies. On average, the cookie group worked on the puzzles for 18-and-a-half minutes, while the radish group managed only a little over 8 minutes. The researchers concluded that this effect was due to fatigued willpower on the part of the radish group: They had strained their “willpower muscles” resisting the alluring sight and smell of the chocolate chip cookies, and had little left when they were asked to exercise those same muscles to solve unsolvable puzzles.

Getting recharged
So then, if reps are going to be draining their willpower batteries by tackling difficult tasks, how can they recharge them?

In his book Persuasion IQ, author and sales consultant Kurt Mortensen suggests a few tactics you may want to pass on to your salespeople when they appear to be trying to operate with low willpower. These tactics don’t amount to rocket science, but reps who are stuck in the moment can benefit from them just the same:

  • Take a nap
  • Have a snack
  • Do some exercise
  • Meditate
  • Read from a humorous book
  • Talk to a positive person
  • Do a service for someone

Some have it, some don’t
Of course, low willpower isn’t always a function of “willpower fatigue.” You may have some people in your sales force who just aren’t persistent enough. With these folks, you may need to employ more strenuous motivation or, in the worst case, show them the door.

But don’t forget that even your best people are probably going to have willpower lows. You’re doing them — and yourself — a favor when you point this out and encourage them to refill their tank.

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