3 Powerful Lessons from the Research on Sales Talent Development and Motivation

by Tasneem Khokha /

At GrowthPlay, we make it our mission to help leaders of professional services firms optimize their most important resource—the talent of the professionals who serve their clients every day. By examining what research-based sales talent development has to say about motivating professionals to do their best work and unlocking their hidden potential, we can create a framework for leaders to follow as they build teams and pursue goals for overall growth. Here are three powerful lessons we’ve learned from the research:


  1. We know what no longer works. Daniel Pink’s book Drive takes a clear-eyed look at the old (or, in some places, current) model of motivating people in the workplace: carrots—encouraging desired behavior through rewards like promotions, raises and accolades—and sticks—discouraging unwanted behavior through punishments like negative performance reviews and a loss of status. When Pink took a deep dive into the data, he learned that carrots and sticks are no longer an effective method for motivating people.


  1. We know what does work. Pink goes on to suggest a new model for motivating people organized around three core values: autonomy, mastery, purpose. People bring more energy and commitment to work when they have some autonomy and control over how they execute tasks. And, when they feel that their work is tied to some broader purpose, whether that is a company mission or a vision for a client account, they will be more motivated to do good work. Finally, as we think about developing sales talent, mastery is perhaps the most powerful path to creating deep and sustainable motivation.


  1. Analytical tools facilitate the development of mastery. Getting professionals to a place of mastery is not just about encouraging excellence in their work. It’s also about determining whether their assigned work, and the way they approach that work, is a good fit for their natural capacities and competencies. The  Chally Assessment, a 45-year-old talent-profiling tool that has been used on more than 750,000 people to measure skills and motivations attributed to success in high-performing organizations, helps us identify the competencies professionals possess and match them with others who have complementary skills so that everyone on the team gets better at what they do.


With a research-based framework for unlocking talent potential, firm leaders can leave behind ineffective management strategies and use what we know about sales talent development to increase motivation and fuel overall growth for the firm.