Need For Approval and Sales Don’t Mix

“Need for approval” is the second-most powerful and most common weakness we find in sales management and their people. Research conducted by Objective Management concluded that someone with “need for approval” will be about 35% less effective than someone without this weakness.

The reason? For those who possess this weakness, their need to be “liked,” and in extreme cases, loved, is greater than their need to close business and/or hold their salespeople accountable for results.

People possessing “need for approval” will avoid saying or doing things that might change how the prospect, subordinate or superior feels about them. This includes, but is not limited to, asking tough questions, handling legitimate confrontation and being able to handle a rejection or a ”no.” This has internal implications because a manager or subordinate without “need for approval” has the ability to “play” those with the weakness like a violin.

For example, Bob is the SVP of Sales for XYZ Company. He has a sales organization of more than 100 people, including sales managers and salespeople, reporting to him. When Bob created a new compensation program for his management team with very specific objectives, he believed he had developed a process and system that would motivate his people to do what was needed, and confrontation would be avoided. In his mind, what the company expected was clear, and performance would be rewarded.

John, who manages XYZ’s largest sales region, has worked for Bob for 15 years and knows Bob has a bad case of “need for approval.” At the end of the year John missed 3 out of 5 objectives. One would expect a bad bonus in that case, but not John. John knew well in advance he would miss his objectives, so he started “playing his violin.” John dropped stories about his bills mounting up, his son entering college, the addition his wife started on the house, and so on. When bonus time came around, John approached Bob behind the scenes. He told Bob that while he understood the new system and how important it was, after working for the company for 15 years, surely Bob would not let him down and leave him unable to pay all those bills. John got 100% of his bonus even though his was the worst-performing region for the year and had the lowest contribution to overall results for the company.

In the salesperson’s case, the need for approval has  more of a daily effect on sales. In every meeting these salespeople have, they risk missing some key facts, fail to ask important questions, and elongate the sales process. They do not mean to and have no idea they’re doing it. They have a bad case of “happy ears” everywhere they go. For example, when the prospect says, “I will think about it and get back to you,” the salesperson hears “I have a possible deal,” and leaves satisfied. A salesperson who does not have “need for approval” hears, “I will think about it,” and starts asking more questions. In many cases, this is the turning point for closing the deal or losing it forever.

The good news is that there are assessment tools you can use to identify “need for approval” when screening employee candidates and for evaluating your existing employees. While this is a weakness that many people in sales organizations have, it need not be forever. With the proper tools, training and coaching of a trainable person, that person can be developed to overcome this weakness. The payback is a 35% increase in effectiveness. This is an annuity, so it is well worth the investment in research and time to identify and address.

Activate Group has a stake in our clients’ outcomes, helping them to maximize growth by providing strategies on the fly, knowledge, and motivation. Contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or to find out how a business coach, our consultants and trainers can help you accelerate your success.