Personal Story

“Go to your room and study”.  Most of us heard these words growing up. I definitely did. And 9 times of out 10, I didn’t. I probably read a comic, listened to music (no social media, you see) or did anything but what I was “told” to do.

While I thought I was special, turns out that’s not the case. I see this all too often as a parent now (I’m not so special after all).

Apparently, this phenomenon has a name – Reactance. Reactance is an unpleasant motivational reaction to offers, persons, rules, or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms. It occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away their choices or limiting the range of alternatives.

Simply said – If you tell people what to do, they’ll most likely NOT do it.

Reactance @ work / Sales

So, what’s Reactance got to do with Sales teams? Well, a lot apparently.

Look online and you’ll find thousands of posts for Sales Enablement tools that push the virtues of Recommender engines for sales reps.

What’s the one thing all these tools have in common? They all assume that if you give data to a sales rep every time she/ he makes a call, 3 things will happen. The rep

  1. will understand the data (or recommendation)
  2. will agree with the insight provided (i.e. what they should do at that moment)
  3. and will take action (i.e. do what the recommender engine asks them to do)

# 3 is where Reactance comes in. Your sales reps will resist the push during each customer visit/ call they make – because you are taking their decision-making ability or choice away from them. Loss of control which will then lead to a loss of productivity.

So what can Sales leaders do about it?

  1. Give your team a say in decision-making on their job. Having multiple choices on potential actions are so much better than a singular “call to action” (e.g. You could make an additional call to a new customer or negotiate with an existing customer on your list) .
  2. Have to do vs. Want to do. Each rep is unique and responds uniquely based on what connects with her/his internal motivation. Personalize the recommendations based on what motivates each rep.
  3. Suggestions not Demands – Framing Options as suggestions rather than demands stand a better chance of influencing the sales rep’s decision. Nudges are elements in choice architecture that work because they promote this freedom of choice. This is the difference between telling children to eat healthy and putting fruits at eye level during lunch time rather than banning junk food. [Ref: Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein – Nudge]

Ultimately, remember, your reps are unique individuals, not machines.

A call to action works if it gives choices they can pick from and is personalized based on their individual performance context and motivational needs.That’s why Recommender engines or Next Best Action tools will not drive sales rep productivity – they are too straitjacketed in their approach, don’t personalize and completely ignore the individual’s motivational needs.

Solving for the person, rather than the data will help drive improvement much easier, faster and the change will stick much better. worxogo’s behavior-led AI engine uses personalized behavior nudges to help sales reps choose the best performance action, without coercion or control. Our customers using worxogo’s AI coach see  20% in Rep productivity within a few weeks of deployment. Overcome reactance and build high performing sales reps – move away from directive & restrictive actions to personalized choice based nudges.

Give us a call to see what personalized nudges can do for your team.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash