Goal-focused or development-focused sales reps: who performs better?

Posted in Sales team management.

Sales reps often get grouped together under one giant umbrella, but the truth is that there’s really no such thing as a ‘typical’ sales rep. In fact, take a look at any sales team and you’ll find some pretty remarkable differences in the way each sales rep works. Everyone has their own unique focus.

Some sales reps join the industry because they want to build a strong network and a vast database of clients; others want to put their persuasive and influential skills to good use. However, there are two ways of working that tend to be most common amongst reps: a goal focus, and a development focus.

Goal-Focused Sales Reps are largely motivated by targets. The ‘target’, of course, can be practically anything: holding an account of a certain value, making the most sales or highest revenue per quarter, being tasked with selling the most valuable products, and so on. Everything that these sales reps do helps them to reach these targets, and achieve their selling goals.

Development-Focused Sales Reps will typically enjoy meeting targets and achieving goals, but won’t find quite so much motivation in doing so. Instead, these sales reps are more motivated by the opportunities to learn new skills, develop and hone existing talents, and build up a strong portfolio of qualifications and certifications. Everything they do is to make themselves ‘better’.

So what type of sales rep is statistically more likely to perform better? The goal rep, or development rep?

Sales Reps & ‘Learning Goal Orientation’

Research reports have suggested that development-focused sales reps will typically demonstrate better overall performance than their goal-focused counterparts. Referring to development-focused sales reps as those exhibiting ‘learning goal orientation’, rather than ‘performance goal orientation’, the notable performance boost all comes down to the unknown.

Sales reps are frequently presented with new opportunities, and with new situations and scenarios. Even those sales reps working exclusively with long term B2B clients will at some point need to venture into the unknown, whether that’s introducing a new product, communicating with different people within the same company, selling in a new way, or using new tools in line with technological advancement. All of this is the unknown, and with the unknown comes a greater risk — and a greater fear — of failure.

Goal-focused sales reps are understood to be more likely to be affected by this risk of failure, because it creates an obstacle with the potential to prevent them from reaching their targets. According to the report, there is a greater chance they may withdraw from the situation, associate the situation with negativity, or simply demonstrate less interest. Development-focused sales reps, on the other hand, are more likely to view new situations as a chance to learn. They are able — and indeed willing — to immerse themselves in new situations, due to the potential benefits and learning opportunities on offer.

Taking a Different Selling Approach

If you or your sales team view targets as the ‘be all and end all’ of sales, then consider taking an alternative approach to success. While hitting targets will always remain an important aspect of sales, research suggests that there are other factors that could contribute towards the creation of a great sales team, such as a renewed interest in learning, professional development, and personal growth.