Author Lisa McLeod on What Makes a Top Performer in Sales

In the following interview, Lisa McLeod, author of Selling With Noble Purpose, sits down with Brendan Byrnes to discuss the factors that separate ordinary organizations and employees from fantastic ones. As Lisa mentions, purpose-driven employees can dramatically increase a company's performance. It's no wonder then that Motley Fool superinvestor David Gardner has leveraged this idea of good businesses making good investments for years and led investors to market-crushing returns. Learn more about how David discovers his winners today; just click here now to read more.

Brendan Byrnes: I'm Brendan Byrnes, and I'm joined by Lisa McLeod. Lisa is the author of Selling With Noble Purpose. Lisa, thanks so much for joining us.

Lisa McLeod: Oh, I'm glad to be here.

Brendan: Let's just get right into it. One of the big revelations of this book is, it's not necessarily monetary incentives that drive sales people, but there's actually a bigger driver, and that is a sense of purpose. Can you talk about how you came to this conclusion, and when you did that?

Lisa: Well, I've been a sales leadership consultant for about 20 years -- I'm giving away my age here -- and I had an experience. It was a single experience in the field with one particular sales person from a biotech company.

I run a sales leadership consulting firm, so we were out working with salespeople, trying to determine the age-old question, "What is the difference between the top performers and the mid-performers?" That's what every company wants to know.

I was out with this one rep, and she started talking about the impact that she had on patients, on doctors, and she spoke about it in a really emotional way.

Now, this was a double-blind study, in the sense that we did not know who the top performers were and who the mid-level performers were. As this one particular rep started talking, she said, "You know, I think about the patients every day, and it's my sense of higher purpose."

I went back through all the interviews from all the reps, all around the country, and I found seven who all spoke about that sense of higher purpose. I told the company, I said, "I think these are your top seven reps," and I was 100% right.

Brendan: Wow.

Lisa: So I actually stumbled upon it by accident, but it connects with what we already know instinctively to be true. We can tell if a salesperson is there to close us, versus if they're trying to truly help us. The problem is, most organizations in a sales force will focus on the monetary reward for the salespeople, and what's missing in the narrative is how they make a difference to customers. 


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