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Do your salespeople want sales success?

When evaluating a sales representative, the will to sell is the essential element to look at. It consists of 5 key competencies which, together, can determine whether a rep can succeed in the world of sales or achieve more success in their current sales position.

You evaluate the will to sell with a sales force evaluation.

What is the willingness to sell?

Before evaluating skills, sales DNA, or experience, you need first to examine your sales rep’s level of will to sell. Examining willingness first is critical since no matter how expertly are performed the set of tactical skills required of a proficient salesperson, nothing can compensate for that lack of will to sell.

To put it simply: a good salesperson simply wants to succeed.

When dealing with adversity, a salesperson will be faced with challenges that will be difficult to overcome. Having a high level of will to sell ensures that they go the distance. That person can handle adversity better, triumph over their challenges, and can go beyond their level of comfort.

To evaluate if a salesperson will succeed in a new sales position, you must first determine if there’s an incentive for them to reach the next level. We do so by individually examining each finding of the will to sell.

To fully understand the will to sell we must look at the initial findings. There are five elements weighted differently. In order, the five elements that make up the will to sell are commitment, desire, motivation, outlook, and lastly, responsibility.

1. Commitment

The level of engagement defines commitment to a specific cause. In sales, it’s the difference between obtaining results or not. A salesperson’s commitment is the factor that makes them want to put in the extra effort and put their experience in sales to good use, for example.

Though desire used to be at the top of the list, about 7 years back we promoted commitment to be the number one finding. The reason for this is that there’s a lot more adversity today, and it’s harder to have success selling than in the past.

With the yearly evaluation of over 10,000 candidates, we were able to uncover that the level of commitment is going down. This decrease doesn’t mean people are less committed today than ten years ago; it just says that it takes way more commitment than before to be successful.

The sales environment has indeed gotten far more competitive.

What is your salesperson willing to do? How far are they willing to go? The answer to these questions will be the most influential deciding factor of whether they become successful or not.

2. Desire

Most people have strong desire and commitment – that burning feeling to be the best, to be number one. It’s just not always related to selling.

In fact, many evaluations aren’t predictive in sales because they wrongly evaluate desire. They measure desire and commitment in general. However, it’s not so much “do they have desire and commitment?” but “what do they have desire and commitment about?” Those competencies should be evaluated for selling.

To that extent, desire is very similar to commitment, and therefore the following applies to both competencies.

We’ve discovered that it’s not so much a question of whether or not sales reps have desire, but more about what they desire for. Therefore, if you find a lack of desire, this doesn’t mean it is absent but rather that there is something other than sales driving that person.

This notion came up when we evaluated a seller who was also a singer. Each time an opportunity to perform came up, he would ditch his selling obligations. You can imagine that although his desire for sales was very low, his desire to sing was through the roof!

Keep in mind that the 21 core competencies sales evaluation is not reserved for sales representatives only. It applies to your whole chain of sales command, and the results are sometimes quite surprising. Your VP, CEO and sales managers may be taken aback to realize that they scored low in their desire findings. You must be careful to assess what this means accurately.

Let’s say your VP is your best performing salesperson. However, their results as VP were very poor. Perhaps their actual desire was to remain a salesperson but accepted the promotion out of loyalty to the company.

Same goes for your salespeople. They might score low in their current position for the simple reason that they aspire to a higher position in the hierarchy.

This notion applies to both desire and commitment; low levels don’t reflect a lack of these qualities, it most probably means you don’t have them for selling.

3. Motivation

Motivation is evaluated by how well a person responds to outside motivation by their manager. Therefore, a motivation issue results from managers having failed to provide the proper incentives. There are two critical factors to examine when evaluating your salespeople motivation levels.

First of all, are they even responsive to motivation? Not everyone is! Whether or not that person is financially independent, or whether that person has a negative outlook, any number of factors can influence a person’s response capacity.

Secondly, what type of motivation methods do they respond to? Must you use intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? Using the right evaluation method will clarify these nuances for you.

4. Responsibility

Responsibility is the ability to see beyond pride, and get right down to concrete reasons for low outcomes – no rationalizing, no excuse-making, or playing the blame game.

There’s a reason for this sequence of evaluation. The hardest elements to fix are the ones to prioritize. You cannot try to fix low responsibility if a low level of motivation still exists.

Responsibility is relatively easy to fix. It’s often closely related to culture, so putting an excuse maker in a strong sales culture might very well do the trick.

5. Outlook

Another word for outlook is morale.

An employee with low morale findings might be someone who has a weak outlook on their future, either for life in general or in sales. It could be a self-esteem issue or discouragement.

Whatever the reason, positive reinforcement and support are effective ways to offset negative outlook.

Interrelation between competencies

We’ve determined the importance of desire and commitment in reference to the will to sell. The solution to fixing these types of issues relies primarily on how they interrelate with one another. Two situations are possible:

Strong desire, low commitment:

In the absence of a thorough evaluation, this outcome is probably the toughest to spot.

On the surface, a person seems to have a strong desire to succeed, to be the best. Which is most likely the reason you hired them in the first place. You assume they’ll be great in their position, and then after six months, you realize they haven’t made a sale! The problem is, they’d put the bar high but lacked the commitment to do whatever it took to surpass it.

They weren’t willing to do the things that made them uncomfortable, that they disagreed with. That’s mainly the problem with high desire, no commitment.

As you dig below the surface, you realize that although they want to be successful, they are not ready to do things it takes to get there. Most people want a hundred thousand a year, to be millionaires, though few people achieve it. Few possess the level of commitment required to accomplish this.

An interrelation like this doesn’t apply only to money; it can be about learning the piano, being a tennis player. André Agassi correctly understands the will to sell, identifying in his book Open precisely where it comes from. We talk a lot about desire and commitment, but it must also be a passion, you need to love sales! To perform in sales, it must have been a choice, not an obligation.

Low desire, strong commitment:

In this case, you think, great! There’s a high level of commitment, the desire issue we can fix. The fact is, the level of desire calibrates the level of commitment. Desire decides how high the bar is raised. Commitment is irrelevant if desire places the bar at one metre, rather than three metres off the ground. It’s harder to commit to clearing a bar three metres off the ground than one metre.


A sales manager’s job as a coach is facilitated by adopting the proper tool to carry out your evaluation. The steps and sequence have been laid out for you to take advantage of.

Remember your priorities. Responsibility and outlook do not determine the strength of the will to sell! Save your effort for more trying tasks, such as increasing desire and commitment, both of which have an important impact on the possibility of success.