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Sales: Morale v execution

By John R. Treace

Morale—the esprit de corps or “spirit of the body”—is the capacity of a group of people to hold a common spirit of loyalty and comradeship. We think of morale as being deep-seated in the psych of the individual or group. Execution, on the other hand, is the process of reaching an objective as the result of performance. A team’s ability to execute is more of a surface measurement that’s easily evaluated by an outside observer.

Morale and execution are the cornerstones of powerful sales organizations. Most organizations recognize the importance of a sales team’s ability to execute, since that is measured by numbers. However, some underrate the importance of morale, which is difficult to measure and is often confused with enthusiasm or situational motivation generated from, for example, a spirited sales meeting. Situational motivation is generally short-lived, but morale is ingrained and tends to have a lasting quality, unless conditions degrade it.

I once asked an applicant for a sales manager position what was more important: a sales team’s morale or its ability to execute. His answer was execution, period! He wasn’t hired, in part due to the fact that I was part of a new management team charged with implementing a business turnaround with a very demoralized sales force. I needed a sales manager who intuitively knew the importance of high morale.

While morale is important, we can’t discount the importance of a sales teams’ ability to execute. Good teams should be able to execute as long as they have the proper skill sets, sales tools, and business environment. But poor morale is a deal-killer wherever it exists. A sales team with outstanding execution ability but with poor morale will function below its normal standards of performance. And the reverse is true as well: a team with average to low execution skills but with outstanding morale will produce sales results consistently above average for their skill level.


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