The Noble Purpose of a Sales Team

If someone asked your team, “What’s the purpose of our organization?” How would they answer?

Sometimes we fall into a trap of thinking that a concept like purpose is reserved for people in nonprofits, or teachers and nurses.

And that those of us in corporate America can’t have it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’re selling something that customers are buying, you’re making a positive impact on the world every day. In the cadence of daily business, when you’re dealing with fumbled sales calls, pipeline reports, and tough goals, keeping that sense of purpose alive can be challenging.

Yet for the teams and individuals who can keep that purpose alive, there’s a huge win.

When the majority of employees believe the primary purpose of the organization is to make money, the organization is destined for mediocrity. Harsh language, but proven true time and time again. Organizations driven by a purpose bigger than money outperform their competition in terms of customer loyalty and employee engagement, which ultimately leads to greater long-term revenue.

Here’s what the leading research in the field revealed: Purpose leadership expert Jim Stengel’s 10-year growth study determined that organizations whose purpose is to improve the lives of their customers outperform their competition and the market as a whole.

In Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies, Stengel documents how 50 of the highest-performing companies in the world harnessed the power of brand ideals to tower over their competitors. At the core of a brand ideal, is purpose. Stengel says, “Top-performing brands are built on ideals, higher-order purposes that transcend products and services.”

And it goes even deeper than that.

Salespeople with a sense of purpose put forth more effort and are more adaptable than quota-focused reps. In her study “Understanding and Leveraging Intrinsic Motivation In Salespeople,” Dr. Valerie Good from Michigan State University asserted, “A sense of purpose—the belief one is making a contribution to a cause greater and more enduring than oneself—is an important contributor to sales success. Yet one that has been rarely been studied.”

Dr. Good was inspired to conduct her research because of her father-in-law, who sold truck wheels. He’d been a top salesperson for decades, driven by his belief that the right wheels on an 18-wheeler saves people lives. Good’s study revealed, “Intrinsic motivation—inherent enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose—is more positively associated with increased salesperson effort and adaptability than a desire for money over time.” The internal drive to make a difference that she observed in her father-in-law proved to be the underpinning behind long-term sales success.

The business case for Noble Purpose is solid. Aligning your team around a Noble Purpose drives revenue, it increases competitive differentiation and it ignites emotional engagement.

But beyond business results, here’s what else we’ve learned: Noble Purpose makes you happier. When you do work that matters, your whole life lights up. We believe sales is a noble profession. Salespeople make the wheels of commerce spin. The research has proven you don’t have to choose between making money and making a difference. You can have both. You and your team deserve both. We all do.