BEHIND YOUR BACK: Reality TV: The Single Fastest Way to Improve Sales Rep Performance

By / 1 year ago

Years ago a military training study was conducted. It involved hand grenades. The goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of training under different conditions.

The participants were soldiers in pre-combat training. As the platoons were expertly trained in the proper technique of the grenade toss (Observe target, remove pin, chuck, duck and run like hell), researchers recorded the individual distances ran by each soldier following the toss.

After four training sets, a classic bell curve was forming. There was a small percentage of track stars, a small percentage of dangerously slow-motion soldiers, and then there was everyone else, clumped in the middle.

Then…a twist: no more practice grenades. For the next two exercises, live M67 fragmentation grenades were used. Following a discussion about the term fratricide (the accidental killing of one’s own forces), the soldiers began the live exercises.

The researchers witnessed something interesting as the live munitions were used. The distances covered by the soldiers changed dramatically. They ran farther. A lot farther—nearly 20%. The entire bell curve shifted to the right.

Interesting, right?
“Not really,” you say. “This makes sense. Survival instincts kick in. When you know it’s real, you perform better. Your life is on the line.”

Okay, here’s a grenade for you: How often do you video record your salespeople demonstrating their craft—for improvement or sharing best practices?

I was an area purchasing manager for a national homebuilder. Based on the performances of hundreds of sales reps in my office over the years, I’m guessing the answer is somewhere between “not often enough” and “never.”

I had a series of standard questions I’d ask potential partners. Number one on my list was this: “How are you better or different than my current supplier?”

The majority of reps would ramble on aimlessly for several minutes, most frequently revisiting the trite trio of, “great people, great service, wide selection.”

I’d feign interest and recall the Principal in Adam Sandler’s movie, “Billy Madison”: “At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Pages 1 2

Bradley Hartmann

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle, Inc. and the author of Behind Your Back. To learn more, contact him at, or visit