Job Clarity when you’re rapidly scaling a startup sales team

As part of an earlier post on motivation, I outlined the importance of job clarity.  The act of breaking down a job into very simple observable, and quantifiable behavior, so that you can communicate it to a new member of your team.


First, Job Clarity, is key for keeping people motivated because they can not achieve success in that role if they don’t know how to do it.  If they can’t achieve sucess (link to post), then they ultimately cannot master their jobs and feel the rush that comes with completely understanding your work.

How could your average new team member stay motivated in an ambiguous environment where their role is not defined, and they don’t know what success looks like?  Even worse, if they don’t know how to achieve those goals, they’ll spend their time every minute of the day re-inventing the wheel.
Second, Job Clarity is key

“Think of your early days in sales when you didn’t know what you didn’t know. What you needed was job clarity. And when you finally figured out that when you do your job a certain way, you get a result, you were more motivated. It’s like lifting the veil. The haze is gone.”
Lytle, Chris (2011-03-29). The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Sales Team to Record Profits (p. 130). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

It’s a process

Yes, providing job clarity is a process, not a single moment in time when a new employee starts.  As that sales person develops, they’ll inevitably come to a point where they are unclear about what to do next.  Their manager needs to be there to help with that moment, rather than letting them struggle for too long and get demotivated.  At each point they will be more motivated if they know what to do and how to do it, next.

Many new managers just assume that their employees will figure it out because they did when they were sales people.  This is risky because not every sales person on the team will have the skill or motivation to figure out the job from scratch, and if they’re the 100th hire, they probably shouldn’t have to.

Give the why behind Job Clarity?

Simply providing them with observable and quantifiable details of their job isn’t the end.  You’ll get better results as a manager if you take the time to explain the way.

Why do we suggest that you prospect 10 new leads every day by 10am?  Why is it effective?

Why do we suggest that you always get a ?

How Managers cause “Job Haziness” / “Job Obscurity”

As Chris Lytle said in his book, the Accidental sales manager, job clarity helps remove the haze from around a sales person.  Yes, sales people need to take individual responsibility for learning a new job / market / product, but so do sales managers.  Much of the haze that floats around new sales people is a result of common mistakes that sales managers make.  Common expressions like “work harder” or “work smarter” are vague and confusing.

Most of the time, this is because the sales manager does not have the time, or is unwilling to make the time to truly understand what they would like to see from their employee.  This is further compounded by poor communication.

As a manager, ask yourself exactly what you would like to see from that person in order to be convinced they have moved past the issue?
– describe exactly what good looks like

Example: Creating Haziness

After headsetting, a manager says to his team member, “You need to find pain points, you’re just feature dumping.”

He then follows this up with “Ask questions in the beginning of the call to find their pain, and then pitch to their pain once you get into the product.”

Example:Creating Job Clarity

After headsetting, the Manager asks

  • Why was that person going to buy?
  • Was it the right person?
  • Was our software going to save them time?
  • Was it going to save their team time?
  • Was it going to save money?
  • Is that client interested in saving time or money?

After identifying clearly that the sales person did not have the answers to these questions, the manager then confirms with the sales person.

  • Do you think you could have found out the answers to these questions on the call?
  • Do you think the call would have gone better if you had this information?

Once the sales person confirms that these things are true, and understands WHY this would be useful, then the sales manager can sum up the feedback:

“You need to be asking at least 4-5 questions about that prospects business in order to figure out what pain she may have that will drive him/her to purchase our software.  Some examples of these questions could be : What are your plans for the business this year?  How are you planning to grow?  Do you feel the competition from X, Y, Z nearby?

The more you understand her business, the better your initial questions will be and the more you’ll understand her responses.”

In the end job clarity is not that hard to identify, its just hard to consistently remember to provide it as a manager.  The main reason managers struggle with job clarity is that many where top performers previously, and all of these things seem so obvious.  They fear wasting time communicating something too basic, but they fail to realize that this information is skill level appropriate for a new hire, and exactly what they need.

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