Preventing Distracted Driving Among your Professional Sales Force

By: Jim Ramirez

A good friend once told me, “everyone in the world is in sales, they just don’t know it.” Regardless of what anyone does for a living, they are in the business of selling themselves, their skills, their services and convincing others that they are needed.

In reality, not everyone is employed a sales professional. However, understanding the sales persona is key to designing your fleet safety program. Managing risks associated your sales-based fleet of company cars requires an understanding of behavioral and cultural insights that will help fleet managers choose the right technology to achieve their safety goals.

The Sales Persona

It is unfair to paint to sales professionals as fast-talking Type-A personalities that are strictly focused on padding their commissions. Good sales professionals are highly motivated, highly competent employees who have an un-quenching thirst for selling their company’s products and services. Success in designing fleet safety programs for this demographic requires fleet and safety managers to put aside traditional “industrial safety” methodology that, while effective on the factory or warehouse floor, cannot be easily applied to the mobile salesforce.

The Top 3 Character Traits of Successful Sales Professionals

    Sales People are Competent

  1. 1. Sales Professionals are Competent

  2. Sales people are competent, obsessed with getting better and they take pride in their work, according to author Art Sobczak in his article What Separates Sales Professionals From the Sales Posers?

    That begs the question: if your sales people are competent and your company trusts them to represent your product, interface with customers, and close multi-million dollar deals, then why don’t you trust them to drive safely? You can control a factory workforce with direct safety interventions like permits, locks, guards, etc. However, applying this approach to fleet safety with “driver control” technology that locks down cell phones, installs monitoring cameras, etc. violates the culture of trust. Moreover, it is a potential affront to the sales professionals’ sense of competence.

    Sales People are Social

  3. 2. Sales Professionals are Social

  4. Sales people are people oriented and enjoy connecting with others. They are among the most engaging people in the workforce. Most are excellent at building new relationships because they enjoy it. However, a common challenge for fleet or safety managers is that their company has an industrial culture of manufacturing or operations management, where social engagement is not considered positive reinforcement.

    In the industrial setting, results from production or safety scorecards, metrics, KPIs, etc. are the key motivators. It is therefore hard for management (who grew up on the factory floor) to conceptualize that you need something other than operational metrics to drive the behaviors of your salesforce. The opportunity to socialize or engage with people is not a key behavior driver on the warehouse floor, but it is for the salesforce. After all, it is what their paid to do and what they enjoy.

    Sales People are Competitive

  5. 3. Sales Professionals are Competitive

  6. Everyone loves to win, but not as much as sales people. A sales rep once told me that he would sell an organ for the opportunity to win the next prize on the company’s monthly sales promotion (it was a $50 gift card to Home Depot). Silly, but this illustrates the larger point on how a commission-based workforce thinks.

    Again, this presents a challenge to fleet and safety managers. When speaking with manufacturing leaders, I always hear the same remark: “I’m not going to pay or congratulate people for working safe. There is no need for safety contests or points or whatever. Working safely is their job and it’s expected.”

    While there is some truth to this mindset, there are inherent flaws as well. According to the theory of Human Performance (a reliable program used in high-risk industries such as Nuclear) accidents are result of error and not intent. Humans are error prone, and asking someone to work accident free is asking them to work error free. This requires focus and effort that goes beyond the call of duty. Just like when sales reps knock their quota out of the park for the month or quarter. It goes beyond the call of duty…and they are compensated for it with commissions and bonuses.

How Does this all Come Together?

According to Jake Newfield of, one of the 10 psychological traits of a great sales person is their high emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is what defines good sales people and good psychologists. Being able to understand, predict, and act based on what your knowledge of your client’s feelings is pivotal for success.

This begs the final question: If being able to understand, predict, and act based on what your knowledge is of your SALESFORCE’S feelings is pivotal for successes, then why don’t you act on it?

Applying fleet safety programs to a sales team is truly a challenge. For distracted driving prevention, fleet managers and companies can make progress by understanding their sales people and choosing a program that improves safety without asking sales people to give up what their good at…and what they enjoy.

Designing for the Sales Persona

MOTOVATE is a distracted driving application that takes aim at this persona. Unlike other applications, we trust the driver and we enable companies to promote their trust culture by giving drivers more control while motivating them with other behavior modifiers that makes them NOT want to use their phones while driving.

Want to learn how MOTOVATE applies this understanding in the design of their fleet app and safety program?



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