Results-only sales environments are short-sighted.

sales sales leadership sales management Aug 03, 2020


If someone has too much to drink, elects to drive drunk, makes it home without harming anyone, was it a good decision? 

This is the question Annie Duke, a professional poker player, WSOP bracelet winner, and for a period of time leading money winner among women in WSOP history, poses in her book, Thinking In Bets. As rhetorical as the question is, it shows how flawed the “results matter most” mindset is. 

Results are a byproduct of our decision making. If we make good decisions most of the time, it stands to reason that we’ll get good results most of the time. That may generally be true, but our decisions and our actions don’t necessarily guarantee a particular result. There’s correlation, but for my quant-jocks out there, the R-Squared is far from 1.

Dumb decisions may lead to good results. Great decisions may lead to bad results. The quality of a decision cannot be measured only by the results it generates.

This is true if you are playing poker, deciding whether or not to drunkenly request an Uber, or managing a sales team. 

There are obvious challenges associated with a “results-only” culture, not the least of which is a temptation to cut corners and use other unscrupulous behaviors to get the outcome we want. One business I worked with (briefly) had sales reps throwing boxes of products away in order to increase the perceived circulation of said product, thereby generating more demand for advertising. Great idea, if results are all that matter. 

Beyond the ethical conflicts, when we reward poor decision making processes by emphasizing the results they generated in the past, we reinforce that process. And that’s bad news in the long run. Getting lucky on the river playing a shitty hand doesn’t mean you should go all in next time you have that same opportunity.  

Focusing only on results also has the potential to discourage good decision making behaviors, which is an obvious way to ruin a business in the long run. Do you really want to discourage members of your team from betting on a hand with two aces just because the last time they did they lost to a royal flush? 

In business, as in poker, it is the decision making process and framework that delivers maximum value over time. You don’t build that by focusing exclusively on today’s results. You don’t build businesses that are sustainable in the long run by focusing only on the results you get in the short run. 



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