TED talks are ideas worth spreading. We chose 10 talks that will take you less than 10 minutes to watch. If you’re a sales leader or manager, we hope that you’ll gain one or two ways of reframing your work and the way that you approach your sales team.

TED Talks for Sales Leaders: 10 Talks Under 10 Minutes

If you’re a salesperson, you don’t want to miss the Top 5 TED talks for salespeople.

Ten TED Talks for Sales Leaders:

Richard St. John: 8 Secrets to Success

Passion, work, focus, persist, ideas, good, push, serve.

St. John interviewed 500 people over 7 years on the subject of success. He asked, “what’s the secret to success?” and distilled it down to 8 key concepts. If your team needs a nudge as a reminder that success is tangible, you might want to send them this 3-minute video. Our favorites happen to be “persist” and “push” because they align closely with our favorite words: discipline and grit.

Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast. By Tom Wujec

I never knew drawings of how to make toast could be so interesting. Wujec led a research study focusing on nodes and links in systems models, but it’s not all about toast (we promise). Groups have the power and ability to solve complex problems by visualizing them collaboratively (the main components of which would be nodes and links.) Wujec explains that we all intuitively know how to break down complex things into simple things and bring them back together again. But how often do we do this and why can’t we make time for it? This talk made me want to invest in a giant stack of Post-Its and start solving the world’s problems. But some of the more ‘basic’ business problems that your team is trying to solve is probably a good place to start too. [And if you want to learn more, check out www.drawtoast.com.]

The power of believing you can improve: Carol Dweck.

Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, was fast to become a bestseller. In fact, it’s on our CEO, Craig Wortmann’s, recommended reading list. While her TED talk focuses mainly on children and their success/failure in school, it’s easily applied to business. She walks us through the idea that adding “yet” to our lexicon can be a powerful mindset switch. If I think that I’ve failed and that there’s no hope for me, I’ve reached the end of the road. But, if I tell myself I just “haven’t succeeded yet”, I have a timeline and a path to the future. Engaging with failure will create more success than running away from it, according to Dweck. If we all understood that our abilities can be developed, we’d be more successful.

What it takes to be a great leader by Roselinde Torres

Torres’ talk is fascinating. She quit her job, traveled the world, and learned what great leaders are doing differently than mediocre ones. She was frustrated by the fact that companies are failing to grow enough great leaders even though they are investing plenty of money in ‘development programs’. She boils this question of “what makes a great leader?” down to three simple questions that we can all ask ourselves.

  1. What are you doing to anticipate the next change?
  2. What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network?
  3. Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

I find these questions compelling and I’m happy that Torres provides some tactical actions that we can all take toward answering them for ourselves.

How to buy happiness by Michael Norton

Money can indeed buy happiness…if you spend it correctly. This concept has popped up countless times for me in the past few months. All of a sudden, I see articles and videos and books that are centered on ‘happiness research’. As a sales leader, Norton’s talk will encourage you to think about how you’re motivating your sales team. While I don’t anticipate commission structures to crumble anytime soon, I do think there’s something to be said for creating a pro-social experience for your sales teams. Sales can be cutthroat but it shouldn’t be. If we take the time to consider how salespeople can help themselves AND each other, our companies would be much more successful.

How to make work-life balance work by Nigel Marsh

Nigel Marsh had reached a point where he realized there was absolutely no balance between work and life – work was winning on all counts. My favorite quote from this chat is: “The reality is that we work long hard hours, at jobs we hate, to enable us to buy things we don’t know to impress people we don’t like.” When he realized this was the state of his life, he took a year off work and spent 365 days with his wife and 4 kids. At the end of the year, he realized that balance was really easy when he didn’t have to work (haha). He went back to work and decided that he would make some honest choices about how he spent his time each and every day. His observations about work-life balance are simple — I think the key is to remember that it’s all about tiny, tiny, tiny choices. As Marsh says, “If you don’t design your life, someone else will do it for you and you may not like their idea of balance.”

5 ways to kill your dreams by Bel Pesce

Instead of choosing “How to Succeed in Life” as the title of her TED talk, Bel Pesce chose “5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams”. The scary part is that it’s easier to identify how dreams are killed than how they succeed in the first place. Pesce points out in the first minute of her talk that success is usually found between the overlap of dreams we have and projects that don’t happen. And so, she outlines the 5 ways to kill your dreams:

  1. Believe in overnight success.
  2. Believe someone else has the answers for you.
  3. Believe when growth is guaranteed, you should settle.
  4. Believe the fault is someone else’s.
  5. Believe that the only things that matter are the dreams themselves. [ My favorite quote from this point: “Achieving a dream is a momentary sensation, but your life is not.”]

Happy maps by Daniele Quercia

On its surface, this TED talk might seem completely unrelated to sales management and leadership. I promise it’s not. Quercia discusses his own experience commuting to work by bicycle in Boston. For one month, he took a busy crowded road. One day, when he was fed up with the traffic, he took a different turn and ended up on a gorgeous tree-lined street.He realized he’d been experiencing the city as efficiently as possible, but that it wasn’t the most enjoyable. He added 1 minute to his commute by taking the tree-lined street but he was immeasurably happier by doing so. While I think a lot of urban dwellers can commiserate with Daniele Quercia, I think we can easily apply this to how we help salespeople succeed in delivering a wonderful customer experience. In a world dominated by business inefficiencies, many companies neglect to consider how they make their customers feel. Just because you may be able to sell someone on an idea, product, or service within one meeting, does not mean that your work stops there. Make the process enjoyable, not just ‘efficient’.

How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings by David Grady

Is your life dominated by meetings? Probably. Are you going crazy? Likely. As a sales manager (and as a salesperson, in general) having a calendar full of meetings can make you feel as though you’re developing more business than you actually are. David Grady’s TED talk is humorous and simple. He extorts that we all have Mindless Accept Syndrome – a condition that causes an individual to accept each and every meeting invitation regardless of whether or not the meeting has an agenda, a goal, or a purpose. We all accept meetings that we know little about and we wonder what we’re doing there once we actually arrive. (This makes us think about horrible conference calls.) The cure? NO MAS! Clicking the MAYBE/Tentative button on the invitation! Then, all you have to do is approach the person that asked you to attend and ask them some simple questions, such as: “What’s the goal?, how can I help you achieve your goal? Is there something in particular that you think I can contribute?” Being selective about the meetings you attend and what actions you take after these meetings will make you more productive.

The psychology of your future self by Dave Gilbert

“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished,” says Dan Gilbert. We make decisions that our future selves regret because we think that we won’t change as much as we actually do. It’s difficult to remember who we’re going to be in the future so we think that we won’t change. As you manage a sales team, keep these lessons in mind. Your low performers may not be your low performers next quarter if you help to develop their skills and disciplines. Your high performers might be complacent now, thinking that they’ve done all they can to win accounts. We’re all able to change more than we think we are.