Why It’s Not the Land. It’s the Man (or Woman).

One salesperson has a territory. They complain about that territory. They argue (endlessly) that there aren’t enough targets. They grumble that there are too few prospective dream clients. They bitch and moan that the competition is too tough; there’s an old boys network that is impenetrable to outsiders.

Then, a new salesperson is assigned to that same territory. Within weeks they have opportunities. Within months they are booking business. And within the year the new salesperson has developed the territory and makes the top 20% of salespeople.

It’s Not a Lack of Targets. It’s a Lack of Something Else

There is nothing that does more to damage a salesperson’s results than their belief system.

Sometimes the poor belief starts innocently enough. The salesperson is asked about their results and they start making excuses. They rationalize their poor performance. The problem isn’t theirs; it’s something else. It couldn’t be them. It couldn’t be their efforts—or lack thereof.

Repeated statements that the territory is to blame start to sound feasible. Comparisons with other territories are used to prove that another salesperson has better results because they have a better territory.

If we lie to ourselves long enough and frequently enough, we begin to believe our own lies. Our lies, to us, become truth.

When a salesperson believes that the fault lies with the territory, they behave in accordance with that belief and rationalize away their failure. You never improve until you face the fact that only you are responsible for your results.

This is why a new salesperson with a healthier set of beliefs makes something out of the same territory in short order.

What Else Is Missing

The other major difference between the salesperson that complains about their territory and the salesperson that works the territory to great effect is the effort that they make. Almost every time, it’s the prospecting effort that’s the difference.

The salesperson that complains of the territory doesn’t work the territory. They don’t prospect, and they stay away from their competitor’s strongholds, believing that they cannot be won. They don’t take the actions that they need to take to produce the results, and instead spend their time trying to justify their failures.

The salesperson that produces results with that very same territory works the territory hard. They dig in and prospect. They embrace cold calling like it’s a moral obligation. They believe there are prospects for them, and they believe they can win. So, they act accordingly and pick up the telephone. They call on their competitor’s stronghold clients and, lo and behold, they find some receptive and dissatisfied dream clients.

It’s not the land that is to blame for poor results. It’s the man. Or woman. This is why the same territory for a poor producer becomes a producing, enviable territory for another salesperson. Like Earl Nightingale used to say: “If you neighbor’s grass is greener, maybe he is working harder at it than you are.”


Why is a salesperson’s territory unlikely to be their real problem?

Do you have known, targeted dream clients that are difficult to penetrate or obtain? How many of your known targets would you need to win to make your number?

Which is more important to making your number, the territory or your prospecting effort?

Why is that some salespeople fail in a territory that another salesperson develops and uses to become a top 20-percenter?

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  • Tim Mushey

    Great stuff Anthony! Short and sweet tonight. Every point that you make in this post is so true. My take is very simple. Your WILL to succeed is the key contributing factor to your success. If you don’t want it badly enough, nothing that you have learned will matter. As well, it comes down to “what is between your ears”. How well can you manage the mental side of the daily rigours of an outside sales role.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Tim. I like your points on the mental game. Your beliefs really matter. A lot! 

      • Tim Mushey

        Thanks Anthony! There are so many parallels to sales and individual sports like tennis or golf. The skills are typically the same no matter the circumstances, but the mental aspects can really affect the outcome.

  • Peter Fuller MBA

    Anthony, are you sure you are not working in my company :)

    You nailed it, the difference is in who prospects more.

    It is not so much that some sales reps don’t get it, the real danger is if sales managers start to accept it.


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Hi Peter, 

      Actually, I just heard about your company. No one else has this problem and it’s completely unique to you and your sales organization! 

      So much of the results we produce comes down to our executing on the fundamentals, and no opportunity is ever closed that isn’t first opened. I haven’t yet written my post on the case for activity metrics and quotas, but I am going to. We can’t allow people to believe that they can succeed without the fundamentals, and you are right: sales management must hold them accountable. 

      Thanks (as always),