Too Clever by Half: The Case for Fundamentals.

There is a tendency to believe that when we teach, train, develop, and coach salespeople that we can we need to deliver something more than they already know, some new novelty.

We mistakenly believe that the best salespeople need something new and that they will be insulted by receiving more training on the fundamentals. We also incorrectly believe that and that the salespeople that need the most help will benefit from something more than development of the fundamentals.

We are too clever by half.

Blocking and tackling

The best performers in any field are those with the greatest command of the fundamentals. It isn’t the esoteric or the great subtleties that allow them to produce greater results than their peers. It’s their magnificent command of the fundamentals that allow them to produce better results.

In any endeavor other than business, performers spend more time practicing the fundamentals than they spend actually performing. In fact, that difference is an order of magnitude.

I learned this through aikido. A martial artist practices the same fundamental form thousands and thousands of times to be able to execute it effortlessly and perfectly. If they are called to use a technique, they can do so perfectly and without thinking about. In aikido, there are 39 basic movements, and that’s enough.

A professional athlete, like a football player, practices six days a week for hours each day, to play for a few hours on sixteen Sundays. They run the same plays over and over again, perfecting them. Then they spend this off-season training and studying for the next season.

The military continually runs drills to prepare for combat. They rehearse and study the fundamentals because it is the difference between life and death.

This dedication to practicing and developing the fundamentals is what allows the martial artist, the athlete, and the soldier to excel when they are called on to perform. Businesspeople—and salespeople particularly—are no different. But we behave differently. We do too little training, and we don’t often treat our performances as practice.

Instead of looking for the shiny new novelty, retrain and reinforce the fundamentals. The ability to deal with the novelties that your clients throw your way is almost always best handled by resorting to first principles anyway.


What is it that consistent performance is built on? Is it the fundamentals, or is it the esoteric subtleties?

How much time to we spend training and developing our skills when it comes to the fundamentals?

What is it that the best performers in other disciplines do that allows them to perform at the highest level?

Why are first principles and fundamentals so critical to success?

What are the fundamentals that you should be studying to perform at a higher level?

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