On Throwing Punches

I am continually amazed at how much of a difference willingness and effort count for in a salesperson’s results. Let’s take a look at two very different salespeople.

The first salesperson (let’s call him salesperson 1) has a tremendous amount of business acumen. He knows his business well, he understands his client’s business, and he knows how to make a difference for his client in a big way. He is the supreme subject matter expert, and he could very easily be a level-4 value creator (this means he can create value at the strategic level).

The second salesperson (salesperson 2) doesn’t know nearly as much about the business. She doesn’t really know enough about her client’s business either. She would love nothing more than to make a difference for her clients, but she doesn’t know exactly what is possible and she needs help. She isn’t a subject matter expert, and she is a still a good distance from being able to create a high level of value for her clients.

The first salesperson has everything he needs to succeed, while the second salesperson is woefully ill equipped. Or so it appears on the surface.

The Rest of the Story

Which of our two salespeople would you prefer to have on your team if you were their sales manager? If you are a salesperson, which salesperson would you prefer to be?

What if I told you that salesperson 1, for all of his abilities, was unwilling to put his knowledge to use prospecting and creating value for his clients and dream clients? What if I told you he refused to put forth the effort necessary to produce results?

And what if I told you that, for all of her lacking in knowledge and experience, salesperson 2 was willing to do whatever was necessary to succeed? What if I told you that she put forth a massive effort to get in front of her clients, to learn, and to find the help she needed to make a difference for here clients?

The ability to sell isn’t the best predictor of success. In fact, many talented salespeople waste their talents and abilities because they are unwilling and don’t put forth the effort.

A willingness to do the work and to put forth the effort, if coupled with some training, some coaching, and some development, will produce success at a far greater rate than talent alone. But these ideas aren’t mutually exclusive; it is possible for a salesperson to possess by the talent and the willingness to do the work.

It’s far better—and it produces far greater results—to have less talented salesperson that is willing to throw punches than it is to have a talented salesperson that refuses to use their talents. The salesperson that is willing to put forth the effort can be taught what she doesn’t know, and she can gain what she is missing. It’s unlikely that the lazy, unmotivated, and talented salesperson is ever going to find the internal inspiration to take advantage of their talents.

For my money, I’d bet on the salesperson that throws punches.


How much does willingness and effort count towards sales results?

Is talent more important than effort?

Is ability more important than willingness?

Would your results be improved through greater effort or through greater knowledge?

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