Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Understanding Top Sellers: Observation 3..They have "Grit"

It takes energy to sell. Any good seller is motivated to get up and go to battle. But for the Top Sellers, it is different. They have more than energy. They have more than “motivation.” They have “grit.”

Angela Duckworth is an assistant professor at Penn. She has been studying “grit” for many years. She defines it as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.” A person with grit has more than energy. He or she has stamina and determination.

A Top Seller with “grit”  wants a goal badly enough that working toward that goal is not work but just part of the process. An average seller, for instance, is willing to make cold calls but may complain about it and find other things to fill the day when possible. A Top Seller who needs to make cold calls to sell will look upon the activity as just another thing that has to be done. It is not separate from the goal of being a good seller and meeting sales goals. It is one and the same.

A recent candidate told me about getting a job with one of the largest chemical companies in the world. He said his first two months were spent in what they called Sales Boot Camp. About a third of the people left before the training was completed. either of their own choice or because they were asked to leave. He said it never occurred to him that he might not finish. (Optimism) It was hard, but it was what was necessary to get the job and excel.

Many people have goals. But how many never let go of them? As Duckworth points out, graduating from a two year school is a challenge, but it is nothing like graduating from a four-year college. It usually takes “grit” to hang in and go through all the academic hurdles, pay the price, and forego other activities to get the four-year degree.

In spite of Duckworth’s example, a college degree…or the absence of a college degree…does not, by itself, lend any clues about “grit.”  Does getting a degree online require as much “grit” as getting a degree in a conventional academic setting? It depends. It is not the degree; it is what it took to get it. That is how you find out about “grit.” The candidate who told me recently that he is thinking about getting his college degree does not have “grit”, at least in the area of academic achievement. Thinking is not all that tough. But the person may have “grit” in other areas of his/her life. Academic “grit” is not a pre-requisite to being an achiever in the work world and in sales. But the successful candidate must show some “grit” somewhere in life that is meaningful and relevant to the position in question.

A Top Seller must have “grit” to meet quotas and excel. It helps to be smart and driven, but it is focus and persistence that characterize “grit.”

Athletes often have “grit”, and their stories give a hint about what to listen for when interviewing in search of a Top Seller. “ You gotta want it so bad you are willing to be exhausted” was how one football player described college pre-season.  Vladimir Horowitz, the esteemed piano player, hated practicing, but he practiced four hours a day, because that was what it took to be great. A pro-bowler in the NFL said, “Sure it hurt, but I knew it was worth it” when describing the exercises and drills he endured every year of his playing career.  A Navy SEAL described his experience in this way: “It was the toughest training I ever experienced but I knew it was necessary.”

“Worth it”? “Necessary?” These words only make sense when paired with a clear focus, even obsession, toward an end goal.  To someone with “grit”, the end goal is so important that whatever it takes to get there is worth it. Necessary. No complaints. No skimping. No sneaking out of practice or finding excuses to not make calls. The goal is clear and the steps to get there are simply part of the process.

When interviewing sales candidates, ask “grit” questions.

            "What have you wanted so badly that you gave up other
             things to achieve?”

“Was there ever anything so important to you that you suffered through things others might have called boring or hard or even impossible? Describe what you endured. Why did you do that? (Listen for the goal.) Why was that so important to you?”

“What was the most difficult learning experience you ever had?”

“What was the toughest challenge you ever faced? How did you overcome it? Why did you go to so much trouble?”

“Tell me about something you wanted to master but had to really struggle to reach that level.”

“Grit” is character. Character differentiates good sellers from Top Sellers. People with “grit” do not give up. Nor do they complain. They do the “reps” and run the steps and study the financial reports and hit balls out of the sand and play scales. They do what they must to reach their goal of being excellent. Some say it takes 10,000 hours to excel at something. Those with “grit” are not keeping track of the time.

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