Do You Have the Skill or the Will?

I’m a big reader, averaging a book every two weeks as well as reading six book reviews each month. My topics are usually related to sales, leadership, customer service or motivation (That’s right, no novels!). It sounds kind of boring, but I always pick up one or two things that can help me to be a better consultant, trainer and professional coach. What’s the old saying, “When you’re through learning, your through.” I just finished a great sales management book titled, “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness” by Kevin F. Davis. There are a lot of great ideas in the book but one thing that stood out was the concept of “skill and will.”

Davis defined skill as the techniques of sales and marketing from overcoming objections to closing the sale. He defined will as the state of mind or attitude toward sales. He had a powerful point. Too many companies hire sales people based on skill or experience without considering the most important quality of a great sales professional, the will to succeed, the will to win, the driving force within a person that makes him or her fight through adversity, fear and pain.

I thought back to my high school coaching days and immediately I remembered a player named Rick Barnes. He played strong safety for me and to put it bluntly, he was not super talented. He wasn’t fast or quick, he wasn’t big, but he did have a burning desire to be a starter and to play the game of football. He had an abundance of will. At the end of his sophomore year (he sat the bench most of that season) he asked for a meeting with me to discuss what he had to do to be a starter the coming year and to make “All Conference.”

Now I could have laughed or discouraged him, but I recognized his will to be the best, to be a winner and I wrote out a complete plan that included strength training, speed training, reading books on defensive back play and studying film to better know the formations and teams he would be facing. Every day of the summer he was on the field and in the weight room. He came to the coach’s office daily to study film and asked hundreds of questions.

In two-a-day summer practice he out worked everyone and earned himself a starting position at strong safety, even to my surprise. The first game was against the best team in our conference whom we had never beaten. While studying film, Rick had noticed that in one offensive formation, our opponent only ran one play, it was a quick pass to the outside, strong side of their formation, which is where Rick played. He jumped the pattern, intercepted the pass and ran for a touchdown! That one play broke the back of our opponent and we won the game against the top team in our conference. Rick went on to be selected first team All-Conference and second team All-State. Not bad for the guy who lacked the talent.

What does that story have to do with selling commercial vehicles? Everything! The best sales professionals are like Rick Barnes. The most talented often rest on their talent and struggle while the ones with the strongest will go far beyond their skill level and out work and out think more talented sales professionals.

The former Indiana basketball head coach, Bobby Knight put it best; “Everyone wants to win, but very few have the will to prepare to win. It is the hours of practice, research, passion and belief that create success and crush talent every time. The great ones work on both key areas, “skill and will” to become superstars. Where are you?

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