A few weeks ago, I was having one of those impromptu philosophical watercooler conversations with our Recruiter of Year in 2015, Claire Fleigel. She was puzzled over why so many young salespeople seem to have great potential, yet they never break free from the mediocre or rollercoaster performance cycle.

Having built my career in a variety of roles, organizations and industries, this discussion felt like déjà vu. I’ve had it before, and it goes like this:

“I don’t get it. Salespeople come to me, ask for advice and I spend time with them talking about and explaining what’s required to succeed,” says every exacerbated sales leader.
“What happens?” I ask.
“Nothing. Over and over again, nothing.”

Sales is action; not talk.
It’s no secret that sales can be a tough, sometimes emotionally brutal career. You’ll be told “No” many more times than “Yes”. That’s reality, and it’s also why the majority of salespeople quit, fail or simply limp along. And as Claire and I continued to discuss, talk is cheap. It’s action that requires investment. Sales managers spend too much time talking about things a salesperson could do, should do, plans to do. While well-intentioned, it’s the wrong conversation.

So what’s a great salesperson or manager to do when asked for advice from a team member or colleague? My answer is simple—gladly give it. But, be prepared to ask for three commitments in return.

1. Bring your current plan and/or list of prospective customers every time we meet.
2. Make focused, concentrated BD sales calls for 90 minutes, every day.
3. Call an extra hour every Friday afternoon after 3:00.

And because sales is action, not talk, I also share one of my favorite videos about what it means to “want” success. If you don’t feel yourself in this video, it may be time for some career self-reflection.

Guess what happens? 95% of the people who ask for help never show up. Only a rare few are willing to do what it takes. Most of them end up like the fumbling salespeople Alec Baldwin mocks in Glengarry Glenross. They sit around in the bar pining, “Oh yeah, I used to be a salesman. It’s a tough racket.”

Lackluster salespeople are often missing 3 critical Cs: Competitiveness; Coachability and Conscientiousness. It’s important to understand that each of these characteristics can be taught and fostered by sales managers. The problem is that many sales leaders don’t know how. As successful salespeople themselves, many were “moved up” the ladder into management roles. Both empirical and anecdotal data suggests that the most successful high-achievers, in any industry or career, don’t make the most successful coaches. For them, the Cs came naturally. (More on this in another blog).

So what about those rare few? The handful who commit, show up and act. When they do, make them your new best friend. They’ll be winners. And in business as in life, mutually beneficial relationships bring opportunities and open new doors.

I’m writing this in hopes that instead of a measly 5%, we flip it. Imagine if the majority showed up and did the hard work, every day. That would be greatness. Let’s find and encourage those kindred spirits.