You Can’t Teach Ambition

By gilcargill on December 10

a fool counting his moneyMany entrepreneurs make the mistake of believing that they can turn someone who has little or no ambition into an extremely ambitious person.

This is a common philosophical mistake that I see engrained in the creation of many sales compensation programs. The entrepreneur would say something like, “If I worked for me, I would be making a ton of money!”

And, you see, that’s the problem.

The men and women that you hire probably don’t have a level of ambition similar to yours. After all, you’re an entrepreneur. You made a decision, at some point in your life, to take a huge risk and set out on your own to create a business of yours and your own. The people that you hire are looking for a J.O.B.

In my most cynical times, I define J.O.B. as Just Over Broke. In other words, they want a job that will help them their sustain a lifestyle… no more.

The entrepreneur then makes the mistake of assuming that, because he/she is ambitious, other people share that DNA. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many entrepreneurs have spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars proving and, tragically, reproving this flawed concept.

Men and women in sales have to have extraordinary levels of ambition. This is the source, the fuel source, the “secret sauce” of sales success.

I’ve seen some extremely unskilled and borderline-incompetent salespeople succeed at extraordinary levels, because of their ambition and their refusal to accept defeat, accept rejection, or accept the deflections that cause many people with lower levels of ambition to say that the day is done and they need to go home. They quit early; they don’t hang in there.

As a matter of fact, many years ago I managed an individual at IBM who was shockingly unskilled. Truly, borderline-incompetent; but he was always in the Top 10% of our sales force. What was his secret?

He worked fourteen – sometimes, fifteen or sixteen – hours a day. His ambition to turn sweat and effort into income for himself and his family was remarkable. His story has always stuck with me as an indicator of what ambition can do. It will overcome many other deficiencies.

So, as you hire salespeople, make sure you take a hard look at the ambition (a.k.a. drive) that they display.

Have they been driven in any other areas of their life? Socially? Athletically? Educationally?

If they haven’t been and don’t currently exhibit extraordinary levels of ambition, I’m here to tell you that you can’t train it. Don’t waste your time, don’t waste your money, don’t waste your stress. Hire people with ambition, and their success will be much greater and will be realized much more rapidly.

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