What are the causes for sales success? Many would say talent or a natural gift for selling. It’s about being able to build rapport, master relationships, and gracefully overcome objections. That’s a fine answer but it begs another question: what is talent? Do we attribute sales talent to genetics, the willingness to learn, or experience?
Recent research, however, may shift our understanding of what it takes to succeed in sales. A relatively new concept, grit, may provide a much clearer answer to the question of what causes sales success.
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals…Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” – Angela Lee Duckworth
Angela Duckworth is a lead psychologist catapulting grit into the spotlight, and someone those of us in sales can learn from.
So, is grit an indicator of a long-term sales success? The science is pointing to yes.
Many studies, including those conducted by Dr. Duckworth, are showing that grit is the biggest factor to indicate which students continue attendance at the competitive WestPoint Academy, and which salespeople stay with their job and make the most money. Again, grit was a bigger indicator than social intelligence or IQ.
What’s also important about the science behind grit is that there is evidence that talent doesn’t make you gritty. In fact, studies have shown that talent is unrelated or inversely related to grit.
In sales, this all can begin to make sense. Success doesn’t necessarily depend on your ability to make things happen quickly or to know the most about a certain customer. It might actually have to do with perseverance and stamina.
How Does Grit Lead to Sales Success?
Grit is defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Automotive sales is characteristically competitive, challenging, and scattered with setbacks. People who stay in this challenging environment are masters of grit—long-term thinkers who demonstrate resilience after a slow month and endurance throughout a busy summer season. Grit also requires a certain level of optimism, a resolve to move forward.
Grit means following through; doing the little things every day that lead to eventual sales success. Following up long-term unsold customers, making repeated calls for subsequent repeat and referral business, networking in the community. Beyond the basic discipline to do the right things, a salesperson’s passion and perseverance for very long term goals are an incredible indicator for career sales success.
So how, as an industry, do we get grittier? It begins with hiring. When hiring salespeople, we often look for competence, experience, intelligence, and good communication skills, but a grittier salesperson will likely outperform peers that possess all of these other traits. Along with a resume, dealerships should require applicants to fill out grit evaluations that can be found very simply online. Interview questions should be more concentrated on this individual’s perseverance and long-term focus.
And finally, in regard to how we mine grit out of the salespeople we presently employ, the science has shown us very little. We do know that a focus on growth and improvement can encourage more grit, so creating an environment where this is present and celebrated may enhance the grittiness of salespeople.
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Laura Madison is the National Director of Sales for Alan Ram’s Proactive Training Solutions and owner of LauraDrives.com. She is a former car salesperson, “Laura Toyota,” best known for her use of social media and personal branding. Laura has been featured in Automotive News, Advertising Age and Edmunds.com for her unique marketing and self-promotion efforts.