headshot of John Wayne.

Note to sales #43 - “True Grit” isn't just for cowboys

Posted: 25th January 2017

In an attempt to discover the parameters for success, US psychologist Angela Duckworth studied children and adults in demanding situations.  These included children in national spelling competitions, West Point military cadets and trainee teachers in difficult schools.   She wanted to discover if she could determine who the most likely individuals to be successful were.

According to her findings there was one characteristic that was by the far the best predictor of future success.  Surprisingly this trait overcame more apparently obvious indicators such as IQ, raw talent or education.  Being very American, she called it ‘GRIT’.  A more English (or more boring) interpretation would be; the commitment to long-term goals and perseverance in the face of adversity.

So how does this translate into the sales environment?

It’s very easy to see how the same characteristics are part of the makeup of great sales people. A big part of being successful in sales is about showing up, working harder than the competition and not giving up. It’s about the will to win.

But is Grit something we have, or something we can develop?

Undoubtedly the way you were brought up will influence your grittiness.  But does this mean that if you lack grit then you are doomed to fail or can you foster grit in yourself? 

Firstly you need to recognise that you are lacking in Grit.  Go here to take this very simple test, AND BE HONEST!


Once you realise that it is an area where you need help, and more importantly want help, then you can look to develop these skills.

1. Purpose / Goals

This is not the same as targets.  Having a purpose or an ultimate goal is personal.  Goals are motivating, they also need to be with you every day. A friend of mine wanted to run a marathon in under 3 hours, so he photo-shopped a picture of himself running across the finish line with the time of 2hours 59 minutes overhead. He then set it as his screen saver.  

Having a goal to aim for and believe in means that you will consider failures to be short term blips, or even better, a way of learning how to improve yourself. 

The hardest part can be the goal setting itself.  So take time away from work (holidays are good for this), talk to people whose decisions you value, and make sure that your goals stretch you. 

2. Hope

This may sound a bit corny, but hope is the belief that things will get better.  Rather than considering failure inevitable and blaming outside factors, we learn to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn, improve, and then get back up again. This means that we are way more likely to succeed in future attempts.

To develop more grit you must start with hope, and learn that it's alright to fail as long as you don't give up or quit.

3. Reflect and refine

Clearly to improve yourself you need to consider where you might be going wrong. So, after a call, a meeting, or your work day, reflect on how it went; what went right and what still needs more work. 

Angela Duckworth tell us that “grit paragons” (people who are especially gritty) do what is known as “deliberate practice” – every day they challenge themselves to become just a little bit better than they were yesterday.


One last thought:   Being gritty actually overcomes having limited talent.  With little talent but huge amounts of Grit, you could even become president of the United States!

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