By Tom Reilly, author of Value-Added Selling (McGraw-Hill)

Success is demanding. It is one part skill and an equal part will. Someone may have the skill to succeed but lack the will to succeed.

Skill includes technical knowledge about one’s profession and the necessary competencies to perform at a high level. Teachers must know their subjects and possess the right mix of communication skills to connect with students. Medical professionals must know their specialties and be proficient in administering care to patients. Salespeople must know their products and companies well enough to communicate their value to customers. Communicating value is one of many skill sets salespeople must possess.

Will is the motivation to succeed. It is the ambition and energy of high achievers, the want-to. Motivation is an internal force that impels action. Since the force is internal, the individual must take the initiative. Initiative, ambition, and want-to are important dynamics in motivation. Another motivational dynamic is perseverance, the tireless persistence of the person who refuses to quit.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, earned the nickname “Silent Cal.” He didn’t talk much, but when he did he said a lot. After his presidency, Coolidge served as the Director of the New York Life Insurance Company. In a pamphlet to his agents, Coolidge printed his famous quote.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and will always solve the problem of the human race.”

Coolidge knew the skill to sell was only half of the formula. He challenged the agents’ will to sell. Sales managers face an ongoing challenge to find the right salesperson for the job. Their questions echo Coolidge’s sentiment. Can this person sell? Will this person sell?

Tom Reilly is literally the guy who wrote the book on Value-Added Selling (McGraw-Hill). You may visit him online at

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