By Paul Reilly

In a recent seminar, I asked sales leaders about the top salesperson at their company. I asked the group if their top-achiever’s success was a result of talent or motivation.

Sixty-nine percent of sales leaders said their top-achiever is more motivated than he or she is talented. Although talent is part of success, it appears that motivation is more important.

This might cause you to reflect on your own success. Do you attribute your success to talent, or motivation?

Performance is a function of motivation and talent. You can have all the talent in the world, but a lack of motivation will lead to mediocre performance. On the other hand, you can be highly motivated, but a lack of skill also leads to mediocre performance. Think of how many salespeople never reach their full potential. They either lack the skill or the will.

Given this research, sales leaders often ask us, “How can I motivate my sales team?”

Motivation is internal, not external. Since motivation is internal, you can’t control whether your salespeople are motivated. As a leader, you must understand this and accept it. However, you can create an environment where your team can motivate themselves. That’s where you focus your time and effort. As the sales leader, ask yourself, “What am I doing to create a motivational environment?”

I recently met with a sales leader who creates a motivational environment. Every quarter, he buys a motivational book for his sales team. The sales team discusses the book and how they have applied the techniques. This sales leader is creating an environment in which his team can self-motivate.

Sales leaders also ask us, “How can I find talented salespeople?”

Why are you looking for talented salespeople and not motivated salespeople? Motivation trumps talent. Look for people that are driven to succeed. You might be surprised at how easily their talent can catch up with their motivation. Talent falls into two categories: natural talent and acquired talent. Yes, there are some salespeople who have natural talent. They are, however, only successful when they couple their natural talent with motivation. Acquired talent is the set of skills they gain through coaching and training. Hire for motivation, but train to acquire the talent.

Have you ever noticed that people are quick to attribute another person’s success to natural talent?

As I previously stated, sales leaders say their top-achievers are more motivated than talented. The myth of the “natural” is used by mediocre performers in any profession. It’s easier for people to attribute success to talent than to admit they, too, could be successful if they were motivated. Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century German Philosopher, wrote, “With everything perfect, we do not ask how it came to be. Instead, we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic. No one can see in the work of the artist how it has become. That is the advantage, for wherever one can see the act of becoming, one grows somewhat cool. …For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking. To call someone divine means ‘Here, there is no need to compete.’”

Don’t fool yourself into believing performance is reserved for the talented.

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