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Some people ask, “Why do sales people fail?”  With 35 years in this field as a sales professional and trainer of sales representatives, I recognize that sales people do NOT fail:  They simply quit before they become successful.  That’s why I encourage sales newbies to commit to the “10,000 Hour Rule.” 

Research has shown that 10,000 hours is the threshold, the “magic” point at which a person goes from being okay to being a super success. Nothing to do with talent; just persistence. 

A good example comes from the field of  music.  Studies have shown that music teachers, on average, practiced and studied an average of 4,000 hours before achieving their goal.  Moderately successful performers and bands – the ones who achieve regional fame, perhaps make a so-so living playing at the state fair each year, or become lifelong opening acts – have put in, on average, 7,000 hours total before achieving their level of success.  Super stars, however – Cher, James Taylor, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, etc. – generally work and practice and keep on growing for no less than 10,000 hours.  That’s the difference. 

That can take anywhere from three years for those who are focused and borderline maniacal to five years for people who have a family and a life.

The Beatles were a great example of that.  In the late 1950s, the Beatles were a so-so, knock about band in England, going nowhere.  A fellow from Germany showed up looking for British bands to play in the seedy strip joints of Hamburg.  He didn’t care if they were good, just cheap and willing to work long hours. 

The Beatles decided to accept the offer.  Over the course of three years, they went to Hamburg and played … and played.  During some of their gigs, they performed ten hours a day, seven days a week.  As one of their biographers pointed out, when they left England the first time, they were lousy, a third-rate band.  However, when they returned from Hamburg after their final contract, they were THE BEATLES. 

It wasn’t a matter of talent.  Yes, they were talented, but there are an awful lot of talented failures in this world.  It was their determination to work and work and work.  As a result, by the time they became overnight successes in the early 1960s, they had already put in well over 10,000 hours, more than most groups play during the entire course of their careers. 

The point:  If you’re in sales (or any field, for that matter), I don’t care how smart or talented you are.  You could be the biggest dullard in the world.  However, if you commit to working and learning and practicing, to trying and trying (and yes, failing), for 10,000 hours, you will become ranked among the best in your field.  Go for it! 

So, work hard, and keep working hard … and you’ll make it!  Period! 

The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.

John Ingrisano
The Freestyle Entrepreneur    
204 Lakeview Drive
Algoma, WI 54201
(920) 559-3722


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An Educational and Motivational Presentation by John Ingrisano   

Tired of losing high-potential sales people to attrition?  “Representatives don’t fail,” says Ingrisano, author of Back to Basics Book of Selling, with 35 years of experience training and motivating sales people. “They simply quit before their succeed.” 

This educational and motivational presentation will help keep new sales people on track and re-light the fire under your veteran producers.

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John R. Ingrisano
Algoma, WI 54201


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3 Comment(s)

  1. John Ingrisano | Mar 22, 2011 | Reply

    Quite true, and I stand humbled for my failure to give credit where credit is due. An inexcusable oversight. The source of this story is Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. Derek, thank you for calling me on this. JRI

  2. Derek | Mar 22, 2011 | Reply

    Thanks for the response, John.
    I have to admit, but I was expecting my comment to get deleted (as would happen on most moderated blogs).

    But the fact that you took the time to read and acknowledge my comment says a lot about your character.

    Thank you and you’ve won me as a reader of your blog!


    p.s. I sincerely apologize if my earlier comment was not as polite as it should have been.

  3. John Ingrisano | Mar 22, 2011 | Reply

    I have referred to the 10,000 hour rule in several presentations, always citng Gladwell, for whom I have great respect. This one time, however, I just blew along with my head in the clouds. Thanks for your kind words. Glad to have you as a reader. J

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