Skill & Will in Commercial Vehicle Sales

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I’m a big reader, averaging one book every two weeks. My topics are usually related to sales, customer service, leadership, or motivation. That may sound boring to some, but I consistently learn things that make me a better sales-consultant, dealer-trainer, and professional-coach. As the old saying goes, “when you’re through learning, you’re through.” In that spirit, I recently finished a great sales-management book titled, “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness” by Kevin F. Davis. There are a lot of great ideas in the book which are relevant to commercial vehicle salespeople, but the topic that stood out most to me was the concept of “Skill and Will.”

Davis defines “skill” as the techniques involved in sales and marketing, and he defines “will” as an individual’s state-of-mind and attitude toward those efforts. It’s a powerful distinction. Too many companies hire salespeople based on skill or experience, without considering the will to succeed, which can make him or her fight through adversity, fear, and pain.

The difference between skill and will reminded me of my high-school coaching days and a football player named Rick Barnes. Rick played strong safety and, to put it bluntly, he was not the most talented kid on the field. He wasn’t fast and he wasn’t big, however Rick did have a burning desire to be a starter – he had an abundance of will. At the end of his sophomore year (most of which he spent on the bench), Rick asked for a meeting with me to discuss what he had to do to be a starter in the coming year.

I could have laughed or discouraged him from even trying, but I recognized his will to be the best, so I wrote out a comprehensive plan that included strength training, speed training, reading books on defensive back play, and studying film to better know the formations and plays called by the teams we would be facing in the coming season.  Every day that summer, Rick was on the field and in the weight room. He came to the coach’s office daily to study film and he asked hundreds of questions.

When summer practices began, Rick surprised everyone by out-working the competition and earning a starting position at strong safety. Our first game of the season was against the best team in our conference – a team whom we had never beaten. While studying film in the days leading up to the game, Rick noticed that in one offensive formation, our opponent always ran the same play. When they shifted into that formation during the game, Rick jumped the pattern, intercepted the pass, and ran for a touchdown! That one play turned the tide against our opponent and we won the game. Rick went on to be selected first-team All-Conference and second-team All-State. Not bad for a guy who seemed to lack skill.

What does this story have to do with selling box trucks or cargo vans? Everything! The best sales professionals are like Rick Barnes (or Kobe Bryant, or Tom Brady, or Wayne Gretzky), who refused to rely on skill alone, but instead poured all available time and energy into studying and perfecting their craft. Those with innate skill have often been able to coast on their natural abilities and are now complacent, but those with will have the drive that can take them beyond their own natural talent, and even beyond the abilities of others. Commercial salespeople with will are those who out-think and out-work their peers and their competition, and ultimately sell more inventory than anyone.

Former Indiana basketball head coach, Bobby Knight, put it best; “Everyone wants to win, but very few have the will to prepare to win.” It is the passionate hours of research and practice that enable individuals to outperform talent-alone every single time. Skill is great; will is better; and a salesperson with skill AND will is the best there is. What kind of commercial vehicle salesperson are you?


Ken TaylorAbout the Author

Ken Taylor

As the Founder and President of Commercial Truck Training, Ken has consulted, coached, and trained commercial dealers on individual, regional, and national business levels. Known as an industry leader, Ken has worked with companies like General Electric, General Motors, FCA, Ford, Commercial Truck Trader, and Equipment Trader.

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