There are lots of attributes that successful people tend to have in common. Successful salespeople tend to have a set of attributes and skills, too. Some of the terms that we use to describe effective salespeople aren’t always flattering, and non-compliant is one of those terms.

Non-compliance doesn’t mean being obstinate or refusing to complete sales reports, refusing to turn in expense reports, or updating your sales force automation. That is either laziness or poor time management. Non-compliant also doesn’t mean being an unreasonable person, being a troublemaker, or you priding yourself on being a problem child. It especially doesn’t mean behaving as if there isn’t a third way—you have to believe there is a third way.

Non-compliance means digging your heels in and making a good fight when there is a good reason to do so, when there is something worth fighting for.

Non-Compliance and Prospecting

Salespeople need to be non-compliant when they prospect, lest they raise the skinniest of babies. When prospecting, especially when calling your dream clients who surely already have a partner, you are going to be greeted with a “no.”

Accepting “no” as an answer isn’t an effective strategy. Neither is accepting the request that you call back next quarter or next year.

Instead, you have to be non-compliant. You have to continue to try to open a relationship that will open an opportunity. This means you have to refuse your dream client’s wish that you go away and leave them alone. Not going away is only possible if you are professional, if you are polite, and if you have a nurture toolkit that creates enough value to give you cover.

Compliance means accepting that your dream client has a provider and discontinuing your prospecting efforts. It’s unacceptable and ineffective.

Non-Compliance Inside

Being non-compliant means not going along with the status quo. It means pushing the boundaries inside when it comes to finding a way to do what is necessary to win an opportunity. Sometimes the real resistance to the right solution doesn’t come from within your dream client company; sometimes it comes from within your own company.

At some point you will have to resist the status quo and exercise your non-compliance when it comes to delivering for your client. You will be told that things can’t be done. You will be told to stand down, and that the result can’t be delivered. Lots of the time, those who believe that there are limits are simply wrong.

Being non-compliant means pushing the boundaries of what is possible, even when it isn’t easy. What makes sales meaningful is making a real contribution, and it means leveraging your skill sets, including your resourcefulness and initiative. It’s finding the third way.

Just like when you sell outside, you can’t be non-compliant and disagreeable. The game is still won and lost on trust and relationships. You still have to create enough value—even internally—to influence things in the right direction.

You have to be professional, polite, courteous, forgiving, and non-compliant. Being less than this while being non-compliant isn’t effective, and it will cause you to lose friends and alienate people.


When is it important to be non-compliant?

When is non-compliance really something else, like laziness, a lack of discipline, selfishness, or poor time management?

How do you resist complying without alienating people? How do you not comply and do it in a way that strengthens relationships?

Can stubborn, pig-headiness be a positive attribute?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 22, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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