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On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four minute mile. Before he ran a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds, the four-minute was believed to be impossible. Two months later, Roger Bannister again ran a sub-four minute mile, this time with John Landy running a sub-four minute mile with him. A four-minute mile is now a standard for distance runners.

Before Bannister, many believed that it was literally physically impossible for the human body to run a mile that fast, but in reality it was impossible only for the human mind (except Roger’s mind, of course).

We humans are subject to believing that all sorts of things that are really only difficult are actually impossible–until it is proven otherwise. Fortunately, there are some that believe more is possible.

Two Sales Stories and the Bannister Effect

A friend of mine is a sales manager. His company had a new offering, and they rolled it out to the sales force only to be greeted with rolling eyes and shrugging shoulders. There was no enthusiasm for the product. Their clients didn’t need it. No one was going to buy it. It was stupid, and there was no reason to give it a minute of their attention.

Until the first salesperson to try sold the service and reached her annual quota with that single sale. In January.

As it turns out, it’s really an interesting service now, and the salespeople are out selling it—thanks to the Bannister Effect.

Another friend in sales management had a territory with too few hunters. According to the non-hunters, the territory was dead. In their minds, there weren’t any opportunities to be found anywhere. So my friend did what good sales managers do and he corrected the problem by hiring a couple hunters. They were only allowed to call on new business and were given no accounts of their own.

The hunters are finding multi-million dollar opportunities that had been ignored and neglected for years. Unfortunately, the Bannister Effect doesn’t easily inspire the order-taking salespeople because it requires the great effort that is prospecting and opening.

Could the other salespeople have developed and sold those opportunities? Absolutely, they could have.

It is Only Impossible Until It’s Possible

There are a lot of things we believe to be impossible only because we haven’t seen someone else do it. It’s impossible only because you don’t believe that it can be done. But once you know that it can be done, you know it is possible.

For many people, just knowing that something can be done makes them believe that they too can do the same. It removes the mental block that prevents them from succeeding. For others, the effort is too great. Some are immune to the Bannister Effect because, to them, the effort is too great . . . even if you only have to go all out for 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.


Why is it easier to believe you can accomplish something difficult once you have seen others accomplish the same thing?

Who has accomplished something that you would like to accomplish? What did they accomplish?

What do you believe is “impossible” that you know that other people have already achieved? If they can achieve it, why can’t you achieve the same thing?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 12, 2012

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

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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