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To be effective in sales requires many and varied skill sets and attributes, all of which are essential. But only one of these attributes is the foundation for all others. Only one is the master key to sales effectiveness. This attribute stand above all others  and is the cornerstone on which all other attributes and skills are built. With this attribute your success in sales is all but guaranteed, and without it you are doomed to fail.

The essential attribute required for  success in sales (or anything else) is self discipline.

Self Discipline

Self discipline is your ability to keep the commitments you make to yourself. This includes the promises we make to yourself about your own behaviors and your own thoughts. Self discipline, sometimes described as willpower, isn’t about denial as much as it is about making choices about the future. Self discipline is found in decisions about what actions you take today, whether you want to or not, to get a future result.

It is also the key to personal development. Almost anything you would like to improve about yourself starts with self discipline. Do you want a better pipeline of opportunities? Do you want greater business acumen and a greater ability to create value? Do you want to improve your capacity to improve your results?

Whatever you would like to improve starts with the self discipline of taking the action you need to consistently and  over a long period of time. Self discipline is the key to personal development; personal development is the key to greater effectiveness in everything else.

What stops you from taking those actions?

The Devil Inside

What stops most people from developing to their full potential is the little devil inside them. This devil is our own inherent and well-developed ability to rationalize our own behavior. It is easy to rationalize our decision to put off what we should be doing today until tomorrow. We say things to ourselves like: “There is still plenty of time,” or “I’ll start tomorrow.”

But there is never any more time than you have right now, and tomorrow never comes. You only ever have this moment. What comes instead is the voice of your own private devil, reminding you that there were no ill effects from postponing the commitments you made to yourself yesterday, and today will be no different. Says he: “You can start tomorrow. Relax.” But the ill effects are coming in the form of missed commitments, missed opportunities, and poorer results than you would have had otherwise generated you disciplined; it is inevitable.

Self Discipline and Sales

Sales is a activity-based endeavor. To succeed in sales you must be able to get yourself to take action. And, you must be able to keep yourself from being lulled into the false comfort that the important activities you need to take today can be put off until sometime in the future. These important activities are almost always the activities that aren’t urgent but have the highest impact over time. For salespeople, these activities include things like making cold calls, prospecting for new clients, qualifying these prospects, and follow up.

Self discipline for salespeople also means controlling one’s thoughts, including a positive and optimistic outlook. The sense of optimism allows salespeople to succeed, paraphrasing Churchill, by going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. Self discipline means taking positive actions, but it also means avoiding negative thoughts and actions. This includes not allowing yourself to be distracted by the Internet, email, the water cooler, or the millions of other mildly provocative or novel distractions that the world provides you.

Do you want new customers and clients in the future? Cold call and prospect today. Do you want that dream prospect? Start developing the relationship today. Do you want a growing list of referrals? Start creating the kind of value for other people that they will be confident in recommending to others. Do you want to improve your sales by improving your business acumen? Start reading today.

Self discipline is truly the foundational attribute of great performers, including great salespeople. It is this discipline that allows top performers to take the actions that others put off or never take. It separates the top performers from the rest of the pack. More often than not, it allows those with less skill and more desire to outperform those with greater skill and no discipline.


What promises have you consistently made to yourself and consistently broken in the past? How did you rationalize away your failure to keep that commitment? Did that rationalization turn out to be false?

What commitments to yourself do you need to make now? How will rationalize not keeping those commitments now that you know that the rationalization is false?

How would taking the daily action you need to take today improve your future sales results?

What distracts you? What do you have to do to rid yourself of these distractions?

How would you be different if you had an iron self discipline?

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 15, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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