At a certain point in life you begin to uncover some truths about human behavior. You start to understand why people behave the way they do, and you see clearly the beliefs that underlie those behaviors.

Most people don’t make a conscious choice to be negative. They don’t wake up one day and decide that they are going to be a force for negativity and darkness or that they are going to ruin the people around them. I assume that everyone is acting with what they believe are the best intentions, but the human ego is a fragile thing, and some bad behavior is really an attempt to protect that ego.

When I hear salespeople complain about their company, I listen to find the kernel of truth underlying their negativity. There is almost always some kernel of truth in what they say, even when they have a lot of complaints. The compensation plan has some problems. There is a cultural issue that is an obstacle to real success. Their competitors are tough or they sell price.

But the negativity and complaining is always accompanied by other factors: the lack of effort and results.

The real reason you complain and the real reason you are negative has nothing to do with your company. It’s a diversion from what’s really broken.

Lack of Prospecting Effort

It never fails that when I find a negative salesperson that I also find that they have no pipeline to speak of. The salesperson’s negativity is really a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from their lack of effort at prospecting. Their complaints have nothing whatsoever to do with their ability to prospect.

You can prospect even if your compensation plan is problematic. There is no reason to fight over money that no one has yet earned. In fact, you’re better off prospecting and winning opportunities and using your results to bargain for a better deal. Your compensation plan isn’t so big an obstacle that you can’t move it from on top of the telephone and start dialing.

You can prospect and build your pipeline even if your operations team is struggling to execute for your company’s existing clients. No one wants to sell something that won’t—or can’t—be delivered. But you help your company by building the business and winning the opportunities that generate the profits that make it easier to improve their execution—not by starving the company of opportunities, revenue, and profit.

You can prospect and generate opportunities even when your competitors are selling price to a market that wants to buy price. If you lose deal after deal on price, maybe it’s you. Or maybe there is something that your effort can teach your company. You can prospect regardless of how your competitor’s behave. You don’t lose before you create an opportunity, and you create opportunities by prospecting.

Most negativity is an excuse, a diversion. Lack of prospecting is rock solid evidence that your complaints are a diversion from the real problem: your lack of effort in prospecting.

Lack of Results

Negativity can also be a way that the ego protects itself from failure. When you lose, when you fail, it’s a very human thing to find some reason for the failure that absolves your of responsibility. It couldn’t be your fault, could it?

I have observed this truth: the more negative one is about their own company, the further they are from making their number.

It’s not that the kernel of truth in the complaints of the negative salesperson doesn’t exist for the top 20% of salespeople, it’s just that the top 20% don’t let those issues prevent them from selling. They know that the grass only looks greener from the other side, and the company across the street has its challenges too—a different set of challenges, perhaps, but challenges nonetheless. They sell, they make their number, and they let things sort themselves out.

Negativity is a diversion from the lack of results. It does nothing to improve your results, and I promise, you will find plenty to be negative about in your next job. But the lack of results will follow you until you take ownership and responsibility for those results. Your negativity will never improve your sales results.


Think about the negative people you know. Do they produce the best results? Or do more positive people produce better results.

Are the most negative salespeople in your company the top 20% of salespeople? Or are they salespeople struggling to produce results?

Are the issues your company faces really what prevents you from selling? If so, is that evidenced by your tremendous effort?

Who is really responsible for your effort and your results?

Sales 2012
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 11, 2012
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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