In the old cowboy movies, the heroes wear white cowboy hats and the villains wear black cowboy hats. It’s a pretty simple code to crack; the good guys are the ones in white hats. It’s important to remember how this code works when you talk about your company and your teammates.

Your team is the one wearing white hats.

Who Wears White Hats?

Your team is responsible for keeping the promises you make as a salesperson. Inevitably, there are always challenges and constraints that make it difficult to keep those promises. And the more difficult it is to produce the outcome that you sold and that your client needs, the more problems and challenges your team will face.

It’s important to remember that your guns should never be turned on the people wearing the white hats. Even though they may have some problems that are inconvenient for you, they didn’t switch hats.

It is likely that your team is doing their best with a difficult task. It’s also likely that you don’t know enough to know what you don’t know about their challenges. The last thing they need when the train has come off the track is you pointing your guns at them, telling them how you would do their job, and telling them how difficult they are making yours.

Your job, since you are also wearing a white hat, is to provide cover and help them as best as you can—especially if you want them to do the same for you when, say, you have promised a little more than can easily be delivered.

Your team is the team wearing white hats.

Black Hats and Villains

The black hats and villains are your competitors.

They are the ones trying desperately to penetrate your client accounts, and they are the ones waiting in the wings for you to slip up. Nothing in the world would make them happier than for your team to tear itself apart so that they can pick up the pieces.

The fastest was to lose your focus, lose your mojo, and lose your clients is through a lack of unit cohesion. The black hats are standing by, watching, waiting. They hope you destroy each other and they gain your client in the process.

Sometimes the black-hatted villain is the challenge that you and your team are going to have to face to produce the results you promised. Maybe it is some awful constraint that limits your ability to produce as well as you would like to for your client. Sometimes it is a resistance to your change effort that permeates the one segment of your client company that prevents you from succeeding as quickly or easily as you might otherwise.

Whatever the black hat is, that is your enemy—not your team.

Remember, your teammates are the good guys—even when they are struggling. If you want your team to cover you, you cover them first. This is especially true when they are under fire and struggling to stay alive.


Do you speak negatively about your company and your team?

When they struggle, do you honestly do all that you can to make sure that they succeed—even when it is difficult?

When they are under fire, can they count on you? How so?

Do you always remember and respect that your team is the team wearing white hats and that none of them, regardless of the problem, is wearing a black hat?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 3, 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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