Why are some sales people such superstars? There’s an emerging theory that it’s because they’ve practiced the craft of selling often enough, and from such practice learned so much, that they’re bound to be exceptionally successful. They’re craftsmen.
In his study of success, Gladwell finds that superstars don’t arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: “they are invariably the beneficiaries of extraordinary opportunities that allow them to learn and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” Gladwell contends that it takes 10,000 hours (the equivalent of 10 years) of practice for people to learn from experience the things they need to know in order to reach their full potential in their work. He explains his perspectives in this interview.
His ideas echo Richard Sennett’s on craftsmanship where “the work of the hand informs the work of the mind. It’s how craftsmen learn to work.” From their repeated experiences, craftsmen develop an ‘intelligent hand’. They are willing to put in years of practice and, armed with what’s learned from such practice, embrace ambiguity with “techniques of experience”. In a review of his recent book, the NY Times does a brilliant job of summarizing Sennett’s ideas on craftsmanship.
In this model of sales as a craft, sales superstars earn more because they’ve learned more. By extension, the key to having more superstars on a sales team is to create extraordinary opportunities for everyone to get quickly to 10,000 hours of practice, then help members of the team learn ‘techniques of experience’ from each other.