Legendary Baseball Manager Tommy Lasorda once said, “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” What Lasorda was describing is the need for the drive to go beyond your own talents, beyond what everyone else is doing in order to achieve success.

There is a similar analogy that exists in sales. As detailed by corporate sales trainer Stephan Schiffman in his book “Cold Calling Techniques,” one-third of all sales are gotten no matter what the sales professional does, one-third he/she will not get no matter how great a salesperson they are, and one-third is “up for grabs.”

For the third of sales that is nothing shy of simply falling in the sales professional’s lap, Schiffman said, “You and I have seen people who shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets without a leash who still make sales. The reason people like that are able to make a living is that their sales are based on needs for consumer-driven products.” In other words, regardless of whether the economy is up or down, “people still need stuff.”

For the third you just won’t get, Schiffman attributes to the things we simply cannot control. It is true of everything in life, and I am sure Tommy would agree, that sometimes the other guy plays better or gets the sale, or a key player suffers an injury or the company you are selling to experiences internal changes or suffers from a poor quarter and cannot afford to invest in your products. “Either way, you’re not getting the business,” said Schiffman.

But, like Lasorda, Schiffman focuses on that other third, the third that comes from preparation, looking for and finding “the edge,” and working harder (or at least smarter…keep reading) than the other guy, “which is where the good salespeople separate themselves from the mediocre salespeople,” said Schiffman.

As for working smarter, I draw your attention to The Tale of Two Lumberjacks (also referenced by Schiffman as well as many others):

Once there were two lumberjacks, considered the strongest and best two lumberjacks around. One day they entered into a contest to see which could cut the most wood in 24 hours. The first lumberjack went to work and chopped for 24 hours straight. He never took a break and he was so strong that he didn’t slow down even a little. The other lumberjack whacked away with full force for two hours and then took a break for 15 minutes. He then went to work for another two hours before he took his next break. He repeated the cycle until the time was up. When the time came to determine which had cut the most wood, the second lumberjack won. The first lumberjack was more than confused, asking how could the first have won if they were both equally strong and he had worked 24 hours straight, whereas the second had taken a break every two hours?

The first responded, “From time to time you have to take a break to sharpen the axe.”

So take a little time to sharpen your axe and read “The Journey to Relevance: Six questions for turning the piles of data you’re already collecting into actionable intelligence” in the pages of this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Darryl Seland, Editorial Director