Adapted from Albert E.N. Gray

Several years ago I was brought face to face with the very disturbing realization that I was trying to research and explain what it took to be a success in sales, without knowing myself what the secret of success really was. And that, naturally, made me realize that regardless of what other knowledge I might have brought to my job and to others, I was definitely lacking in the most important knowledge of all.

Of course, like most of us, I had been brought up on the belief that the secret of success is hard work, despite this, I had seen so many people who work hard and don't succeed and others who succeed without working hard. Because of this, I had become convinced that hard work was not the real secret, though in most cases it might be one of the requirements.

Given my background and training, I began trying to explain success by reviewing all relative research on such topics as motivation, behavior, performance and job satisfaction. Next, I set out on a voyage of discovery, which carried me through thousands of books, magazine and newspaper articles, biographies and autobiographies. I then conducted numerous empirical research studies in over a 20-year period.

After a time, theory, research results, and hearsay overwhelmed me. Then, one day as I was day dreaming, everything I had done came to focus. My mind focused on the realization that the secret I was trying to discover lay not only in what people did, but also in what made them do it.

I realized further that the secret for which I was searching must not only apply to every definition of success, but since it must apply to everyone to whom it is offered, it must also apply to everyone who had ever been successful. In short, I was looking for the common denominator of success.

But this common denominator of success is so big, so powerful, and so vitally important to your future and mine that Iím not going to review all of the writings and research, which have brought me to the common denominator of success. Iím just going to tell you.

The common denominator of success Ė the secret of success of every person who has ever been successful Ė lies in the fact that the person formed the habit of doing things that others donít like to do. Itís just as true as it sounds and itís just as simple as it seems. You can hold it up to the light, you can put it to the acid test, and you can kick it around until itís worn out, but when you are all through with it, it will still be the common denominator of success, whether you like it or not.

It will explain why people have come into an organization with every apparent qualification for success and then given us our most disappointing failures. It explains why others have come in and achieved outstanding success in spite of many obvious and discouraging handicaps.

And since it will also explain your future, it would seem to be a mighty good idea for you to use it to determine just what sort of a future you are going to have. In other words, letís take this big, all-embracing secret and boil it down to fit you.

If the secret of success lies in forming the habit of doing things that others donít like to do, letís start the boiling-down process by determining what are the things that others donít like to do. The things that others donít like to do are the very things that you and I and other human beings, including successful people, naturally donít like to do. In other words, weíve got to realize right from the start that success is something which is achieved by the minority of people and is therefore unnatural and is not achieved by following what we normally like and don't like, nor by being guided by natural preferences and prejudices.

The things that others donít like to do, in general, are too many and too obvious for us to discuss here, and so, since our success is to be achieved in sale, let us move on to a discussion of the things that we as salespeople donít like to do. Here too, the things we donít like to do are too many to permit specific discussion, but they can all be disposed of by saying that they all come from one basic dislike peculiar to selling. We donít like to contact people we think donít want to see us, and we don't want to talk to others about something we donít think they want to talk about. Any reluctance to follow a definite prospecting program, to use prepared sales talks, to organize time and to organize effort are all caused by this one basic dislike.

Perhaps you have wondered what is behind this peculiar lack of welcome on the part of our prospective buyers. Isnít it due to the fact that our prospects are human too? And isnít it true that average people are not always ready to buy and will want to escape our efforts to persuade them to do something they donít want to do by striking at our most important weakness: namely, our desire to be appreciated?

Perhaps you have been discouraged by a feeling that you were born subject to certain dislikes peculiar to you, with which successful people in our business do not possess. Perhaps you have wondered why it is that our biggest producers seem to like to do things that you donít like to do. They donít! And I think this is the most encouraging statement I have ever offered to a group of salespeople.

But if they donít like to do these things, then why do they do them? Because successful people do things they do not like to do, they are able to achieve their goals. They are not influenced by how they reach these goals, but rather by the results they can obtain. Successful people are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Others are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do.


Why are successful people able to do things they donít like to do while others are not? Because successful people have a purpose strong enough to make them form the habit of doing things they donít like to do.

When Top Sellers Slump

Sometimes even our best producers get into a slump. When a person goes into a slump, it simply means he/she has reached a point at which, for the time being, the things he/she doesnít like to do have become more important than the reasons for doing them. And may I pause to suggest to you sales managers, general managers, and owners that when one of your good producers goes into a slump, the less you talk about production and the more you talk about "purpose," the sooner you will pull the person out of the slump.

Itís Not Enough

Many people with whom I have discussed this common denominator of success have said at this point, "But I have a family to support and I have to make a living for my family and myself. Isnít that enough of a purpose?"

No it isnít. It isnít a sufficiently strong purpose to make you form the habit of doing the things you donít like to do for the very simple reasons that it is easier to adjust ourselves to the hardships of a poor living than it is to adjust ourselves to the hardships of making a better one. If you doubt me, just think of all the things you are willing to go without in order to avoid doing the things you donít like to do. All of which seems to prove that the strength, which holds you to your purpose, is not your own strength but the strength of the purpose itself.

Habit Is The Key

Now letís see why habit belongs so importantly in this common denominator for success.

People are creatures of habit. Every single qualification for success is acquired through habit. People form habits and habits form futures. If you do not deliberately form good habits, then unconsciously you will form bad ones. You are the kind of person you are because you have formed the habit of being that kind of person. The only way you can change is through habit.

The success habits in selling are divided into four main groups:

    1. Prospecting habits
    2. Product knowledge habits
    3. Selling habits
    4. Working habits
Letís discuss these habit groups in their order.

Any successful salesperson will tell you that it is easier to sell to people who donít want it than it is to find people who do want it. If you have not deliberately formed the habit of prospecting for needs, regardless of wants, then unconsciously you have formed the habit of limiting your prospecting to people who want your product. This serves as the one and only real reason for a lack of prospects.

As to calling habits, unless you have deliberately formed the habit of calling on people who are able to buy but unwilling to listen, then unconsciously you have formed the habit of calling on people who are willing to listen but unable to buy.

As to selling habits, unless you have deliberately formed the habit of calling on prospects determined to make them see their reasons for buying, then unconsciously you have formed the habit of calling on prospects in a state of mind in which you are willing to let them make you see their reasons for not buying it.

As to working habits, if you will take care of the other three groups, the working habits will generally take care of themselves because under working habits are included study and preparation, organization of time and efforts, records, analyses etc. Certainly youíre not going to take the trouble to learn interest-arousing approaches and sales talks unless youíre going to use them. Youíre not going to plan your dayís work when you know in your heart that you are not going to carry out your plans. And youíre certainly not going to keep an honest record of things you havenít done or of results you havenít achieved. For, if you are taking care of the first three groups, most working habits will take care of themselves and youíll be able to afford an assistant to take care of the rest of them for you.

But before you decide to adopt these success habits, let me warn you of the importance of habit to your decision. I have attended many sales meetings and sales programs during the past 20 years and have often wondered why, in spite of the fact that there is so much good in them, so many people seem to get so little lasting good out of them. Perhaps you have attended sales meetings in the past and have determined to do things that would make you successful or more successful only to find your decision or determination warning at just the time when it should be put into effect or practice.

Hereís the answer. Any resolution or decision you make is simply a promise to yourself, which isnít worth a nickel unless you have formed the habit of making and keeping that promise. And you wonít form the habit of making it and keeping it unless you link it with a definite purpose that can be accomplished by keeping it right at the beginning. In other words, any resolution or decision you make today has to be made again tomorrow, and the next day and the next, and so on. This decision not only has to be made each day, but it has to be kept each day, for if you miss one day in the making or the keeping of it, you have to go back and begin all over again. But if you continue the process of making it each morning and keeping it each day, you will finally wake up some morning a different person in a different world, and you will wonder what has happened to you and the world you used to live in.

You Have A Purpose

Hereís what has happened. Your resolution or decision has become a habit and you donít have to make it on this particular morning. The reason you seem like a different person living in a different world is because you have, for the first time in your life, become master of yourself and your likes and dislikes. This is done by surrendering to your purpose in life. That is why behind every success there must be a "purpose," and that is what makes purpose so important to your future. For in the last analysis, your future is not going to depend on economic conditions or outside influences of circumstances over which you have no control. Your future is going to depend on your purpose in life. So letís talk purpose.

What Is Oneís purpose?

Purpose is something set up as an object or end to be attained. Occasionally purpose is referred to as someoneís personal mission statement. In setting your purpose, or mission statement, first create an imaginary ideal life you would like to live, in every respect. Your ideal life should be based upon who you are and where you are going in life. Let yourself dream big dreams. Let your mind float freely into the future.

Wants Or Needs?

Human beings are motivated by needs and wants. A person's needs result from a lack of something desirable, such as food, car, clothes, or shelter. Wants are needs learned by the person. They are often seen as emotional or psychological and not practical. For example, people need transportation but want a car instead of a horse or a bicycle. Most people want a luxury car instead of an inexpensive used car or truck. Instead of watching the game on television, some want season tickets at the Cowboyís Irving Stadium. Instead of a five-room house some want a twelve-room house on two acres of land. Instead of working until oneís 80, some want to retire at an earlier time in their life mainly because they have not made their job satisfying for themselves.

Make Your Purpose Based Upon Needs.

Remember, needs are logical while wants are emotional. Your needs only push you just so far. When your needs are satisfied, they will stop pushing you. If, however, your purpose is in terms of wants and desires, then your wants and desires will keep pushing you long after needs are satisfied and until your wants and desires are fulfilled.

Recently I was talking with a young man who long ago discovered the common denominator of success without realizing it. He had a definite purpose in life and it was definitely a sentimental or emotional purpose. He wanted his boy to go through college without having to work his way through as he had done. He wanted to avoid for his little girl the hardships, which his own sister had to face in her childhood. He wanted his wife and the mother of his children to enjoy the luxuries, comforts, and even necessities, which had been denied to his own mother. He was willing to form the habit of doing things he didnít like to do in order to accomplish this purpose.

Not to discourage him, but rather to have him encourage me, I said to him, "Arenít you going a little too far with this thing? Thereís no logical reason why your son shouldnít be willing and able to work his way through college just as his father did. Of course heíll miss many of the things that you missed in your college life and heíll probably have heartaches and disappointments. But if heís any good, heíll come through in the need just as you did. And thereís no logical reason why you should slave in order that your daughter may have things which your own sister wasnít able to have, or in order that your wife can enjoy comforts and luxuries that she wasnít used to before she married you."

He looked at me with a rather pitying look and said, "But Mr. Gray, thereís no inspiration in logic. Thereís no courage in logic. Thereís not even happiness in logic. Thereís only satisfaction. The only place logic has in my life is in realization that the more I am willing to do for my wife and children, the more I shall be able to do for myself."

I imagine, after hearing that story, you wonít have to be told how to find your purpose or how to identify it or how to surrender to it. If itís a big purpose, you will be big in its accomplishment. If itís an unselfish purpose, you will be unselfish in accomplishing it. And if itís an honest purpose, you will be honest and honorable of it.

But as long as you live, donít forget that while you may succeed beyond your fondest hopes and your greatest expectations, it is impossible to succeed beyond the purpose for which you are sacrificing. Furthermore, your surrender will not be complete until you have formed the habit of doing the things that others donít like to do.