Once upon a time, there was a young boy from a small town in India named Raghu. Raghu's father was a teacher in the local school and his mother was a housewife.

Due to his father's reputation as an excellent teacher, people expected Raghu to do well in studies, however, Raghu could not get good grades in the school. He was always subjected to taunts of his father's friend and relatives.

"All your cousins are doing so well in school, what is wrong with you, why can't you concentrate and study. I am ashamed of you" his father compliant.

However, with a lot of efforts and hard work, Raghu finally passed his exams, although not with high grades.

As it was impossible to study further, It was time to look for a job.

Raghu tried very hard for several months to find a good job, but couldn't find any. In his initial interview, he could not speak English fluently, which was required for the job. Then, later on in some interviews, he was rejected either based on his lack of grades or lack of experience or lack of intellectual answers.

Finally, after 1 year, he found a job at a small software development company as a sales executive. Raghu commuted 1.5 hrs for work every day and worked from 6:00 PM until 3:00 AM as the company targeted American Market. Raghu never complained about the commute or the work hours because he needed to have a job to pay his bills and prove to his people back home that he was not a failure.

Over the year, Raghu developed great connections with some of his customers. They all vouched for him and always demanded to speak to him rather than anyone else in the company, not even the CEO. Everyone was puzzled about how this could happen. Raghu was not like other sales executive in the company. He was shy, reserved, did not have a sense of humour and didn't even have great technical knowledge but somehow all the customers whether from mid size or large fortune companies, liked this guy, than any other smooth talking, technically competent executive of the company.

In one of the meetings with a very important customer of Raghu, his CEO asked point blank "we wonder here, why you have so much fondness for Raghu?"

"It's simple, we trust him" the customer replied "he never says things more than he has too, we know that he is telling the truth because he talks to the point, more often than not he doesn't know the answers of questions we ask him but he tells us straight away and tries to find the answers immediately. And finally, he is there for us, anytime. We never have to wonder about when he will get back to us. Dealing with Raghu is dealing with a friend who has your back"

The CEO looked at Raghu and showed a 'thumbs up'. Raghu blushed, responded with a thumbs up and then avoided eye contact. He looked down and smiled. He wondered if he could record this conversation to send it back home.



We are told that an ideal salesman is one who looks good, sounds good and has, this very subjective thing called Charisma. He knows all about his product, he knows clever ways to sell it and he is so quick-witted that you might be forced to buy his stuff.

Many times, you meet such a person, either personally or professionally and you say to yourself... "Aah, he is such as sales guy...can I really trust him?"

While interviewing for a sales position, a recruiter assesses you for your charisma, your wit, and your personality. Even if you have a great experience, if you don't have those things, you don't stand a chance to go to the next round. They will not 'feel' that you are right for the job. This is the same recruiter, who knows a little about the company and nothing about the customer it represents. They will just dismiss you on their feelings. Feeling derived by the popular media.

During sales training, we are encouraged to watch movies such as Boiler room, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wolf of wall street In each of these movies the story revolves around an alpha salesperson. Hence, thats what most sales people aspire to be.

Ultimately, sales are all about generating trust by showing genuine empathy, humility and sincerity and a lot of recruiters and HR representatives do not know how to identify that in a candidate.


I know some companies who spend millions in the so-called 'Sales Excellence Programs'. Generally, in these programs, there are several teams working together. The plan is that you hire right, you train right, you create the right processes and give the right tools. You get your ideas validated by one of the top 4 consultants and you hope for the best. Most of the people who are part of these programs have never met a single customer. They do not have in-depth information about the business they are in. They do their desk research, meet key internal stakeholders and make a great powerpoint presentation to secure their jobs for the next few months or years, until somebody higher becomes impatient with their incompetence.

Most of these sales excellence programs fail to capture the 3 most important and fundamental traits you need from a salesperson. Trust, Sincerity, and Humility.

SUCCESS= ATTITUDE+SKILLS+KNOWLEDGE (exactly in the same order)


These 3 are not traits of skills or knowledge but attitude.

But how do you build those traits?

Are there trainings for these?

Actually NO. There is no training which can instill trust, sincerity and humility in a person. You can only have them through experience. It comes through the practice of self-awareness and self-realization. That only happens through some big failures in life. Unfortunately, the corporate world has no appetite for failures.

Did well in school? You are a winner.

MBA from Harvard? You are a winner.

Managed a team of 100 people? You are a winner.

Grew business from 1 million to 10 million? You are a winner.

The problem is that the humility and sincerity don't come from constant winning but shocking defeats and a person who doesn't have those, cannot generate trust.

So, what can you do?

First, you need to identify this person:

The characteristics of this person are:

- Not the most overly confident person

- Is humble and seldom mentions his personal accomplishments.

- Listens much more than talks

- Does not have an answer for everything

- Is always trying to prove himself for the opportunity given

- Has evident energy and eagerness, despite all of the above

- Has unshakable determination and will to succeed.

Then, If you are a leader of people, you need to show these traits yourself relentlessly. Be a LEVEL 5 leader (From Good to Great) and expect the same traits from your team members.

Next, you need to build systems to identify and encourage these traits in your sales teams.

This should happen in recruitment, performance reviews, promotions.

Skills and knowledge training come after this.

And finally, to close the circle, take the feedback from the customer. Customers should have a say in who they want and who they don't want to be serving them.

For the long term success of your company, you need to develop 'A Sales Underdog'


The Journeyman

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