Persistence. Tight-lipped determination. Perseverance. Strength of purpose. Staying power. These are the typical, sought-after characteristics of top sales people. The truth is, sometimes tenacity works, and sometimes it destroys sales success when it’s not applied in the right way. Yes, that’s right. The very traits sales managers seek in their reps can actually backfire and send them over the ledge of failure. It’s up to managers to recognize the signs and pull them back in.

When Tenacity Works

When sales people have tenacity, they don’t take “no” for an answer. They are steadfast in how they approach their accounts and their customers. They remain a few steps ahead, always trying to fill in their gaps of knowledge and see through the customer’s lens. At top of mind is how they can best help customers solve their problems and attain their desired outcomes.

Tenacious sales people also make sure they meet with all the key individuals who are impacted by the changes an opportunity presents. They identify objections throughout the deal and carefully think through every step to ensure they achieve a win-win scenario.

And When It Destroys Sales Success

But unfortunately, tenacity can be bad. For example, when a sales person will not walk away from a deal they have little to no chance of winning, it’s a bad thing. Or when their doggedness causes them to spend too much time on an opportunity that is not important to the customer – and therefore, not where the customer wants to spend their time, money or resources – now or in the near future. Tenacity can make sales people hang on to deals that will not close, and constantly cascade deals from quarter to quarter in their pipeline.

I often see sales people unable to let go. Maybe it’s because they don’t want the time they’ve already invested to go wasted. Maybe they think letting go is the same as giving up or admitting defeat. Maybe their management is telling them they absolutely must close it. Or maybe these sales people truly believe they can provoke the customer into changing their priorities or goals to meet their sales targets.

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear when tenacity destroys sales success:  the sales manager or leader must be the one to talk sales people off the ledge and tell them to just move on. So, sales managers and leaders, tell me:  Have you been in a situation where a sales person’s tenacity has actually kept him or her from being successful?


Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter