A few years ago, I was talking to a successful colleague who also is in the sales training business. Pete had just returned from an appointment where the purpose was to close a $100K deal. Upon arriving at the company, his supposed-to-be new client apologized and said the company had decided to sell the firm.

“Uggh,” I said. “What did you do?”

He responded without missing a beat, “Some will, some won’t, moving on. In fact, this deal not coming through has actually taught me a few lessons on how to be better in the next selling situation.” No time was lost to a pity party or why-me conversation.

That’s resiliency. That’s perseverance. That’s success.

Resiliency and Revenues

In 1997, Paul Stolz — an early pioneer in the study of resiliency– authored the book“Adversity Quotient.”He shares 19 years of research and 10 years of application to answering the question, “Why do some people persist, while others fall short or even quit?”

If you’ve been in sales leadership, you’ve probably hired a salesperson that should have been successful. On paper and in person, this candidate looked and sounded like a winner. What you may have missed in the interview process was vetting this person for their ability to withstand and surmount adversity. Stolz calls it the “adversity quotient.”

I’ve seen salespeople with impressive resumes fail when they’ve switched jobs. One reason is that the new selling environment is more difficult than the salesperson’s previous one. This requires more resiliency, more perseverance.

Many years ago, a prospect, now a client, told her story of a bad hire. During the interview process,the paper (the resume) and the veteran salesperson looked and sounded great. But the salesperson failed miserably and along the way, made sure everyone else at the company was miserable!

In retrospect, my client realized that the salesperson’s previous sales experience wasn’t a good match because selling in her company at this time required high resiliency and persistence.

  • The salesperson’s prior successful sales experience was selling for a well-branded company. Prospect doors opened up easily because of name recognition.
    • My client had a great service, but her company lacked brand awareness. More work, more perseverance was needed to open up initial sales conversations.
  • The salesperson’s prior successful sales experience involved selling a need-to-have product, one where deadlines – not just great selling skills — sometimes drove the decision.
  • My client sold high-end management consulting and advisory services, which often get put into the nice-to-have, no-deadlines bucket. More perseverance, more follow-up and new selling skills were required to sell these types of services.

Sales managers, interview for the Sales IQ skills, the salesperson’s consultative and solution selling skills. But remember to interview for sales resiliency. It is the hidden predictor of success in hiring great salespeople.


Colleen Stanley is President and Founder of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm.  She is the author of Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success, now published in six languages, and Growing Great Sales Teams.  As an international sales keynote speaker, she ranks in the top five and has been recognized by Salesforce as one of the top 7 influential sales experts in the 21st century. She is the creator of the Ei Selling® System, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative selling skills. She has also been named as one of the Top Sales &Marketing Influencers from Top Sales World, Top 10 Women in Sales Experts to Follow and is one of Global Gurus Top 30 Sales Professionals in 2019.

Prior to starting Sales Leadership, she was vice president of sales for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, the company was named by Forbes as one of the 200 fastest growing companies in the United States.