Sales Work Ethic

This is the second of a series of six blogs on what makes a world class sales professional.

In our last blog we explored the X Factor – Enthusiasm and determined it can’t be faked. It is a relatively deep- seated characteristic started in our early development years.

Yes, we can sharpen this personal characteristic and focus it on the right circumstances, however, it comes with us when we reach adulthood.

The second characteristic is Work Ethic.

Work ethic is frequently defined as the principle of hard work that becomes ingrained in our personalities as intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward in and of itself.  Said another way, working hard is highly regarded in superior performing sales professionals value systems and play a significant influencer in their behavior.


I was interviewing a seasoned purchasing agent for a major candy company inquiring about what sales characteristic were the most significant in the sales professionals he brought from.

Without so much as a nanosecond, he said,” Work ethic”!

He went on to regale me with many stories of “flash in the pans” that called on him who gave up after a few rejections. He pointed out that buying and selling is a process with many unexpected turns. He added, sales professionals need the tenacity and deep personal commitment to work hard and do what is necessary.

With a wisdom- based smile, he said, “You can’t teach work ethic!”

We were assisting a waste management company select a new sales professional. After interviews were completed the debriefing process started. Five senior managers gave their respective opinions on three finalists.

There was considerable debate about skills, history, education, experience and personality characteristics. When it came time for decision making, the candidates were very equally on many key performance indicators.

However, as they compared answers, references, and anecdotal work experience their decision turned on work ethic. They said their preferred choice worked harder, got up earlier, stayed later and simply had some deep- seated value and the related discipline around getting things done.


Work ethic cannot be significantly impacted by coaching or training. That is not to say that coaching and training can’t move the needle in certain circumstances, but deep behavioral changes that require a value system shift are few are far between.

I’m sure some behavioral scientists would dispute this because they are dedicated to helping people change. Indeed, there are examples of major shifts in one’s behavior after significant professional intervention.  

However, we must ask ourselves to do most sales managers and sales executives have the training and skill to facilitate lengthy value and personality changes? Of course, the answer is no!

Therefore, we are left with ferreting out work ethic in the selection process. If there is evidence of it the probability of selecting the right person for the right job for the right reasons exponentially increases.


As the selection process unfolds exploring work ethic as a critical indicator of success in a sales professional requires examining many data points as well as sensitivity to observable behavior.

Here are a few simple tips and things to look for:

  • Review scheduling and calendars
  • Past attendance
  • Sense of urgency
  • Can do attitude
  • Connection of work values with specific skills
  • Where does work fit in life satisfaction

Exploring and assessing work ethic is not the silver bullet in selecting a superior sales professional, however, it is clear insight into the internal values that will drive sustainable behavior during the inevitable tough times all salespeople experience.


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