Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

The Best Focus On Getting Better

5117ec57cab7b.imageI just had something very interesting happen. I finished up a sales training class for a client I have worked with for the past 12 years and after the class several of these attendees thanked me very much and said they had taken pages of notes and learned some very valuable ideas. Then, later in the evening I attended their annual sales awards dinner, and again several folks told me the session that day had been wonderful and two of them actually told me that, through various programs I had delivered for their company, they had learned some “career-changing” ideas. I was extremely flattered and glad to know I had helped, but what happened next was career-changing for me!

As the CEO stood at the front of the room and announced the company’s top sales people and managers I was amazed to see that most of them were the very same individuals that had thanked me for the workshop. In other words, the most successful people were also the ones who wanted to learn the most, even though many of them had been in the field 20 years or longer.

Earlier in the day as I was teaching the workshop I had noticed that many of the “older” sales people were furiously taking notes and nodding in agreement every time I covered a particularly important point. They were also the most eager to ask questions and engage in the workshops and group discussions. However, I also noticed that several of the “jokesters” took few notes, rarely participated in the discussions and did not ask a single question. Not surprisingly I did not see any of them win an award, but later at the bar I did hear many of them complaining about the comp plan, that their products were priced too high and that their competitors were “buying” contracts with lavish presents and dinners with purchasing agents.

 The mediocre thought they already knew it all, the best were eager to learn more.


The mediocre were resentful, the best were grateful.


The mediocre saw problems, the best saw opportunities.


The mediocre complained, the best succeed in the same arena.


I might have spent the day teaching, but I learned just as much as they did, well, at least the best of them.


  1. Michal Petras says:

    A marvellous article. Thank you John. As always to the point, succinct and enormously effective.

    • Donna Randle says:

      There’s a saying that in sales, you are only as good as your last training. This certainly is validated by your findings.

  2. Thank you John, great share!

  3. Always a good reminder that we have to keep trying as best we can. Just do our best. Fall in love with tasks not with the end result. That rewards come with the work. But, in sales we can all use a nudge, push , a reminder, a team around us to keep us going. Rejection is part of the daily process. Its not something you want to do alone. So thank you for the ideas and tips.

  4. Funny how that works! The mediocre are home watching TV right now, the best are reading your blog. It really is awesomely simple, isn’t it?!

  5. Hi John:

    I’m not quite sure who our “mutual friend” is that got me on your blog mailing list, but I’m glad I am. Thanks for the insight and kick in my A ## ! Little bumps and nudges go a long way in the end. ThX !!

  6. Joe Voutour says:

    As always John your articles are the best. No long lead-up to say what’s important, you get to the point very quickly and they are always packed, meaningful and understood points. Thank you !

  7. Great insight John. Thanks. In short: A Graders just keep on learning, the rest look for excuses.

  8. Michael says:

    So true – at your next excellence awards see if you can identify those as described in the post. Thanks John a positive article.

  9. PARETO’S LAW. Its the 80:20 rule at work.
    They always say that 20% of your sales team generates 80% of the sales, while the balance 80% of the team brings in 20% of the sales.
    I believe it is all about attitude. The majority are lazy and not driven.

    Please let me have your thoughts on my comments. I hope you have a solution to changing the attitudes of the non performers

  10. You probably hear this a million times….it’s so true . You just need to open your mind to learning . Or in My case Make the time to learn . Love your bookshelves BTW. Sure you only read 1 or 2 of those books?

  11. I can’t agree more! Another idea that I learned from you at one of your speeches was the importance of being “flexible”, that was career-changing for me too!

  12. Barry Hall says:

    Obviously the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is false. The older dogs are always wanting to improve themselves. Keep up the great work John it’s always appreciated.

  13. James O'Connell says:

    Love the blog and totally agree John

  14. Million Dollar Bill Collier says:

    Great article
    It makes me think of that saying “The older you get the more you realize what you don’t know”

  15. Alex Beauroyre says:

    Attitude is the key, and it may be the only one thing you can’t teach.