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Backbone Versus Wishbone


Written for The Nova Scotia Business Journal

Nothing can be done. If that’s the belief then it is also the fact. A sales manager recently told me that one of his salespeople believed that all the accounts in the market were taken and prospecting was a useless exercise. The sales manager noted that there were something in the order of 25,000 businesses and they were doing business with 400 of them. The facts sometimes cloud beliefs. The salesperson’s attitude was the problem. He clearly preferred to externalize the blame and give up rather than prospect. It appears that what he was really looking for was the low hanging fruit that was easy to get. The desire, drive, and commitment to achieve a greater goal simply wasn’t there.

There is a quote that hangs in our offices that says: “Don’t get involved with people whose wishbone is stronger than their backbone.” There are people who desperately want things to happen. They dream of a better future and hope for the changes that will propel them to a place where their wishes come true. However, they stick to their current beliefs and comfort zone.

Company owners often know that change is necessary but the impact of running the business culminates in no time to deal with it. The lack of commitment to change, to build a plan and execute it, is far stronger than the will to change and the reasons and excuses leaves them with the same dreams and no results. It is a tough situation.

What happens when you’re between a rock and a hard place? Yogi Berra once said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” What do you do? Recently, I spoke with a business owner who told me that his top salesperson was a management nightmare. This person wouldn’t follow policy, wasn’t responsive to management directions, was a cultural misfit and a bad example to the rest of the team who were beginning to follow the bad behaviour they were observing. He felt he was held hostage and that this person was a cancer in the organization. I asked how long this was the situation and he replied three years. The decision not to make a decision is a decision.

Why do people put up with situations they know are detrimental to their success? Leadership often involves going beyond the current realities, taking calculated risks, making the tough decisions, and sometimes starting over to move positively toward the vision they have. It is necessary to change unless you want to maintain the status quo. You can be assured of this — things won’t change until you change.

©2011 Sandler Training Inc. ( is an international sales, customer service and management training/consulting firm. For a free copy of Why Salespeople Fail and What to Do about It, call Sandler Training at 902-468-0787 or e-mail

Eric Fry

Sandler trainer