Good Bob, Bad Bob, The Stockdale Paradox, and Sales Success

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 02, 2021 @ 09:02 AM

Navy Legend Vice Adm. Stockdale Led POW Resistance | The Sextant

I read that Admiral James Stockdale, a Vietnam War veteran and former POW at the Hanoi Hilton, said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

His combination of faith and brutal reality was the difference between surviving long enough to be released from captivity, and being one of those unfortunate souls who died in captivity.  In Jim Collins' best-selling business book, Good to Great, he refers to that quote as the Stockdale Paradox.  

It's also consistent with what Jack Reacher, the lead character in the Lee Child series by the same name, would say.  In 2015, I wrote this article about Jack Reacher and I have always taught that "you must be eternally optimistic about your outcomes but completely skeptical about everything you hear along the way."

Why is that important?

Happy Ears is a Big Problem for most salespeople.  When it's a strength, Objective Management Group (OMG) calls it Healthy Skepticism.  The challenge is that Healthy Skepticism is unlike the other selling strengths and weaknesses measured by OMG, where great salespeople have them as strengths and weak salespeople have them as weaknesses.  With Healthy Skepticism there is little differentiation between strong and weak salespeople.

While the strongest 5% are 35% less likely to have Happy Ears than the weakest salespeople, Happy Ears affect all salespeople, even the best ones.  For example, this article tells the story of a very talented salesperson (good Bob) who was thrown off his game because of Happy Ears.  Read the story about bad Bob and his $225,000 selling mistake.  Bad Bob has happy ears. 

This short article points out how Happy Ears plays a part in weak/empty pipelines.  And this article explains how to coach your salespeople beyond Happy Ears.

This famous clip from Dumb and Dumber demonstrates Happy Ears better than anything I can write.

Whether it's a good salesperson being thrown off his game, a weak salesperson always having happy ears, James Stockdale, Jack Reacher or the rest of us.  It's important to be optimistic about your outcomes, but you must confront the brutal reality of your situation.  Listen closely to what you're hearing.  Challenge and push back by asking questions, even if you're uncomfortable doing so.  Especially if you're uncomfortable doing so!

OMG has assessed 2,059,200 salespeople and you can see that data and compare by industry here.

Image from US Navy archive

Topics: Dave Kurlan, assessments, happy ears, james stockdale, stockdale paradox

Subscribe via Email

View All 1,850 Articles

About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

Email Dave

View Dave Kurlan's LinkedIn profile View Dave Kurlan's profile

Subscribe 

Receive new articles via email
Subscribe
 to the Blog on your Kindle 

 

 

Most Recent Articles

Awards

Vendor Neutral Certified 100 SalesTech Vendor Objective Management Group

Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame Inductee

2020-07-20_14-45-52


 

2020-Bronze-BlogIndi

MVP2018_badge_winner_SPC

Top 50 most innovative sales bloggers

Top100SalesInfluencersOnTwitter

Hubspot Top 25 Blogs

 

2020_Top20_Web_Large_assessment_eval

2020-Gold-AssessTool

 

Free Tools

Sales Process Grader

Sales Candidate Assessment Free Trial

Sales Ghost Calculator

Sales Force Grader

Sales Hiring Mistake Calculator

FREE Recruiting Process Grader