There is a real difference between possessing talent and possessing determination. I’ve witnessed so many individuals with “A” level talent fail in business, while also watching many with “B” or “C” level talent achieve immense success. Countless stories and timeless anecdotes present data that people with grit and determination of will are the ones who achieve their goals in life, and are held in high regard as the most successful.

This X Factor, whether you would like to call it grit, initiative, or will power, is not possessed by everyone. The individuals that own this priceless attribute refuse to quit when working towards the task at hand, as they ooze resilience. This resilience allows for not only a strong work ethic, but also an ability to overcome obstacles or setbacks that may present themselves unexpectedly. So does grit and determination trump talent?


Talent vs. Determination:

Talent is incredibly valuable when considering a new hire. An innate ability or natural gift can definitely get you very far in life and business. However, how prized is it of an attribute when considering what someone will bring to your organization? Many individuals possess talent, but simply give up on their expedition before achieving success.

Determination on the other hand leads to hard work, no matter the task at hand and hardships in the way. A well known piece of research by renowned psychologist, Anders Ericsson, suggests that if you spend 10,000 hours practicing any given subject or task, then you can become an expert in it. To achieve this high level of committed practice, you definitely need some grit and will power.

When pondering this subject, there is one salesperson that immediately comes to mind. This individual that I’m reminded of knows that he isn’t as gifted as much as some salespeople.  I’ve heard him on the phone and he’s not the most articulate and can be awkward at times.  However, his thinking is, “I might have to make 250 calls for every deal closed   However, if the best salespeople I know are making 100 calls per week to close 1 deal, I know I can outperform them by 200% by making 500 calls per week and closing 2 deals.”  It has been amazing and inspiring seeing him blow away the sales numbers of salespeople who are much more talented than him.

As I mentioned in a previous article, I also love hiring people who have something to prove and have always had to work hard their entire lives.  For example, they may not have a college degree and haven’t gotten many interviews as a result, had to pay for college and all of their expenses since they were a teenager or became a parent at a young age and had to support a family.  I recently spoke to a very sharp sales consultant, who has a business that analyzes the personality characteristics and backgrounds of top sales representatives.  He said in his years of sales consulting, the reports showed that the top performers he’s helped hired are single mothers who are on average, 50 years old.

Many companies are taking note of the data that suggests strength of will is perhaps more essential than native ability. This shift is occurring in parallel with an overall shift away from the primary focus on academic credentials, which for too long superseded other attributes when considering a new hire.

It is difficult to claim with absolute certainty that determination is more essential than talent but in my experience, I’ve almost always seen that this is the case. There are definitely other factors to consider beyond this dichotomy when hiring someone, such as intelligence, critical thinking, creativity, and pure luck of circumstance.

I’m not implying that you should hire a really bad salesperson that shows a lot of grit.  However, I recommend that you recognize that screening candidates for determination is at least as important for screening for sales ability.

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