Mike Ditka, the coach of the Chicago Bears described the key qualities that he looked for in a player and a person: attitude, character and enthusiasm (ACE). the same philosophy can be applied in any work environment and especially to customer-facing roles, such as sales, sales operations and sales enablement.
In 2004, I had the opportunity to hear Mike Ditka speak at a corporate event. You may remember him as “Da Coach” of the Chicago Bears for 11 years. At the event, Ditka described the key qualities that he looked for in a player and a person: attitude, character and enthusiasm (ACE).
I believe the same philosophy can be applied in any work environment and especially to customer-facing roles, such as sales, sales operations and sales enablement.
Attitude. Top performers prepare, plan and practice relentlessly, whether for being on the field or for appearing in front of a customer. They research and seek to understand their customers’ business, competitors, and products and services to ensure that they can add value at every step of the buyer’s journey, no matter what obstacles or objections arise.
Character. Disappointments are part of sales, sports and life. Phone calls go unreturned, emails go unanswered, and deals are lost. Top performers view these occurrences as challenges to overcome and use setbacks as learning experiences. They constantly seek to improve their skills and knowledge – even when it requires extra effort to learn a new product, perfect a new skill or prepare for a meeting.
Enthusiasm. Professional athletes and professional salespeople understand that their jobs are not easy. Both roles are highly visible, and mistakes can be costly. In sales, the required tasks of prospecting, networking, presenting and negotiating can be stressful. Top performers are optimistic, self-aware and excited by competition. They know that selling is a team sport, and they aren’t afraid to ask for help or share the spotlight of success. Top performers have a genuine, contagious enthusiasm that inspires customers and co-workers.
During his first team meeting, Coach Ditka told his players that within two years they would go to the Super Bowl. Players who rolled their eyes or shrugged their shoulders at this announcement were gone within six months. Ditka wanted players who brought attitude, character and enthusiasm into the locker room, onto the practice field and to the team’s games. The Chicago Bears went to the NFC Championship game in Ditka’s second season as head coach and won the Super Bowl the following year.
Attitude, character and enthusiasm are intangible qualities that don’t lend themselves to easy measurement. Whatever you’re selling, every time you pick up the phone or walk through a customer’s door, make sure you’re a sales ACE.