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Break the Damn Rules

3 min readMay 7, 2021

Every top sales professional I’ve worked with, shared that common trait. They broke the “rules.”

I’m not talking about ethical violations. I’m referring to the rules defined by rigid sales processes and methods that are forced onto sellers.

Rules typically that are established by managers and executives for their own convenience. Or to operate within their own comfort zone. Or that reflect their own limited sphere of experience and curiosity.

With these rules they are squashing the motivation of their sellers. And limiting their own upside.

Recent research is clear that if you want to people to be self motivated to thrive, then they have to be given control over the choices they make, and to let those choices reflect their personal values and goals.

I was not a conventional salesperson in my own career. By personality, aptitude and outlook, I was different than my peers. Not better. Just different.

In order to succeed, I had to develop a way of selling that reflected those differences and that enabled me to put to use my unique set of skills and capabilities in a way that differentiated me from everyone else.

I got lucky in that I worked for several bosses that were rule breakers themselves and who demanded similar curiosity and evolution from me (and everyone else.)

It’s this idea of taking control of who you are going to be, and making the deliberate choices that define how you are going to sell, that drives self motivation.

Charles Duhigg in his book Smarter Faster Better writes about a study of seniors living in nursing homes. The goal of the study was to determine why some people thrived inside nursing homes and why others quickly began to decline both physically and mentally.

What the researchers found was that “the seniors who flourished made choices that rebelled against the rigid schedules, set menus, and strict rules that the nursing homes tried to force upon them.” They found their motivation to thrive by making choices that gave them a sense of control over their destiny. They broke the damn rules.

We need more “subversives” in sales. Sellers willing to take a risk. Sellers who are comfortable begging for forgiveness instead of permission.

I once worked for a boss who was exasperated that I considered his directives to be mere suggestions. “Let me think about that” was my usual response. Hey, it was my career at stake. My deals. My reputation. Not his. I was determined to make the choices that would impact my success.

(Finally, one day he asked “Don’t you ever just say “yes” to anything?” My answer was…)

In my work, I see too many sales organizations where their productivity is crippled by blind compliance to a process that is prized above all else. Where sales reps are over-scripted, micro-managed and collapsing under the weight of activity metrics that their inexperienced managers cling to.

Whether you’re a sale rep or a sales manager, take charge of your success. Want to be motivated get ahead? Want to reach the next level? Well, you’re not going to achieve that being a meek little lamb led to slaughter.

Take a risk. Take control of the choices you make and how you sell. Break the damn rules.

Follow Andy on LinkedIn.