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February 13, 2010

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"I have not yet begun to fight!" | What Did John Paul Jones Have in Common with Today's Elite Sales Pros?

In Portsmouth, NH, this weekend, taking a mini-break from work, we came across the "John Paul Jones House" on Middle St., where the famous Revolutionary Naval War hero lived between 1777 and 1782.

John Paul Jones is most famous for NOT giving up, even as his own ship, the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, sank around him.

As the legend goes, after conducting sea raids on the coast of Britain, he took command in 1779 of a rebuilt French merchant ship, renamed the U.S.S.Bonhomme Richard to honor Benjamin Franklin. On September 23, 1779, Jones engaged the British frigate Serapis in the North Sea, daringly sailing in close, lashing his vessel to the British ship, and fighting the battle at point-blank range. During the fight, 2 of his cannon burst, and the British Captain asked Jones if he was ready to surrender. Replied Jones: "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!"

The American crew finally boarded the Serapis after the British had surrendered her colors, and from the deck of the Serapis they watched the U.S.S.Bonhomme Richard sink into the North Sea, but having won the battle and captured the Serapis.

So, what did John Paul Jones have in common with elite sales pros of today?

  • He had a good team;
  • He thought highly of his abilities;
  • He took risks;
  • He assumed he would win the battle, even as his ship was sinking around him;
  • He never gave up;
  • He psyched out the competition, who must have thought he was crazy for not perceiving his own eminent defeat;
  • He inspired his team with his stated confidence in his and their abilities.

Who knows what was the key to Jones' victory....was it his belief in himself and his team, or did he intimidate the competition with his loudly proclaimed self-confidence?

Today's sales pros face similar odds: According to a recent CSO Insights report, only 52.4% of sales reps at the companies surveyed made sales quote in 2009. As a point of comparison, that number was 61.1% in 2007. So what do you do? Think like John Paul Jones....get together a good team, take risks, think positively, psych out the competition, and above all, as the ship is sinking, yell out, "I have not yet begun to sell!"

-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing

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