This quote is attributed to the legendary Zig Ziglar. Scott received it decades ago from his Southwestern mentor, Spencer Hays, who tightened it up to: Build your people, and your people build your business.

Whitten & Roy

We’ve found many sales leaders – managers, heads of sales, directors – who agree with the theory. Unfortunately, precious few of them actually make it work.

They pay a huge price for this failure: disinterested sales people, unclear and ineffective sales processes, inability to identify what’s missing and the specific training required to fix it, and – no surprise here – less than optimum sales results.

Why do so many sales leaders fail to build their people? Because it’s one of those things in professional life that can be described as simple, but not easy. Developing sales people is a science and an art. It is one of the most challenging, frustrating, exhilarating roads a sales leader can travel. And when you get it right, the rewards blow your mind and fill your wallet.

Why is building people so hard?

This is one of the great questions of human history. It has been addressed by the leading thinkers in philosophy, theology, psychology, sociology, and new disciplines focusing on the field of transformative learning and change. How people change has been Roy’s particular passion for decades. During his doctoral work in 2001-2004, he was introduced to the new science of neuroplasticity: the study of how the brain rewires itself to pursue the aims of its owner.

This work provides a scientific explanation of what previous thinkers, over centuries, have concluded about (a) what keeps people from changing and (b) what can be done to help them change. What seems apparent are these critical points:

  • For the first few years of life (approximately 0-5), children are incredibly ‘neuroplastic.’ They learn quickly and deeply, they fearlessly pursue what interests them, and they change naturally and easily.
  • Around the age of five, the brain develops a self-reflective capacity that starts interpreting what it senses in the world. It starts drawing conclusions about what it sees and hears. Then, at lightening speed, it makes predictions about what will happen, and these conclusions/predictions drive behavior that becomes automatic and habitual.
  • It is this human capacity to operate on autopilot that is the source of your sales people’s resistance to transforming the way they sell. This is how habits develop and how they stay in place.

To build your people you have to help them turn off the autopilot so they can learn and integrate something new. Then, you need to have something to teach them that is so intriguing and effective, that they want to make it work. It is the combination of getting off autopilot (if only for a few minutes at a time) and wanting something new that aims the brain to rewire itself.

And, of course, you have to first do this yourself if you’re going to succeed in leading others to do it.

Focusing on the things that bring real change

In 1988, Scott attended a training program that Roy had co-founded. He applied what he learned to his ongoing work of building his sales force. He developed a formula that we now use to frame our work, personally and professionally.



Results = Attitude + Competence + Execution®

To build people‘s ability to generate outputs (sales results), you need to change their inputs. Salespeople need to develop three transformative skills:

  • They need to manage their attitude – moment-by-moment, staying committed, undaunted, creative, and wanting to do what the business needs them to do
  • They need to master the competence of selling – whether it’s a transactional or a complex sale, there is a science to selling that must be integrated into one’s thought and behavior until it becomes second nature.
  • They need to perfect a disciplined execution – doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right people, successfully avoiding the distractions, temptations, and sheer wastes of time that constantly present themselves.

To build your people, therefore, requires that you acquire very interesting skillset: how to get others off autopilot, and how to focus them on attitude, competence, and execution.

5 Responses to “You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build your business”

  1. Katina M. Archer-Hill

    This article has transformed my thinking and actions.
    I was looking for something on “people building” not even sure of what I was looking for and I came across this article.
    This related so personally to my own life struggles and it answered some questions for me.

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