Craig Wortmann discussing sale success

A Definition of Sales Success with Craig Wortmann

What is the definition of sales success? Craig Wortmann is a sales entrepreneur who advises some of the most active private equity firms in the greater Chicago area, and an active professor at the Kellogg School for Management at Northwestern University. He’s written several books on the subject of sales, hosts a podcasts, and has started several businesses. Joe sat down with him to discuss and define sales success. CEO of Acquirent Joe Flanagan sits down with him to discuss his vast trove of knowledge, starting with a simple question: what makes a great salesperson?

Knowledge, Skill, Discipline: 3 Metrics to Determine the Definition of Sales Success

For the average sales performer, sales is a routine. We wake up, we go to work, we close deals. But there is a difference between those who attain the minimum standard of success and those who vastly outperform the competition – the elite salesperson.

Craig is not one to shy away from his experience – he has had his share of failures in the past that he has used as kindling for his sales achievement moving towards the present and the future. His practice stems from a problem faced by many salespeople: if I’m so smart, why am I not performing at the level of others?

The best salespeople keep three metrics in balance with each other to become high performers: knowledge, skill, and discipline. Any salesperson may have one of these traits in excess which may make them seem like great performers, but the best are able to balance these and deploy them in equal measure.


You’ve heard it a million times: knowledge is power. We prize this sort of thinking in a salesperson at Acquirent – product knowledge happens to be one of five pillars of our sales success. Yet thought alone is not enough to make a great salesperson – universities and college often prioritize knowledge and learning as the foundation of academic success, when it is action that propels thought forward into the world.

Being the smartest guy in the room doesn’t mean that you’re going to be the most persuasive. In fact, intelligence can often work against one’s discipline. Bill Gates once said that when he is approached with a challenging job, he finds the laziest person to do it – a lazy person will find an easy way to do a hard job. This doesn’t always apply to the realm of sales, where success is less about problem solving than it is about having the grit and motivating to keep taking calls after countless rejections. There’s no easy way to work around the process of sales, and a smart person who is known for finding clever workarounds can’t sidestep this process.

Knowledge may be power, but to quote Uncle Ben from Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” At best, the salesperson who relies on their wits alone will know how to meet the bottom line without excelling any further. Knowing and doing are two separate things. As Craig admits with some of his own ventures, selling the best product is meaningless unless you have the skill and discipline to


What skills does a salesperson need? Persuasion, listening, communication, negotiation – these are all skills that a salesperson needs to engage clients and close deals. While knowledge may be stronger in some salespeople than in others, skills can (thankfully) be taught to almost anyone willing to learn. Again, however, skill is not enough to determine success in a salesperson – they need the want to close deals, not just the ability to do so.

Sales training is part of the bread and butter of what we have to offer at Acquirent. Hungry salespeople often make the best salespeople, and as the saying goes, you can feed a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. We can teach our salespeople every trick in the trade, but our recruiting process goes deeper. We look for the fire in people that gets them going.


Craig says that “what “sales” really means is helping people make progress in their lives.” The mindset of a salesperson is actually defined around having the mindset of a successful person. Sales is more than just a profession – it is a philosophy of engaging with others.

Discipline in sales is really about choice. We make hundreds of decisions every day, and most of these choices are made unconsciously. But it is these decisions that really define our success – learning how to make decisions better than others. It also means motivating yourself to begin making better choices.

You may have read books such as “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – what is it that makes these books so popular and evergreen? In short, it is about promoting good habits. Knowledge and skill are things that can be taught to most people, but does your sales team have people who actively want to close? Our definition of sales success relies on discipline first and foremost.

The best salespeople hold knowledge, skill, and discipline in equal measure. The best sales companies know how to leverage this to their success. Acquirent understands this and uses it as part of our selective recruiting program that leverages multiple factors in picking out the best people to advocate for your business. Contact us today to learn more!