Standing on Top of a Mountain and Calling a Taxi

Posted by Robert Norton on

Standing on Top of a Mountain and Calling a Taxi

By Henning Schwinum - Republished by permission

Founders Seeking Silver Bullets

Bob Norton's preface: Although this article is focused on this phenomenon in sales, I am republishing it here because this concept and unrealistic expectations is true in all areas of business.

“What the heck you gonna shoot a silver .44 bullet at anyway?”


A good friend made this word up years ago when learning German. His definition of ‘Jawohlen’ was standing on top of a mountain and calling a taxi, or ‘calling for the impossible.’

This word is what I had to think of when I read Wayne Morris’ piece about founders seeking silver bullets:

“Whilst I have got better at weeding them out early, it still pains me that founders (and investors) don’t respect the craft of sales in the way in which they do software engineering, for example. This belief that sales is easy, or that salespeople are cannon fodder and can be hired and disposed of in an instant is and always has been draining for me (and I’m sure every salesperson out there can attest to).”

A silver bullet is a metaphor for a simple, seemingly magical solution to a difficult problem. But life is way too complex to reduce anything to a magic cure-all. So for me, THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET.

What holds true in life holds true for sales as well: "One-dimensional solutions are rarely enough to create permanent improvements in sales force effectiveness. A sales force is complex, with many moving parts and interdependencies. Achieving sales force excellence or addressing a sales opportunity or challenge (such as revitalizing growth or enhancing customer retention), typically requires improving upon a mixture of several sales force effectiveness drivers.” (HBR)

Now, there are plenty of authors who disagree:

- G.A. Bartick and Paul Bartick published a book in 2008 that shows you how to apply the silver bullet selling method to launch your sales through the roof: “Based on ten years of extensive research and interviews with thousands of top sales performers in a variety of industries, Silver Bullet Selling reveals the secrets all great sales professionals have in common.”

- Jared Houghton and HubSpot want you to believe that there is The Sales Silver Bullet Most Salespeople Don’t Know about.

- Leah Bell and Salesforce educate How to Use Content as the Silver Bullet in Sales conversations.

- Jim Hopes and The Center for Sales Strategy share A Silver Bullet Needs Analysis Question: “What else should we be talking about?”

- And Craig Elias makes the point: The Silver Bullet in Sales – Yes Virginia There is a Silver Bullet, calling out "timing – getting in front of the right buyer at exactly the right time."

Still, for me, THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET, and Jim Logan agrees: "How cool would it be if there were a silver bullet in sales and marketing to retire quota and make lots of money? You know what I mean — the one thing we could say or do that magically makes people buy. It would be cool, but it doesn’t exist. And we couldn’t afford to buy it if it did.”

It is similar to the discussion about the value of a lead. If a lead was a sure sale, the price would be equal to the product's gross margin. But there are no shortcuts in sales. What produces success in sales is: Working hard and smart. Following a process. Using data. Being persistent. Win fast, lose faster. Multiple channels. A lot of blocking and tackling.

In addition, there is a serious downside in searching for a silver bullet, in following those who claim to have one: salespeople stop using the tools they hold in hand, like the repeatable process. They waste time in search of a magic tool that does not exist.

Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur and CEO with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors. He has trained, coached and advised over 1,000 CEOs since 2002. And is Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University™. Mr. Norton works with companies to triple their chances of success in launching new companies and products. And helps established companies scale faster using the six AirTight Management™ systems. And helps companies successfully raise capital.

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