Vacationer, Prisoner or Enthusiast? Which are you?


It has been suggested that “ignorance is bliss” – but I am afraid that I do not subscribe to that viewpoint in any way, which, if you are a regular visitor here, will not surprise you. This is particularly true in the harsh, and sometimes unforgiving sales arena, where careers can be destroyed overnight, and lives changed forever – often, I should add, unnecessarily.

In the old days, long before the Internet was even a glint in Kleinrock’s eyes, and Michael Jackson was still comfortable with his natural skin tone, sales training was sporadic at best, and non-existent at worst: It usually involved staying in hotels for a few days, and was typically delivered by failed salespeople who decided on an easier life as a sales trainer.

They would arrive armed with a rain forests’ worth of course notes for each delegate and we would systematically work through until that final relief on the third day. You know the feeling that you experience after root canal work? There is considerable discomfort and a lot of numbness, but there is relief that it is all over.

I am pretty certain that there are thousands of “boomers” – maybe hundreds of thousands – who still recall their own experiences, and as a consequence harbor considerable reticence when it comes to promoting sales team development in their own companies today – it really was that excruciating.

I remember looking around during one particularly painful session and dividing the delegates into three distinct categories: To begin with, there were the “vacationers” Vacationers did anything to get out of the office for a few hours – “Well, this is better than working isn’t it? Great hotel, some nice chicks/studs on the course, and you should see what’s in my mini-bar. Which club are we hitting tonight?”

Next, there were the “prisoners” Prisoners really resented anything getting in the way of real work. They did not want to be on the course, and they made that very clear to anyone who would listen, including the course leader. Prisoners decided long before they arrived that they were not going to get anything out of the exercise, because either they knew it all already, or because they had no interest whatsoever in expanding their skills-sets. “Well this is going to be a complete waste of my time; I could be doing some real work and earning some commission”

Finally, there were the “enthusiasts” This group usually started as a very small number, and depending on the quality of the content and delivery, either grew in size or shrank in size. These people were committed to learning as much as they could, because they realized that knowledge is power, but it also career defining: They would be the first to put their hands-up whenever a question was posed; they would willingly volunteer for role-plays; they took copious notes and asked lots of questions. When they got back to the front-line, they tried very hard to incorporate any new ideas they had learnt into their day to day modus operandi.

I remembered my three “classifications” when I embarked on my own consultancy career, and I always shared the concept with my “delegates” telling them that by the time we reached the first coffee break, my challenge was to earn their respect and convert them all to “enthusiasts” I just sense that some of my ex-students will be reading this and chuckling – hopefully with very fond memories!

Today, there are so many “avenues of opportunity” for professional salespeople, many of them absolutely free: The Internet has created the equivalent of a child’s sweetshop. The shelves are stacked with jars containing every conceivable variety and flavor – it is difficult to know where to begin. As a consequence, nobody has any excuse anymore for not knowing what they don’t know, because it is now so easy to find out – to embark on that journey of discovery.

The very best sales professionals – the ones who consistently over-achieve – are the ones with the most voracious appetites for self-improvement. The day you stop learning, will be the day to pack up and go home. Me? I am not ever expecting to pack up and go home!


News: In case you are wondering where my personal Twitter account has gone, I have taken it down, as I was one of the 250k to get hacked: Having already had my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts “stolen” in the past twelve months, I really don’t want to take any more risks. The final straw was receiving a message from the “thieves” which was virtually identical to the one I received from Twitter.

Last year, immediately after the LinkedIn hack, I got hit by a really nasty piece of Malaware called dnschanger, which wiped my hard drive, and but for a small piece of good fortune, could have also wiped my back-up drive too. That type of “technology rape” takes days, and even weeks to recover from – so no unnecessary risks for me.


  1. says

    The reason I enjoyed this article so much, Jonathan is because it reminded me of my late father and all the wonderful sales lessons he taught me over a span of SIX DECADES! In “Selling Fearlessly” I said: “My father loved to talk about the subtleties of selling. As a child I looked up to him as a selling god and hungered to soak up his wisdom; I still was listening attentively at 66 when he died. It was like being Michael Corleone with the Don as my consigliere.” I can’t imagine not being an “enthusiast.” When Zig Ziglar came to Chicago to speak, I was always in the audience, jumping out of my skin with excitement. In every sales class, seminar I ever attended, I was just as excited. I always wanted to be the best that I could be, and anything that was going to help me get there was EXCITING!

    I’m 11 months away from turning 70, and I’m still learning; and the more I learn, the more I’m looking out over the vast reservoir of knowledge I DON’T know.

  2. says

    Years ago a colleague shared the prisoner, vacationer and his third was learner with me. I adapted this to prisoner, vacationer and explorer as I felt this worked better with my purpose of being a trailblazer. However they are identified, there usually are 3 groups and usually these groups work with the bell shape curve. Good to revisit these types of people.

    Just imagine if those people who are so intent are disrupting the lives of others through technology would put their efforts to more positive and constructive uses, where would we be?

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

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