By Dave Kahle

The Crippling Disease of Moderate Success

“We’re doing OK.” That’s a thought shared by thousands of executives I have encountered over the years. It also resides in the minds of the majority of B2B salespeople with whom I’ve worked.

“OK” for a business often means that the company grows slowly, at least in most years. It is marginally profitable, in most months. The workforce is relatively stable, and the customers somewhat loyal. No one challenges the status quo.

For a salesperson, it means that the boss isn’t hounding him, he/she is making a decent living, and the customers are relatively accessible. No interest in pursuing anything bigger.

For both groups, doing “OK” is a description of moderate success, and was never a description of the lofty goals and dreams that could motivate them. Instead, it is the default position of business professionals who have settled for the comfortable status quo. “OK” is where people and organizations often settle after they have been in the fray for a while.

Undermines Business Development

While moderate success – doing OK – is a stage every business and every salesperson must pass through, the problem is that many – probably the majority – settle there and make it permanent resting place. In a world where the pursuit of excellence requires proactive time and effort, the majority settle for the relative comfort of mediocrity.

Once “doing OK” settles into minds and hearts, it engenders a circular set of behaviors that support itself. It becomes the rationale to avoid any initiatives that might shake the status quo and lead to higher levels of success and influence.

“Open a new branch, or develop a new product or service?” Naw, it would stress the company too much. We’re doing OK the way we are.

“Invest in developing the sales force?” Nope, they will just leave and go to a competitor. We’re doing OK just the way we are.

“Automate some time-consuming processes?” Not if it means the current staff will have to learn new skills. We’re doing OK just the way we are.

Since “doing OK” becomes the default response to any initiative, the company’s moderate success undermines any efforts for greater success, excellence and influence. Moderate success becomes the enemy of greater success.

The Glass Ceiling of Self Development

The same is true for professional salespeople. Moderate success squelches any inclination to the hard work of greater success.

“Attend a sales seminar?” Nope, too busy and besides, I’m doing OK.

“Spend time mastering a new product?” Naw, I’m doing OK with what I’m currently doing.

“Invest in prospecting for new customers?” No, I’m too busy with my current customers, and besides, I’m doing OK as it is.

Excellence demands commitment. Moderate success lounges in indifference.

Excellence requires hard work. Moderate success doesn’t stress anyone.

Excellence mandates taking risks. Moderate success avoids them.

Excellence requires change. Moderate success protects the status quo.

In my 30 years of practice, I’ve interacted with thousands of executive and owners, and engaged with tens of thousands of B2B salespeople. The overwhelming majority have been lulled by moderate success to a place where they are hesitant to pursue excellence, weary of reaching for their potential, tentative about embracing any new ideas and afraid of stretching beyond today’s comfort zones.

That’s one of the main reasons why only five to twenty percent of businesses and salespeople ever reach their potential. The rest got waylaid by moderate success.


Copyright MMXXI by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

Originally published: PWA-21 The Crippling Disease of Moderate Success Dave Kahle Wisdom