Go Hard in the Paint

“What do you look for in an ideal rep?”

I get that question often when interviewing salespeople.

My answer:

Reps who go hard in the paint. 

In basketball, this means charging aggressively towards the basket knowing you may get elbowed in the jaw by a 250-pound defender.

The ideal sales rep has a similar mindset. 

One that is made up of humility, resilience, and drive. That’s what going hard in the paint is all about.


When Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, Steph Curry welcomed him with open arms. Not only did he embrace Durant as the new leader of his team, but he did it while making far less money than the average NBA superstar at that time. 

“One thing my pops always told me is you never count another man’s money,” Curry said. “It’s what you’ve got and how you take care of it. And if I’m complaining about $44 million over four years, then I’ve got other issues in my life.”

The Warriors went on to win back-to-back championships and Steph was rewarded with a 5-year supermax contract worth $200 million. 

We’d all be closing more deals if we adopted Steph’s mindset. Instead, it’s common for reps to stroll into 1×1’s with a list of demands:

  • I need better messaging.
  • I need more leads.
  • I need more features.

Keeping your ego in check is critical. Otherwise, your sense of entitlement will always get in your way. 

Instead of focusing on what you deserve, pay close attention to how you can contribute. Don’t let petty problems distract you from achieving your goals.

Change “I’m not getting enough leads” to “I propose we start using custom videos in our prospecting efforts. I’ve already written a couple of scripts.”

This won’t score you a supermax contract like Steph, but it might help you hoist a $1mm W-2.


Before Michael Jordan became the greatest basketball player of all-time, he was bullied by the so-called “Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons. 

No Piston was individually better than MJ, but they were all tougher than him. Instead of foolishly trying to outplay him, they physically assaulted him in the playoffs. Using the “Jordan Rules” strategy, the Pistons eliminated Jordan’s Bulls three-consecutive years. 

“I was getting brutally beaten up,” Jordan explained in episode four of “The Last Dance.” “And I wanted to administer pain. I wanted to start fighting back.” 

So what did MJ do?

He hit the gym, outworked everybody in the league, and started hitting back. The Bulls went on to win the championship the following year and the rest is history.

Sales is similar. 

MJ got smacked around by the Bad Boys. You’ll get hit with: 

  • Bad territories.
  • Horrible bosses.
  • Fierce competitors.

You can overcome all of the above just like MJ. 

Make the most of your subpar territory by out-prospecting everyone on your team. 

Study psychology in your free time and understand how you can find common ground with your so-called horrible boss—you’re in sales, after all! 

Scrutinize your competitors—heck, sign-up for their demo if you can—and plant land-mines for them so they think twice before strolling into your next deal. 


Lebron James lacks the finesse of other greats like MJ and Kobe Bryant. 

Yet he’s surpassed both Kobe and MJ in points, assists, and rebounds and he continues to put up scary numbers. Even at 36!

So, what drives the guy who’s done it all? 

Getting better at his craft. 

Lebron James never lost sight of what’s gotten him to this point. He has drive.

“I had to put work in, and I’m still putting in work. Because that’s just who I am. So like, we kept the main thing, the main thing. The main thing is basketball, and we never lost track of that. I never lost track of that. And once that thing is taken care of, then the sky is the limit.”

Salespeople could learn from him. 

Lebron stays up late watching game film. You should make a habit of listening to your Gong calls. 

How can you ask more thoughtful questions throughout the discovery? Is there room for you to inject more customer stories throughout the deck? Does your pitch sound like you’ve memorized a script?

These are the questions you should always ask yourself even if you’re hitting your numbers consistently. 

There’s no way you’ve reached your full potential. If you have what it takes to be an all-time great, then don’t squander your opportunity due to lack of effort. 

Go down swinging. Go hard in the paint.


The ideal sales rep keeps the ego in check, bounces back after taking an L, and drives to get better at every aspect of selling. 

These qualities won’t just make you an elite sales rep. They’ll enable you to achieve success in whatever you do.

So like the great poet Wacka Flocka once said, go hard in the paint.