It all came from an article that suggested Sales people are "happy losers" and, like addicted gamblers, they are addicted to the thrill and are in fact pros at losing.
I'm not sure that I agree with the phrase "happy losers"; having worked in sales all my life I know that salespeople are seldom "happy" when it comes to losing.
But I do agree that the best will brush failure to one side and start again after the next deal. It's like they are intensely motivated by the thrill of winning that they simply ignore the inevitable set-backs.
It also reminded me of an article I read recently about Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital. Widely recongised as one of the top tech VC's, with companies like Google & Yahoo in his portfolio, the tendency of many people is to only see the up-side.
But, in the interview, Mike is refreshingly pragmatic and reminds us that "People don't see the carcasses and the smouldering ruins on the side of the road. And there are plenty of those." He continues, "Maybe it's just that we have made more mistakes than everybody else and try not to make the same mistake twice. If we're so good, I keep wondering why we still have write-offs"
Mike says that Sequoia has "a perpetual fear of going out of business", and constantly tries to 'bake' anxiety into its partners, "hour by hour".
That's something that I recognise in great "hunter" salespeople. They accept failure, understand that it's part of the game, and are intensely focused on making sure that they keep pushing for the next win.
Whether it's an "anxiety" or simply a drive to not sit-back, the best seldom need motivation from manager - they have their drive hard-wired.