Turning Over Rocks in Both Sales and Investing

Adam P. Sues


Yacktman Portfolio Manager Adam Sues discusses timeless lessons from an early sales job that informed and inspired his early interest in value investing.


I have always been a believer that good ideas can come from anywhere—if we only look to find them. Research on new companies is one of the most important parts of the investment process. I have linked this activity to “turning over rocks” in search of new ideas, and we have been flipping furiously in these volatile markets. As I reflected on the topic this year, I also thought about the parallels between our team’s investment process and my personal history in another field—sales.

One of my part-time jobs as a teenager was selling local newspaper subscriptions door-to-door. This involved knocking on thousands of doors, shaking off rejection, and even running from the occasional unfriendly pet. I feel there are inherent skills that are underappreciated about prospecting, the front end of a sales cycle. These include a dogged determination, competitive drive, and the ability to handle emotions in sometimes volatile situations. It also involved doing the job when it was dark, snowy, and freezing outside (a shout-out to the weather in my hometown in Northeast Ohio). My job today is much cozier in comparison, but there are some lessons learned from my experience in sales that continue to be valuable in my work as an investor.

In sales, appearances can be deceiving. The easiest sales were sometimes from the worst-looking prospects. Some of the best opportunities in investing can be found in left-behind sectors or companies.  I have found there are often a few overlooked prospects in the mix. The financials may be a mess or management may be below average, but they can still be great investments at the right price. 

Time management is another important consideration. As a salesperson, time may be better spent seeking out the easy “yes” versus trying to “sell” a difficult prospect. Some investors get stuck trying to “force” an investment. They spend months tracking down every trivial detail. Behavioral research shows that more information can lead to worse decisions, even if it feels better. This mistake is compounded if it means a better investment was missed.

Some of the best opportunities in investing can be found in left-behind sectors or companies.

Finally, the best salespeople were also ready to pounce on a potential sale quickly, especially when it was a clear win-win. After thousands of rejections, sometimes the rare “yes” in sales was almost unbelievable. Good investments can be just as rare, so it is important to jump at the chance when an opportunity presents itself. It also means maximizing each opportunity with a concentrated investment approach.

My investment philosophy capitalizes on many of these lessons. While I enjoyed the competitive part of the sales process, thankfully the amount of “selling” in my current career is kept to a minimum. Instead, I believe that my early sales experience has ingrained in me an ability to work through difficult conditions in pursuit of a goal. Of course, I have new goals now but I believe that over time my investment philosophy and approach will naturally resonate with the right kind of investor.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal.There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions, and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for a long term, especially during periods of downturns in the market.

This does not constitute investment advice or an investment recommendation.

This represents the views and opinions of Yacktman Asset Management.  It does not constitute investment advice or an offer or solicitation to purchase or sell any security and is subject to change at any time due to changes in market or economic conditions. The comments should not be construed as a recommendation of individual holdings or market sectors, but as an illustration of broader themes.



Adam P. Sues


PUBLISHED: March 31st, 2022
2 Min Read

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