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Salespeople: Are They Their
Own Worst Enemy?

If your satisfaction is dependent on certain results, then you are doomed to perpetual dissatisfaction. Whenever you want something so much that you make your satisfaction conditional upon receiving it, it is a sure sign that you are afraid to receive it. Keep in mind: if you were not afraid of it, it would be easy for you to receive it. One’s inadequacy actually exacerbates it and that intensity actually scares prospects away. They sense that you are desperate. They fear manipulation and they withdraw. Often we unconsciously scare away what we seek. We must conclude that either we don’t really want it or we are afraid to receive it. Both are probably true in most cases.

So don’t try to always seek control. Often, we end up being controlled by the control we seek in our sales role. There is no greater feeling and emotion that will strengthen your self-esteem than the freedom and liberation of “nothing to lose”.

Ironically, salespeople are forced to stay with poorly qualified prospects with low probability because they aren’t strong enough to lose. Frequently, they are also in denial because as soon as they get rid of all their poor prospects, what activity does that free them up to do that they despise? You guessed it: new business development. This avoidance activity forces salespeople into a vicious cycle of acting like a gerbil on a treadmill that aimlessly goes nowhere. Being needy isn’t an attractive quality to try to captivate and lure prospects with. We all experience this to some degree in our personal lives. Society looks at people who are needy as a sign of weakness.

When you expend all your energy and passion chasing phantom opportunities, you will have little left for when you pursue legitimate opportunities. When salespeople refuse to be taken advantage of, they naturally increase their own self-worth and self- esteem. Ultimately, confidence goes up and so does results. Keep in mind though; the real problem with your self-esteem is not really being taken advantage of by your prospects, as it is beating ourselves up because of it.

Lack of closure, resolution and getting people to make decisions is debilitating to one’s self-concept. Salespeople need to first become good decision makers themselves before they can expect to get others to be decisive. The longer it takes one personally to make decisions, the more likely they will attract like-minded prospects.

Another contributing factor that eats away at one’s self-esteem is when salespeople are constantly getting beaten up on price. Again, like attracts like, or, birds of a feather flock together. Salespeople who are skinflints and frugal will disproportionately attract price shoppers. Like anything in life, we unconsciously set ourselves up for failure because of our unconscious beliefs more so than the negative circumstances that we face. You can cure your problem of attracting price buyers only when you first decide to take personal responsibility for your own fate and not blame it on outside circumstances.

One can better manage their self-esteem and have greater control of the level of rejection they experience in selling by better coordinating their information. Salespeople set themselves up for failure by prematurely selling their products and services. Frequently, they are betting all their chips on losing hands. You can’t be rejected unless you have made an offer. Protect your self-concept by being judicious with your information as to when and under what circumstances you will release it. Also be aware that you will allow rejection to negatively impact you because it offers you some measure of security and sense of control.

Many salespeople are into the cult of positive thinking; however, so often what they think about doesn’t result in prosperity. This is an age-old problem. The reason is because, regardless of the surface level of positive thinking, we ultimately don’t understand and value our true self-worth. If you really knew your true worth and were in touch with it, you wouldn’t feel that something was missing. Arguably, positive thinking has surface benefits, but they are superficial.

You can’t make negative thoughts go away by focusing on positive thoughts. For example, think positive thoughts for a moment… now think negative thoughts… now positive… now negative. For the next 20 seconds, think of anything other than pink giraffes. The problem is, you have to think of pink giraffes in order to remember not to think about it. Wow, ironically the more you try to control your thoughts, the less control you have. Sometimes the more you focus on positive thoughts, the more energy and power you give to your negative thoughts. A positive mental attitude is best characterized by not being emotionally attached to an end result. You maintain positive thinking when you accept your circumstances without resisting them.

As author Paul Ferrini states:

“We want to control the flow of consciousness, but it cannot be done. We can discipline the mind, exercise it like a muscle, even get it to perform magic tricks, but we can never really control the content of consciousness. At best, we focus on certain things and repress others. But what is repressed does not go away. It is impossible to control the content of consciousness. It comes and it goes. You can’t know why it comes or why it goes. The idea that you can influence what comes up is magical thinking.”

An example of this would be cultural differences between Germans and Austrians. As the Second World War dragged on, the pervasive German attitude was: things are serious, but not hopeless. On the other hand, the Austrians where thinking the exact opposite: things are hopeless, but not serious. We compound our problems by giving them meaning. The act of being rejected only becomes a problem when we resist the rejection and try to change it and react to it. A positive mental attitude in the traditional sense tries to change your experience, and therefore compounds it.

“It’s all hocus-pocus. Stop chasing away negative thoughts and just be aware of them and accept them for what they are… random negative thoughts. All obsessions with scarcity thinking come from constantly reliving your past circumstances. If you didn’t mind having negative thoughts, you would no longer have them. It is your resistance and your chasing away of thoughts that make them so real and omnipresent. You guarantee their perpetuation,” says Paul Ferrini. Positive thinking is negative thinking all dressed up. You can’t force yourself to be positive and even if you do, it is just a surface projection and it’s superficial.

Negative thoughts that pass through your mind are just a mirror of preexisting negative feelings that must be brought into a conscious level before they go away. They never ever go away when you suppress them or deny them. Denial is weakness masquerading as strength.

The other problem with positive thinking, excessive enthusiasm and fake cheer is that it is not real or authentic. Prospects see through your veneer and you can sometimes come across as a phony, stereotypical, superficial salesperson.

Enthusiastic selling and excessive positive thinking dilutes your judgment and your ability to objectively assess whether you and your prospect have a basis for a mutually acceptable reason for doing business together. Emotional involvement clouds your thinking.

Too often, positive thinking is a fake sense of security because positive mental thinking does not have sustainable lasting power. We now have plenty of burned out enthusiastic salespeople that it has become an occupational hazard. The best way to be positive is to not be emotionally vested in the outcome. And the easiest way to remain internally enthusiastic and confident is by increasing your probability of success by reducing your risk of failure.

The irony about self-esteem is that you need to feel good enough about yourself to know that ultimately you are unimportant in the selling event. You must have a very positive self-concept to be humble and to put your prospect center stage, with your product and yourself off to the side. Not being center stage for a lot of salespeople can become a tough pill to swallow.

So much of our day-to-day actions, activity and conversations are to confirm and validate our self-esteem. However, prospects only care and are concerned rightfully for themselves. So we have to be strong enough to place them first and confirm and validate their needs before our own. The reason this is important is because questioning and listening skills require you to temporarily cede control and require you not to be self-absorbed. It becomes very apparent that salespeople must have a very healthy self-concept if they are going to be able to take on a posture of “not knowing”. The power of “not knowing” is a neutral position of looking at everything as new and fresh. Starting with a blank slate with every new client meeting, you are more curious and inquisitive. Also, you enhance your opportunity to be present and in the moment which always enhances rapport. By taking on a posture of “not knowing”, you are more flexible and fluid and you won’t be concerned as much about the outcome. It’s liberating for you and your prospect. Moreover, as soon as you believe you don’t know much, you are positioning yourself, ironically, to be learning a lot. When you don’t know and think you do, you can’t learn. This is worse than ignorance. Those who know everything know very little. In the beginners' minds, (not knowing), there are infinite possibilities. In the expert posture you are reduced to very few.

Another enhancer to self-esteem is your goals. Only three percent of adults have written goals. The key to goals is to be focused on the journey, not just the final destination. Over-reliance on the destination can have a reverse effect on your self- esteem. In sales, it is critical to emphasize activity over results. You can control activity, you can’t control results. Have a plan of how many deals you want to make; how many people you want to talk to; how many appointments scheduled and attended; how many proposals submitted; and final orders received. By focusing on and monitoring activity, you will find yourself having days where you got poor end results as far as business, but you got lots of positive reinforcement from achieving the activity.

What can be even more powerful than goals is having a vision. A vision encompasses more than what you want to achieve but also how and why you want to achieve it. Generally, a strong vision will have greater traction and will be more sustainable than just having goals.

Self-esteem is critical in being able to constantly ascend the food chain of large accounts and higher-level executive contacts. Salespeople tend to associate with prospects whose self-esteem mirrors their own. The reason salespeople have reluctance to calling high in an organization or going out of their comfort zone and calling on marquis new accounts isn’t because of poor tactics, but because of internal confidence. It’s important to maintain your dignity and guard your self-esteem so there is a constant reservoir to draw upon.

Whatever isn’t working in your sales position, you must take 100% responsibility. Once you do this, you will quickly learn that all frustration is solely with the past. What others have done to you or are doing to you that causes you discontent, is only an external version of what you are doing to yourself. When you stop beating yourself up, you will find that others will stop beating you up. Simply put, you bring into your sales life what you allow to come in. The problem is, we don’t know what we really want or we don’t trust it.

“All your negative thoughts that you entertain are always putting the blame elsewhere. Since our self-worth only comes from the internal, blaming others is not taking personal responsibility. Our mind is the cause of everything it feels and thinks. Our mind therefore is the only thing we can legitimately blame. We have total power and control. We just don’t know it or are afraid of the consequences of that knowledge. What intimidates us is that our power and control is in our choice of what we think about, not in trying to change our circumstances,” says Paul Ferrini. As salespeople, we are constantly giving up our power. We make customers into scapegoats. We blame the economy or our company for our lack of performance.

The key is to admit your mistakes, take responsibility, but don’t be critical and be attached to the alleged corresponding negativity. The more you justify your failures, the more you hold on to them, the greater the likelihood you will project them onto your prospects and the greater the likelihood you will simply recycle them. Try to look at everything with utter neutrality.

“Experiencing your frustrations and rejections allows you to come to terms with them and ultimately release them. Denying and justifying your shortcomings with positive thinking without first truly emotionally experiencing them only represses them deeper to pop up at a later date. When you first see negative thoughts, don’t judge or resist them. When you start to increase your awareness of them, you find that they don’t have as much potency to run your life,” says Paul Ferrini.

Most salespeople find themselves under a spell that as soon as rejection and frustration enter their minds, an experience will quickly come to confirm and validate that negative thought. That is how powerful your mind is. When you truly accept the truth about yourself and take personal responsibility for everything that you think about, you soon find out that all the random thoughts that come and go through your mind don’t represent your true self. Your true self is peerless. You cannot put holes in it. It is bulletproof. You can only pretend to be frustrated or rejected.

When you take ownership and personal responsibility for your life, you position yourself to learn and grow from your mistakes. Taking ownership always empowers us. Denying responsibility will always disempower us.

The irony is, no one will beat you up or reject you more than yourself. There is no one who is as hard on us as we are on ourselves. We need to protect ourselves from ourselves. We are always our own worst critics. By preserving our self-esteem, we ultimately are kinder to ourselves.

Taking responsibility allows you not to take things so personally. Frederick Douglas said what protected him from all the low points in his life was the posture, “I shall not allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.” Don’t get down on your prospects because ultimately it leads to getting down on yourself. Also, the mind can't differentiate between when you are down and mad at another person or when you are down on yourself. Protecting what you think about protects your self-esteem.

It has been said that we decide what we want to see before we see it. We will find whatever we are looking for in our sales career because all perception is a choice and a matter of deciding to take or not take personal responsibility. So whatever you put your attention on, you become the creator of.

It is also human nature to milk our biographies for entertainment value, sympathy and self-righteousness. We love our scripts. Most of us would be nonentities without them. They are truly our false identity that we desperately cling to.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com