According to legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, “90% of baseball is mental. The other half is physical.” Clearly, Yogi – despite his fractured math – could have also been a legendary sales professional if he wanted to be, because that is exactly the same formula that highly successful sales professionals live by every day. Yes, there is a physical, functional, tactical side to selling. Product knowledge, presentation skills, proficiency in the use of the CRM and other tools – these are all vital for achieving sales success. But in the end, Yogi hits the nail square on the head; the biggest key to success is 90% mental.
We all know that selling can be a tough business. When the economy is down or the competition is tough, sales professionals start hearing a lot of “Nos,” which can be devastating. It is not unusual for some sales professionals to lower their aspirations, and begin to doubt their abilities at times like this. Highly successful sales professionals, however, don’t allow temporary setbacks to define them. That is what makes them highly successful. It is also what leaves the rest of us wondering, “How do they do it?”
First of all, let’s be clear about one thing: Highly successful sales professionals are human, just like everyone else. They are subject to those same inner voices that try to plant discouragement and doubt, just as are we all. However, at CloudCoaching International, our 35 years of experience in working with the top sales leaders in the world has taught us that what separates highly successful sales professionals from the rest of the herd is the mental and emotional discipline that keeps them focused and constructive even in down times. The good news is that anyone can learn to apply this discipline and focus in their own lives, and reap the benefits as well.
To achieve Yogi’s “90% mental” success benchmark, highly successful sales professionals lay a strong foundation built on four solid pillars:
Highly successful sales professionals are passionate about the products and services they sell, and are unabashedly enthusiastic about the value and benefits they bring to their customers. Yes, they also care about closing business and driving revenue, but it is also very important to them to know that what they offer their customers is exceptional in every sense of the word. The confidence they have in their products and services helps to motivate them, even when the market is rough, because they know they have good news for someone today.
Effective training is a key component of selling success, and we are not just talking about product training or being able to run a demo. Anyone who can read a brochure or a spec sheet can come away with a decent grasp of product knowledge. What we are really talking about here is solid, in-depth training in sales process, consultative skills, customer relationship strategies, sales effectiveness with CRM, and a host of other skills and capabilities that help the sales professional feel confident in any customer-facing situation.
This is not exactly the same as believing in your product. If the company culture doesn’t have a strong commitment to treating customers well, and also treating sales professionals well, then a lot of the joy of selling evaporates as the sales professional spends too much time fighting the organization and its policies, either on behalf of himself or his customers. The resulting burn out from such struggles can quickly lead to discouragement, lower productivity, and, ultimately, to the sales professional leaving the organization in search of a place where the opportunity for success on their terms is greater.
These first three pillars are certainly important keys to helping a sales professional maintain a positive attitude, but, in many ways, the fourth pillar is the most important attitude pillar of all:
Entire books and sales courses have been built around this topic. It is huge; it is the holy grail of creating and maintaining a consistently positive mental focus, and it can be summed up like this:
Situations don’t cause emotions. It is what we believe about the situation that causes our emotions, and our emotions usually determine what we do next.
This is a universal principle of human behavior, but here is a very simplified example of how it applies to sales.
Bob, to sales manager: “This economy is terrible. No one is buying. My customers hate me. I can’t get past the gatekeeper at my biggest opportunity. There is too much competition. I can’t sell anything. I give up.”
Sales manager: “Really, what makes you say that?”
Bob: “Over the past week, I bet I have made 200 calls and I can’t get anyone to set an appointment. Obviously, I don’t have a chance.”
Sales manager: “Hmm, that’s odd. I was talking to Amanda this morning and she was actually excited today. She told me that, even though she had made 200 calls this week with no luck yet, she was convinced her luck was about to change. She has refocused her strategy, refined her presentation, and has narrowed her target prospect set to maximize the impact of her new presentation. She was really pumped when I talked to her.”
Bob and Amanda both had the same situation: 200 calls and no appointments. Bob believed this meant there was no opportunity for him and no option but to fail, so he was ready to quit. However, Amanda, rather than blaming the economy or the prospects, believed this to be a temporary slump that could be rectified by changing her approach. To her, the situation represented an opportunity to succeed by learning something new, so she got right to work on a new strategy.
Celebrated peak-performance expert Tony Robbins would say that Amanda has learned to “tell herself a different story” about her situation and her options. Bob looked at his slump and told himself that he was going to fail. Amanda looked at her slump and told herself that if she would change her strategy and learn to do some things differently, her chances of success would go way up. It isn’t hard to predict which story will have the happier ending.
Highly successful sales professionals never let the situation – i.e., the economy or the competition or the customer – define them or dictate their attitudes and emotions. Instead, they believe in their product, they believe in their training, they believe in their organization and – most of all – they believe in themselves and their ability to adapt, grow and learn from any situation to achieve greater success. That is the story they tell themselves, and they stick to it, no matter what.
Here is a thought experiment: What kind of stories do you tell yourself when you hit a slump and deals aren’t closing or margins are too low? Do you make excuses, rationalize, and blame the economy or the customer? What would happen if you told yourself a different story? What could you tell yourself today that would help you reframe your situation and focus on actions that would lead to a different outcome?
Developing skills and strategies that help sales professionals build confidence and control their focus is just one component of the Sales Mastery processes and tools perfected by CCI. In this series we are sharing strategies and skills to help you differentiate your organization from your competitors by creating a strong brand based on collaborating with the customer to help them achieve their most important objectives.