If you think you can’t make a sale, you won’t

June 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

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Henry Ford once said,

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”

and it’s true. Time and time again we see how peoples’ beliefs affect their behaviour. We often influence the outcome of an event because of our attitude going into it.

And it doesn’t stop at our personal lives. The beliefs we take into our workplace are just as self-fulfilling, whether it’s negotiating a deal, making a cold call or trying to win a pitch

But let’s talk specifically about sales, because that’s one business area where self-limiting beliefs are known to significantly restrict performance. Research has shown that, on average, sales people have ten self-limiting beliefs that, when eradicated, will increase sales by about 25%.

Take two sales people with different attitudes towards the product that they are selling and the outcome of the encounter they are about to have with a potential buyer. Let’s call them Negative Norreen and Performance Pete. They both work for a mobile phone company called Marvellous Mobiles, selling plans to new customers and upgrading the deals of existing customers.

How Negative Norreen fails

Negative Norreen is used to rejection. But she thinks she understands the reason: Marvellous Mobile’s call rates are amongst the highest on the market. How can she possibly sell phone deals when her competitors undercut the price? Not only that, Marvellous Mobile’s is an internet company, so customers can’t even go into the store to talk to anyone.

Negative Norreen believes that she is not good at sales anyway. She reasons that she has never been as chatty and extraverted as she imagines a good sales person should be. She rarely makes the cold calls, and she doesn’t bother too much with the targets she is set. She knows she won’t make them, so she just does her job and goes home.

How Performance Pete succeeds

Performance Pete thinks everyone should get their phone from Marvellous Mobiles. Yes, the call rate is more expensive than its competitors, but it’s worth it, because Marvellous Mobiles has the best coverage and exclusive access to many of the latest handsets. There are no stores, but Marvellous Mobiles guarantees that when you call their help line you will talk directly to an actual person, not a computer. It’s innovative, he thinks, getting rid of the physical store and replacing it with a virtual one.

Performance Pete is excited about the product he sells, and this is passed onto the customer. He isn’t an outgoing person either, but he listens to customers. He works out what they want and sells them the best mobile for their needs. He doesn’t always make the sale, but it’s not a failure. The customer may buy in the future, he thinks, or they have their own reasons for not wanting a deal right now. Performance Pete thinks his targets are realistic, and is motivated to meet them. Although he finds cold calling challenging, he knows it does lead to sales.


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