I’ve seen this time and time again. The best sales people use it to achieve the impossible, but are also limited by it. The worst sales people never get going in the first place because they can never shake it, and we all suffer from the same thing.

The trick, the biggest thing you can do to win, to drive yourself forward, beyond where you otherwise might never have dreamed you’d get to, is the ability to control this power. The ability to manipulate it to your own ends, rather than find yourself at the mercy of it. One minute flying above your colleagues and competitors as you grow and thrive in the sales and business arena, the next stumbling to a halt as you find your limit and find yourself unable to push through it.

I know very few sales people who have ever achieved control of it. But all that have, are the biggest and the best. Most sales people achieve to the level that IT LETS THEM, rather than the level they’d like to

Your perception of reality is your reality 

I’m talking about your view of the universe. The way you see things. What you believe about the way things are, and the things you can do. It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t make this observation for themselves, it seems so straight forward when you think about it in these terms. Examples? Sales people who can sell a product that has so far been immovable once the price has dropped. An alien category of client that when one person breaks into it, everyone breaks into it. A product line no one considered stocking becoming the de rigueur for your market when it’s finally been introduced.

The fact the sales person thinks the product is now ‘cheap’ or good value, allows them to communicate that to the client. A business that trades in a market or category that up to now had been considered a dead loss is reinvigorated by someone winning there. Based on our judgment experience, what we observe and have observed, we make these judgements all the time. And we do our best to advise our clients of our findings and our recommendations.

‘Fred’ we might say, ‘This is the cheapest you’ll ever be able to buy this product, you must buy it now!’ And the client believes us. Because we believe us.

Buyers only buy when buyers believe 

It is our sincerity and enthusiasm for a product or service that often sells it. Buyers don’t necessarily believe themselves, in what you are selling them. But they certainly believe that YOU believe. And that is a great strength for a sales person, the ability to believe and communicate that belief to the client.

But what happens if you don’t believe? And how do you know you are right in the first place? This is why I am aways cautious around sales people who say that they have to believe in a product or company before they can sell it. They are of course correct. But what happens to me, the employer, if they start to fall out of love with the company? We all do at times. Or they find our credit terms difficult to accept personally, or they don’t like someone involved in the sales process, on the selling side? Where do they go then?

The ability to communicate your belief in the suitability of a solution, the correct fit of a product or the inherent value of your proposition is one of your greatest strengths, if not your outright greatest strength.

But the limitations you place on yourself because of this quality you possess are your greatest weakness.

The self-fulfilling sales prophecy

If you feel that times are hard – they are. If you think the product is expensive – it is. If you think your credit terms are holding back your ability to trade – they do. Get my drift? Whatever you perceive to be the case IS the case.

If you think you won’t ever exceed that certain revenue level you won’t. if you think your rates are too high they are. If you think you can’t get your rates up, you won’t.

Thats bad enough right? But potentially the most damaging expression of this strength / weakness conundrum is when its applied to the client themselves.

Just who exactly, do you think you are? 

This condition plays to your strengths when you consider, knowing all that you know, using your professional judgement and experience, what is the right product or service to offer your client. Your absolute certainty that you are offering the best thing for them shines through and takes the client from unawareness of your product through awareness, trial, adoption and even as far as to become an evangelist for your product.

But what about when YOU decide it’s NOT right for them? Or you decide they can’t afford it. Or you decide they won’t like the way its been priced? Or you decide that it doesn’t fit with the rest of the portfolio you know they own?

Where do you draw the line in terms of making your mind up on the client’s behalf? Especially when It prevents you from making a sale, and more importantly, prevents your client from having at least the opportunity to fully consider your offering in the round?

I am a sales person, and I allow my perception of reality, to be my reality

So what do we do about it? Sign up to ‘reality – a – holics’ anonymous? Or maybe forget everything we know? Undermine our own confidence, our own beliefs? Clearly not. As we have discussed, these attributes are amongst your greatest strengths, if not your greatest strength. We can’t afford to do anything that reduces the effectiveness of this as part of your overall set of sales skills.

However, we cannot continue to hamstring ourselves by talking ourselves out of opportunity.

Question your view on everything. Ask yourself, how do I know that this is the case? What evidence do I have to support my theory? Look around, who else is under the same ‘illusions’ you are. And why are they under the same illusions? Where are you getting your intelligence from?

Run your perceptions by some one else, someone you trust. Get a sense check. Ask for feedback on your thought process. Above all NEVER assume anything. Gather as much data as you can ALL THE TIME. Don’t stop leaning when you feel like you are at the top of your game and you know everything!

Thats probably exactly the time to double-check your self.

I always get bored when I feel like I have stopped learning. Its my biggest fear in my job, and in the service I provide my clients. The fear I’ll get stale, stop learning, stop being amazed by the things that happen all around me everyday. As soon as I lose that sensation that I am trying to catch up, that I need to find out how things work in order to win, I always worry I’ll be lost.

Here is a thought experiment for you to try

Whatever you think, think the opposite. See this in action for yourself to cure this problem. Convince yourself a high rate is low, and then work on your client to convince them of the same thing. Take a product to a client that you positively know isn’t the right thing for them, but make out it is, as you normally would. Ask for double the money you normally would, on the tightest credit terms you can.

Not only will you grow as a sales person, you will learn some things along the way too. I would go so far as to say, if you don’t do this, you’ll never grow as a sales person.

What do you think? Is there something in this? Let me know by leaving a comment in the box below or on the Facebook page as normal.

  1. Aga
    Aga says:

    Hi Tony, Great article – I feel I need more about it and I feel also: Please stop! I have been through many similar topics starting from self-help books (I mean how to imrpove yourself) through the Universum, eastern philosophies, effectivness, affirmations, meditations, concentration. It great stuff all this and it helped me to get where I am. I still learn, I am still in to this stuff but I also learned to trust my senses – they never let me down. I dropped all ilusions about myself and life (I dont read and believe any adverts, diet plans and books like “find your love life” and anything like this (I dont want to call it crap as this could be an offense to those who still believe in it). I believe in saying: “you are who you think you are” but in terms that you use your potential, know yourself better than what other people think about you and work on improving in yourself what you think is to be improved. But dont create this false image of yourself and live by illusion of what you thinnk you are… or by false complements people sometimes say about you.
    Learn, learn, learn. Work, work, work.
    Its more about sale your blog but life is a sale. If you learn more about yourself you learn more about people, prospective clients, you learn listening, diagnosing, building people’s profiles and finding out their needs. This is only one little step to be a great sale person.
    (I would talk about it for ages but I need to go and sale couple of products -I mean services:)))

  2. gristpresent
    gristpresent says:

    Tony, came to your stuff via Paul Fairburn.
    I like what I see.
    Your piece above is (in part)about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I don’t know how familiar you are with CBT? CBT essentially says that what we think is the truth, and if we tell ourselves to think a certain way that is then the truth. (I’m not cultish about this – just read some stuff I found useful)

    We work on big bids and have always built into the process a section where we concentrate on our strengths as a team. It is our observation that people usually don’t find time for this. The consequence is that they forget what they’re good at and focus on the weaknesses of their offer. When they walk into the room to sell the negatives are very available to them, and the positives are not.
    We try to turn this round, diminish the negatives – by thinking them through – and bring the positives to the fore.
    As you say above, if you think you can do a great job, you can do a great job.

    Just my 2p worth.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Bill, great comment! and some valuable insight

      I am quite interested in armchair psychology, so am aware of the basis of my thinking in this area, but its nice to see it translating so well! In some senses its the most important aspect of what a sales manager would do, and the example you give is great for that

      thanks again, and welcome to CFSA, look forward to talking to you again soon

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