Psychology Of The Sales Professional
One’s attitude has a lot more to do with the level of her/his success than one’s aptitude, ability, IQ, education or other factors do. I’d like to get into the details of a salesperson’s psychology so that, when it comes to building your team and individual team members, you are equipped with the knowledge of what’s really going on in there. As a holder of a management or other sort of leadership position, you may have already experienced being a salesperson yourself. However, it never hurts to review and be reminded of what it’s like to “carry the bag.” I also want to emphasize the mental game because so many companies focus on external things, like product knowledge, licensing, etc. And while these things are all important, companies that focus on such externalities often neglect the cultivation of their salespeople’s proper mindset.
I’ve always found this selling mentality ironic, because it’s what’s going on in the inside that will most dramatically affect sales. A direct relationship exists between self-image and sales performance. If you don’t already, try to get a handle on how your reps perceive themselves. What kind of self-talk plays in their brains all day long? You and your team will never experience exponential success if it is not something they can mentally conceive of first. And the major precursor to vivid envisioning of success in the workplace is vivid envisioning of success in oneself and one’s abilities.
How can you, as a sales manager, cultivate healthy, solid self-confidence and self-belief? One of the easiest ways to do so is to offer sincere praise. Ra1ph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moments.” There is no need to fear that you will create an egomaniac by giving someone simple but honest praise and appreciation for good, hard work. Often, it is more effective to praise the specific act rather than the person. This way, your praise is attached to something distinct and concrete. Praise is harder to be interpreted as flattery or favoritism when there is a specific and concrete thing being praised. General compliments may produce a temporary effect, but they can incite jealousy in others and create even more insecurity in the recipient if the specific activity that merited the compliment remains unknown. Then there is a new pressure to live up to this higher standard, even though the praised individual is not sure how s/he set it. Even more insecurity is bred if the praised individual fears you will retract your praise. That’s because in not knowing concretely how s/he earned it, s/he doesn’t know how to keep it.
One single person feeling this kind of anxiety or insecurity can really cause your entire teambuilding effort to backfire. Have you ever witnessed (or experienced) coworkers who huddled together to complain after a “pep rally” with the boss? Instead of feeling inspired and motivated, all they could do was gripe. Unfortunately, it only takes one person’s bad attitude to drag down the rest. We know that when a specific behavior is praised, that behavior will increase. At a small college in Virginia, 24 students in a psychology course decided to see whether they could use compliments to change the way women on campus dressed. For a while, they complimented all the female students who were wearing blue. The percentage of the female student population wearing blue then rose from 25 percent to 38 percent. The researchers then switched to complimenting any woman who wore red. This shift in the color being praised caused the appearance of red on campus to double from 11 percent to 22 percent. Praise is a simple but often overlooked concept.
If you want to use this technique to your best advantage, be sure you give honest and sincere praise. Closely related to praise is acceptance. We all long for acceptance. We want to feel like our actions and contributions help an effort or cause. We all want to be noticed by others. We also all want to be someone of significance who is held in high regard. Knowledge of this common craving from acceptance can help you motivate your team. If you can make them feel that their help is appreciated, that they are personally accepted and that their contributions are essential, they will be more inspired to perform. When your team members feel accepted unconditionally, with no strings attached, their doubts, fears and inadequacies will go out the window. One way to make your team feel accepted is to offer them genuine thanks.
Seek to make a conscientious and deliberate effort to thank people in all aspects of your professional life. Don’t assume your team members know you care about and appreciate them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a paycheck is thanks enough. One of the main reasons why people are dissatisfied with their sales job is because they are never thanked or given any recognition for their efforts. Often, individuals increase their feelings of acceptance by building their association with certain people, places or things. This sense of identification has been referred to as the Social Identity Theory. For example, a sports fan may enhance his sense of belonging by plastering his walls with his favorite team’s sports paraphernalia. Even though no one on that team has any clue who he is, he feels better about himself anyway, just because of the association and identity he has created for himself with that team. Are there ways in which you can use the Social Identity Theory to your advantage? Think of ways to create strong team association.
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