In my opinion, most human beings think too much. This can really get in the way of sales success.

Now don’t get me wrong, I read as much or more than most people I know; I like to discuss world events and philosophy; heck, I even wrote a book – all of which required a lot of thinking. So maybe I should clarify my counter-intuitive introductory statement.

I have noticed that the human mind can be used a lot of different ways. When someone has a lot of intellectual curiosity AND a strong sense of self-confidence, then they are interested in the world, like to try new things, and explore new ideas.

However, I have also noticed that any level of intellectual horsepower coupled with low self-confidence can translate into rationalizations and excuse making – the kind that get in the way of clearly seeing what is right in front of a persons nose.

This is where thinking can get in the way of sales – or any other kind of success.

Now I am not a psychologist, but I have observed that when people lack self-confidence, they don’t like to be wrong. Being wrong challenges their weak sense of self, which feels bad and is avoided at all costs. This avoidance is usually not noticed by the avoider. It is a defense mechanism. It feels a lot more like just being smart and expressing it, offering opinions, justifying positions or actions, challenging the status quo, etc., etc., etc. Very few people recognize this in themselves, and if they do, they do so unconsciously and loathe to admit it – even – especially – to themselves. It just comes out in a general lack of effectiveness.

In conversations that include this negative dynamic, things are not really discussed interactively, they are debated adversarially. Those engaging in conversation from an insecure position of self-confidence dig into what they know, and defend their position. Little if any learning takes place at all.

By contrast, people with high intellectual curiosity AND high self-confidence take the opportunity of a conversation with a smart, well-informed person to try to learn. This effort to learn requires an admission that they may know less about the subject than their conversation partner – an act – as I have observed – that requires high self-confidence coupled with intellectual curiosity – both are required – the self-confidence has to be there, or the learning won’t be allowed past the gates of low self-esteem protecting combativeness.

So how does this relate to sales? You may think that I am heading in the direction of needs analysis and client communications – but you would be wrong (sorry – hope I have not hurt you with that). It does apply there (feel any better?) – obviously the paragraph above sets the stage for a productive dialogue with a prospect that leads to a good exploration of business issues and sales solutions, but let’s look at a different idea. Where this dynamic will really hurt your selling efforts is far before you have an opportunity for a needs analysis conversation with a prospect in the first place.

The core activities required to be successful in sales are generally not hard to do. It is hard to be successful, but the stuff you actually have to do is not hard. So why aren’t more people successful? Simply put, they don’t do the things they know that they are supposed to be doing, for example:

– Prospecting
– Asking hard questions while qualifying
– Asking hard questions in needs analysis
– Handling objections
– Asking about money

…and stuff like that.

How does this relate to the first half of the post? The first half of the post answers the question of WHY salespeople who know they are supposed to do these basic sales tasks don’t do them. It is why sales training alone doesn’t usually work. Most salespeople know what they are supposed to do, they don’t do those things for reasons other than lack of skills (see above and below).

Asking hard questions opens an opportunity to be rejected. For our salesperson of ANY intellectual capacity AND low self-confidence, this is not OK. So whatever intellectual capacity exists, it is used for excuse making and rationalization to avoid the possibility of these potentially negative interactions. Mental horsepower – A.K.A. thinking – is used to consciously come up with great reasons for not doing what needs to be done, thus avoiding the unconscious insecurity that lurks below.  The act of coming up with these reasons and rationalizations sometimes takes place with a sales manager, or a coach, or sometimes it is an “internal conversation”.  Either way, the result is the same.

All salespeople know that they need to prospect. Whether it is cold calling to new prospects or probing for business in a huge account (new business needs to be generated there too, and proactively approaching it will yield better results than passively waiting – so why do sales people just wait?). The same ideas apply to the other items on the list (hard questions, asking about money, etc.)

Using the capacity to think in order to make excuses and rationalizations about why these things are not necessary is a sales pipeline killer. You may often hear (or say to yourself) things like “yeah, that doesn’t work in this industry”, or “I have to treat this prospect with kid gloves, because…..”, or “I’m too busy with my current clients to find 30 minutes a week for proactive prospecting”.

These excuses all seem valid. Your thinking mind is good at coming up with valid sounding reasons for not doing what it is that you know you need to be doing in order to succeed.

But be honest with yourself, and recognize that if you are using your thinking mind in this way, your thinking mind is not helping you be a better salesperson, in fact – quite the opposite.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David