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Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Sales Efforts?

SCENARIO: A experienced and highly successful sales professional is told to sell a product that he believes is inferior to the competition. He's a very positive person, with a strong family life, and was drawn to sales because he likes helping people.

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The correct answer is: No. He will frequently fail to close opportunities.
Here's why.

If you don't believe in what you sell and how you sell it -- that both are truly useful and really helping people out -- you're probably self-sabotaging yourself. Every sales professional has three key beliefs that must be aligned in order to be successful. They are:

  1. What are my basic values about people and life?
  2. What do I think selling is all about?
  3. Do I believe in the product or service that I'm selling?
If you're going to be successful, these five beliefs must all be congruent.

If they're not, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to perform even the basic mechanics of selling, because the sales pro is constantly waging an internal battle with himself or herself. Worse, most customers can easily tell when a salesperson is conflicted and, sensing something is wrong, become far less likely to buy.

For example, a sales pro who believe that "the most important thing in life is helping others" will subtly avoid closing business if they also hold the belief that selling means "convincing people to buy something they don't need."

Unfortunately, many organizations have sales cultures that create incongruity between core beliefs. For example, imagine a car dealership where the entire emphasis is on closing a deal quickly rather than, say, making a customer happy. The salesperson most likely to prosper in that environment would be one who basically doesn't care must about customer satisfaction.

Many salespeople working in that environment are likely to be not congruent and thus ineffective. Furthermore, salespeople who deeply feel the difference between their own personal values and the values of the organizational culture are likely to succumb to a variety of stress-related illnesses, including alcoholism, drug usage, and depression.

Not surprisingly, organizations that encourage high pressure sales tactics often have high turnover rates - another major productivity killer.

In order to become truly successful, you need to explicitly articulate those five core beliefs and then modify any beliefs that are not congruent. For example:

  1. What are my basic values about people and life? I believe that people are basically good and life should be enjoyed.
  2. What do I think selling is all about? I believe that selling is helping other people to become more successful and therefore happier.
  3. Do I believe in the product or service that I'm selling? I believes that the equipment I am selling is second-rate and a bad choice for most customers.
A sales pro with that belief set will self-sabotage and be miserable, because he'll always feel like there's a disconnect between what he believes and what he's doing. To be successful, this sales pro will probably need to find a different product to sell, or become convinced (through training, perhaps?) that the product being sold is first-rate and useful to customers.

If you're going to be successful in sales, you must answer all three of those questions and confirm that your answers hang together. If your beliefs aren't congruent, you probably won't be happy or successful until you make some fairly major changes in your life or career.

The above is based on a conversation with Ron Willingham author of Integrity Selling for the 21st Century.