Do You Believe For Success?

Last Updated May 29, 2007 7:57 AM EDT

Yes, "for success" not "in success." If you're like most people, you've accidentally scooped up beliefs that are making you less effective as a sales pro. These beliefs are the arbitrary rules that you use to interpret the meaning of events. Often such beliefs can seem to be "true" even though they're only creations of your imagination. Change those beliefs and you will change your destiny.

I once had a colleague who believed that if he made ten cold-calls without a sale, it meant he was not going to make any sales for the rest of the day. When he first started in sales, he had "good days" and "bad days" and on the good days he had always made a sale in the first few calls. Because of this, he was absolutely convinced that could tell whether he was "on a roll" or "in the dumps" based upon what happened during the first ten cold calls.

The problem with his belief was that it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. The "first ten" was actually the "first five" because as he approached the ten call threshold, he became apprehensive, wondering he was going to have a bad day. As his fear grew, he'd trip up and miss customer cues. By the time he reached the tenth cold call, his enthusiasm, already ebbing, went down the toilet. He would still dutifully make additional cold calls, but was now completely ineffective.

More importantly, he had provided himself with further "proof" that his belief was correct! Weirdly, he would sometimes make sales even on days when he had been jinxed by the ten bad calls. But because those events conflicted with his belief, he simply discounted them as "blind luck." He was constantly filtering out "data" that didn't support his belief and accepting "data" that did.

What was happening with my colleague, though common, was also rather complex. He was trapped in a "cycle" that was constantly making him less effective:

  • His belief generated an ineffective, hangdog attitude.
  • His attitude generated the emotions of fear and apprehension.
  • His emotions generated an ineffective performance.
  • His performance generated lousy results.
  • His results reinforced his belief, completing the cycle.
My colleague could have broken the cycle by deciding to adopt a different belief. If he had decided to believe, for example, that "every cold call is a fresh opportunity" he would have become a far more effective sales pro.

However, that would have required him to admit to himself that his dearly-held and constantly-confirmed belief was irrational, which he was not willing to do. He would have had to take a "leap of faith" and adopt the new belief, even though it was contrary to his own experience of reality (or, more precisely, his own interpretation of reality.) Instead, when exposed to the irrationality of his belief, he became even more stubbornly attached to it. Not surprisingly, eventually left the sales profession.

How, then, to break free of the cycle? The trick is attack multiple links in the chain.

  1. Identify a problem belief. Write down the beliefs that you have about sales and your ability to sell. Look for a belief that (while it may seem true right now) appears to be making you less effective.
  2. Create a replacement belief. Write down a belief that you think will produce better results (even if you think that belief is irrational based upon your prior experience.)
  3. Change your attitude. Force yourself to have a positive attitude, even if your old beliefs are telling you that you're going to fail. Act as if the new belief were true, even if your old belief still tugs at you.
  4. Modify your emotions. Notice how your emotions change when you adopt a positive attitude. Repeat the new belief frequently, like a mantra. Watch what happens to the way you feel.
  5. Monitor your performance. Make your cold calls (or whatever) while you're actively doing steps two through four. Notice how your performance changes or improves.
  6. Monitor your results. As your performance improves (and it will), notice that you're getting better results. Use your observations of the better results to reinforce the new belief.
To get you started, here are some common ineffective beliefs, along with more powerful alternatives:
Ineffective: I'm fighting against incredible odds.
Effective: Adversity makes me stronger.

Ineffective: Hostile people make me miserable.
Effective: Hostile people are highly amusing.

Ineffective: All criticism should be constructive.
Effective: Negative feedback hones my edges.

Ineffective: I'm so stressed I can barely stand it.
Effective: I excel under pressure and thrive on anxiety.

Ineffective: The business climate is difficult for sales.
Effective: I always fly above the storm.

Ineffective: Failures are the road to loser-town.
Effective: Failures are the stepping stones to success.

Ineffective: I lost because I didn't really deserve to win.
Effective: I totally deserve success and thus will eventually achieve it.

Most of the above, by the way, comes from a long conversation I had with sales uber-guru Art Mortell. To paraphrase him: master your beliefs about sales and you'll change the destiny of your sales career. But if you cling to the beliefs that make you second rate, you'll never reach to top of your profession. It's really that simple.