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The impact of a negative outlook on salespeople

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 11/29/16 3:57 PM

A few weeks ago I wrote about one of our clients whose sales manager who still sold and would take opportunities from him. He was a generally toxic manager that was a burden to work with.

On a previous coaching call when our client, let’s call him Ralph, shared that he wasn’t enjoying what he was doing and wasn’t seeing results, maybe he should leave and find someplace else? I responded that yes- your manager sucks. Your leadership hasn’t done anything about it yet. But none of that changes the fact that your results are your results- you have to own it. It’s not your manager’s fault, your company’s pricing, product or process’ fault, and it’s not the buyer’s fault. And then we dug into some of the opportunities he was working on.

The next day, Ralph’s manager was fired. My reaction was “awesome!”- not that I take joy in anyone getting fired, but this meant now there was nothing standing in Ralph’s way. There is no excuse now. Now that the bad manager was fired- (kudos Mr. CEO) his results were all on him.

Ralph had a mixed reaction. Part of him was glad, as I was, but another part of him felt threatened after the company call where the CEO explained that next quarter the board was looking to the team to “get it done”.

When I heard that, I wondered why Ralph took it that way. Seemed like a very negative reaction. When I looked at Ralph’s OMG evaluation I realized my hunch was right. Ralph did not have a positive outlook. When he heard his CEO say they were expecting results, his bad outlook might have been whispering; “Uh-oh. If you don’t get it done, you’re next. It hasn’t worked to this point, what makes you think next quarter will be any different?”

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How do you know if you have a positive or negative outlook? Like with Ralph, this is something that can be evaluated objectively-I only gave you just one example of how it might manifest. Here are a few more...

7 ways that a negative outlook impacts salespeople.

  1. Enjoyment of selling. Ralph just the day before was contemplating leaving the company because he wasn’t enjoying it. His bad outlook only focused on what wasn’t working and didn’t allow him to get joy from the successes he was having.
  2. Posturing. A bad outlook will prevent you from clearly and simply positioning your products- possibly because you don’t believe they will buy, or need your solution.
  3. Bravery. When things get tough, your bad outlook grabs a life jacket and jumps ship. Your ability to take risks, try new things, grow outside your comfort zone…. All thwarted by a bad outlook.
  4. Rejection. Whenever anything bad happens, it feeds the bad outlook. Because rejection is bad, you have a harder time getting over it and are less inclined to prospect for new people and opportunities because you want to avoid that bad feeling.
  5. Emotional control. When things don’t go well, you get frustrated. When your outlook is bad and you are frustrated, you feel trapped. When you feel trapped, emotions run high. When you don’t control your emotions, you aren’t able to listen actively to buyers (the emotional voice in your head is too loud to break through). When you don’t actively listen, you miss opportunities to ask relevant questions that uncover buyer issues and motivations to change the status quo.
  6. Resilience. According to neuroscience, positive thinking activates the parts of our brain called the rostral anterior cingulated cortex (RACC) and the amygdala. When activated, this helps us downplay negative emotional responses and drives us to go after higher stakes goals. As Anthony Iannario wrote in his recent book The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need  "Optimimism gives you the power to persist."
  7. Meaningful goals. It is going to be difficult to uncover your why with a bad outlook. Setting goals that are bigger than your quota is going to require some positive thinking and beliefs. If you don't believe that the future has opportunities, you won't hope for much. Why bother? It's never going to happen anyway, not for you...right?

Let’s face it, as human beings our behaviors are goal oriented, and when challenges, obstacles, and frustrations prevent us from reaching our goal- our natural reaction is negative. According to psychology, our brains respond to negative things quicker and more strongly than positive ones because we are wired for survival. It’s not realistic that we are optimistic all the time about everything, in fact it’s not healthy. But because we tend to the negative more easily than the positive, the right balance is going to take some conscious effort and self discipline.

What can we do about it?

Your attitude is a decision you consciously make. You decide how you look at life. You decide how to react to your circumstance or events. For more on how to develop and maintain a positive outlook, read this article.

What other things are happening in your head that could be preventing you from getting the sales results you need and want? What questions should you be asking yourself to know if you need and would benefit from help?

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Topics: sales mindsets