In a long and varied career, I have spent a couple of decades in sales, sales training, sales management, and running my own businesses.
What Are Beliefs?
Holding negative or limiting beliefs can seriously hinder your sales career. This article details how beliefs work and how to switch them from negative to positive. A belief is something that you choose to believe is true. The key word to note here is "choose." Just because you or I or anyone else for that matter chooses to believe something doesn’t necessarily mean it is "true."
How Beliefs Work
Here is an example (spoiler alert: don’t let the kids read this). When we were children, we believed, to a lesser or greater degree, that adults (especially our parents) were all-knowing and had the answers to all our questions. This belief affected our behaviour; we constantly asked them questions and based our subsequent actions on their answers. (Q: Where do Christmas presents come from? A: Santa brings them for all good boys and girls. Ergo: Child thinks this is true so they had better behave.)
As we grow up, we realise that adults (or our parents) don’t really have all the answers and are not all-knowing. Often, the answers they give are simply a product of their beliefs (or an opinion). As we get older still, we start seek our answers in other ways by consulting books, the internet or our friends. We no longer believe our parents are all-knowing.
Did this new change in beliefs affect our behaviour? You bet! We started to challenge our parents on several levels and might no longer consult them for their opinion. This makes us more independent. This change in beliefs usually happens in that uncomfortable time of life called "the teenage years."
Beliefs change behaviour. Change the belief (it is irrelevant whether the belief is true) and you change the behaviour. Period.
How Beliefs Affect Your Work
So, for example, say you are a salesperson and you believe that you will never make Sales Person of the Year. This is a limiting belief that is hard-wired into your subconscious. Everything you do at a subconscious level will support that belief. In the end, it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy, and guess what? You won’t achieve Sales Person of the Year. Worse still, not hitting the goal just proves the belief is true and reinforces it. Negative and limiting beliefs are a big problem, and as s sales person (or any person), you can do without them.
How to Change Your Beliefs
So how do you change negative or limiting beliefs? There are zillions of different ways of doing this, but my favourite method is to acknowledge/break down/rebuild. Here’s how you do it.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Negative Beliefs
The first step is that you actually have to acknowledge that you have a negative belief. This is easier said than done—remember, these things are hard-wired into your subconscious. You may not be able to remember when the negative beliefs started to take hold (maybe it came from your parents, teachers or even an experience you had when you were young), but the key thing is to acknowledge that it is only what you believe and not necessarily the truth, and more importantly, that holding onto this belief is holding you back.
Step 2: Break Down Your Negative Beliefs
The second step is to break down the belief by asking yourself questions to start de-establishing it. These questions will help to start undermining and breaking down the negative belief. So, for example, if your belief is "you will never make Sales Person of the Year," you might start asking yourself questions like:
- If I have similar experience and the same training as the rest of the sales team, why can’t I beat them with a little extra effort?
- Could my negative belief be affecting the way I interact with my colleagues and, more importantly, customers? And could that be having a detrimental effect on my sales efforts?
To which you might answer something like:
- Yes, all things being equal, maybe the extra effort would give me an edge.
- Yes, it’s possible, and If I get rid of the negative belief, then maybe it’ll have a positive effect on my sales.
Asking questions like the above will weaken and destabilise a negative belief. In a way, the belief starts to doubt itself. If you ask enough of the right type of these questions, they will destroy it.
Step 3: Build Positive Beliefs
As you destroy an unempowering belief, you need to build a new empowering belief to take its place. You can build this better belief by asking good or empowering questions of yourself. Here are some examples of some empowering questions:
- What attributes do I currently possess that I can call on to give my sales efforts a boost?
- What are the upsides of really going for Salesperson of the Year?
Let’s look at these two questions in a little more detail and the answers they might produce.
With question one, you need to think out of the box to use the old cliché. What makes a salesperson a successful salesperson? Well, one of the key attributes of a great salesperson is people skills or communication skills.
Can you think of a time in your life/past occupations when people skills were a major part of your role? Have you led a team on a project in a previous occupation, a voluntary organisation or even at school or college? Have you been in a position to resolve conflict or successfully arbitrated between two or more parties? Have you worked a lot on the telephone in a past life? These are all examples of people skills. Start by listing your experiences in this area on a notepad.
What other attributes make a successful salesperson? Another might be tenacity or consistency. Can you think of a time when you have set yourself a goal and set about achieving it using these qualities? Maybe you are a Black Belt in karate. If so, didn’t you need to spend hours in the dojo (karate training hall) honing your skills until you finally achieved that goal? Isn’t that quality something that will help you toward your goal? Think about your experiences where your tenacity or consistency came to the fore, and again make a note of these.
When making notes, make them as detailed as possible, stating the time, place and the names of the people involved in any particular example. Review your lists; doesn’t this tell you that you have a lot of what it takes to be successful? What other attributes can you think of?
Question two seems a little weird at first; after all, the main upside of going for Sales Person of the Year would be actually winning it and the prize that goes with it. But apart from winning outright, there might be a lot of upsides just by going for it even if you don’t win. For example, making a plan to maximise your sales over the next few months will enhance your planning and prioritisation skills, which will put you in stronger position going forward and boost your confidence.
You will also be noticed by your boss and colleagues when you really go for it. This will help your future prospects. Even if you don’t reach your goal, by going for it, you will end up much closer to your goal than by not going for it and therefore make more sales and more bonus even without winning the main prize. All this will boost your confidence and skills as a salesperson, meaning that even if you don’t get Sales Person of the Year this time, you will have a much, much better chance next time. Basically, asking a question like this teaches you that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
These are just a couple of example questions, and I’m sure you can come up with your own more relevant questions. The whole point of these empowering questions is to start building a new positive belief to replace the old negative one.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius