Confucius observed, “He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” Learning and thinking are fundamentally linked. They need to be.
Let me state a working assumption, that is, people who choose to work in sales have been through a selection process to identify competencies and the individual has a realistic understanding of the sales role, responsibilities, and challenges. When starting a sales career, sales training plays a critical role. Development usually focuses on three key areas: technique, process, and product. Layered over these are marketing components that address networking, prospecting and promotion. Together they form the technical components of sales training. Once mastered, they only improve with practice and repetition.
Arguably, the technical learning described in the preceding paragraph is not difficult. Product knowledge may be the exception as the product can be complex. The topics have been studied and presented over many years. They have evolved and adapted but there have been few changes to the fundamental concepts of selling. Perhaps the last major change was the shift to needs based selling and the impact of a more informed consumer due to greater access to information on the Internet. So then has the art of selling been perfected?
Perhaps, although sadly it’s all for naught if you haven’t first tackled the way you think! In fact my experience suggests that how we think should be an “up-front” consideration. Very few individuals and companies are interested in talking about “how you think” training. That is too bad because it’s the “how you think” that fuels the sales (or any) process.
Before getting on the road to technical development, there are real advantages for individuals and their organizations if both appreciated the impact that effective thinking has on learning. Imagine an individual who is negative, pessimistic, lacks self-esteem, and procrastinates. Compare that person to a positive, self-starting optimist who is full of confidence and believes in himself or herself. How you think, or your mindset, sets the tone for what follows in your career. It sets the tone for how you learn, how you interact with peers, prospects and clients.
In the perfect world, we would only hire those with a positive and optimistic attitude. We attempt to avoid recruiting those with a negative mindset who don’t have a strong belief in self and who are not achievement oriented. In reality, we encounter individuals all along the spectrum. The good news is someone with a negative or neutral mindset can learn to be an effective thinker. In fact, even those with a positive mindset can find ways to improve.
If one consciously understands their personal thinking style, and is able to recognize such things as negative self-talk and counter-productive behaviors, they are well on the way to affecting their mindset. Similar to learning, practice and repetition will enable and adjust the thought process. In time, the conscious re-framing, positive self-talk, and awareness becomes the new mindset. I have actually met people who knew that the training (any training) wouldn’t work. You know what, they were right too! Remember it was Henry Ford who said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
The impact a positive mindset can have during the training event should not be underestimated. The outcome can be significant. The right kind of thinking permits an organization to better leverage its training investment – and ultimately the individual benefits from increased likelihood of personal success.
This positive mindset is not just for the participants. The leadership of the organization must, yes must, employ a positive, success mindset toward the training and the outcomes it can deliver. I’ve seen companies invest, thousands, even millions of dollars in a training initiative only to have it fall to failure because top leadership didn’t really believe in the process. They couldn’t see that the training would create better results once the learning was implemented.
The Four Keys to success for a person in sales (and we’re all in sales):
- STRONG GOAL CLARITY – You gotta have goals!
- HIGH ACHIEVEMENT DRIVE – You gotta believe that your goals are attainable. This acts as a multiplier to success!
- HEALTHY EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE – Understand how your behavior, driven by your beliefs, impacts the environment.
- EXCELLENT SOCIAL SKILLS – Understand how to recognize other behavior styles and how to adapt and flex your style for rapport and influence.
I’ll close with a last thought on mindset from Confucius:
The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.