PLO Lumumba: “Third World is a state of the mind and until we change our attitude as Africans, if there is a fourth, fifth and even sixth world, we will be in it.”A lot has been said about attitude, but for the salesperson, enough never will be. Unchecked, sadly, the salesperson’s attitude is more likely to see him sink into the sixth world of his profession than raise him to the first. The dictionary defines attitude thus: a settled way of thinking or feeling, typically reflected in a person’s behaviour.
The operative words here are thinking and feeling which are internal and result in behaviour. Thinking and feeling, and therefore attitude, are a choice. If behaviour were a natural spring, attitude would determine how powerfully the water would eject from the ground and for how long. The weaker the power within, the weaker the flow without.
The skill of prospecting, interviewing, demonstrating, validating, negotiating and closing can be taught. It is all for naught though if the thinking and feeling towards the lessons are negative.
For instance, if the thinking and feeling of the salesperson towards prospecting is that it is difficult work or beneath him, then the behaviour that will result is an erratic effort at prospecting at best, and no effort at worst.
If, on the other hand, the thinking and feeling towards prospecting is that it is exciting and stimulating, then the stream that will spring forth will be a powerful one; the salesperson will go at prospecting with full gusto. Sounds simplistic? Well, it really is as simple as that.
Behaviour does not lie
But in that simplicity lays a complex web of thought and feeling. Complex because human beings rarely share the truth about what they are thinking and feeling.
They are the only ones who know when they are lying to themselves. Thankfully though, the behaviour does not lie.
The supervisor sees the quality of reports rapidly diminishing; the prospective buyer sees the indifference in the salesperson’s presentation; the client notices the lack of interest in the email response to his complaint; and so on and so forth. On the other end of the attitude spectrum, however, the salesperson avidly seeks appointments; prospects cannot help telling him how engaging he is and clients are happy to refer prospects to him because of his demeanour. This salesperson has an empowering attitude.
One of the most successful salespeople in the insurance industry in Kenya aggressively competed for the bottom three position in his company rankings for three years.
By some weird twist of fate, his supervisor’s death made something in him snap. He became like a caged wild animal unleashed.
Today, he effortlessly perambulates among the top two in the industry. What changed? He can’t put a finger on it he says, but suddenly his thinking towards selling changed.
Look around you-you know salespeople who changed their own fortunes for the better and everyone around them was left impressed yet lost at the cause of the sudden change. What happened? Prospective buyers didn’t suddenly sign up with no objections; they didn’t suddenly start to buy with reckless abandon; calling rates didn’t become cheaper; the supervisor didn’t start giving him accounts. Nothing at all changed externally-it all happened internally; he turned his thinking and feeling towards selling for the better, and the natural spring sprung forth a powerful geyser.
Admittedly, thinking and feeling are not as reflexive as breathing. They fluctuate. Unlike breathing, however, which he doesn’t think about, the progressive salesperson keeps aware of his thoughts and feelings, and therefore attitude, towards selling.
When they are negative (disempowering) he arrests them on time before they rapidly spring forth behaviour much akin to a cesspool.
Mind your attitude- Your attitude will make you succeed or fail
Your attitude will either empower or poison you. This is true in life as it is in sales. Your attitude will enable you move forward into progress or backward into oblivion.
There are no half measures with attitude; only polar opposites. You are either having a positive (empowering) attitude or a negative (disempowering) one.
Your behaviour is a sure indicator of your attitude. Just as one cannot see the raging forces beneath the earth that manifest on its surface as a hot spring, so too one cannot see what is going on in your mind but can tell from your exertions, exploits and executions or idleness, inertia and indolence.
Whereas a desk job is structured in a way that work comes to it, selling requires that you go look for the work. It means you diligently prospect, be empathetic in your interviewing, genuine in your demonstration, reasonable in your validation, honest in your negotiations, wise in your closing and while doing all this, remain enthusiastic through the entire experience.
All these are emotional rides wholly determinant on your “settled way of thinking or feeling”. Success or failure in selling hinges on these emotions and how you manifest them in a world fraught with debilitating triggers (like rejection and pressure) for having a negative attitude.
Good products and services may attract buyers to you but what will repel them is your negative attitude. It’s an open secret that we buy from the people we like, which many times over shadows buying the best product that could be available at the marketplace.
You like your barber or hairdresser and his or her work. This does not necessarily mean he is the best. News is news yet TV stations go to great lengths to choose who delivers it to you. If news alone was enough, would you continue watching it if the anchor was grumpy or indifferent about it? I know I wouldn’t. I doubt you would.
Ebola is highly contagious and kills quickly. Your attitude is equally contagious and will (professionally) kill you just as fast. Negative energy (attitude) is an emotional drain to you and those around you (colleagues and buyers).
Misery loves company and you will want to infect others. You see even a genuine compliment from the negative perspective. “You’ve increased your prospecting rate.” To which you respond, “No, It just looks that way, but they are not buying. Something must be wrong with me.” Your favourite word is ‘but’. As such prospective buyers and colleagues take precautions to avoid injection.
Just as with Ebola, they avoid you. Not only do you lose your support structure (colleagues), you also lose the sale.
If not arrested in time, just as with Ebola, death in sales is painful, swift and almost guaranteed.
You must be feeling pretty low by now with all the negativity shared so far, huh? That’s the debilitating power of a negative attitude.
Attitude is so powerful, it’s the engine that runs organizations. An organizations culture is its attitude.
Edgar Schein, one of the most prominent theorists of organisational culture, defines it as, “A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”
And as experts have said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. An organization’s strategy is propelled by its culture.
Further, 94% of all Forbes 500 executives (as reported in the Cox Report on American Business,) attribute their success more to attitude than to any other ingredient. Not surprising therefore, the importance of an empowering organizational culture to the success of business cannot be gainsaid; yet, what is organizational culture if not the accumulation of individual beliefs and attitudes which comparatively pass unnoticed?
Did you know that employers hire on skills but fire on attitude? Think about it. When hiring, the CV is king. What skills does this employee have? Yet these are the common reasons why we terminate employees: misbehavior or rudeness toward clients or customers; drunkenness or substance abuse on the job; theft of company property; frequent and unexplained absences from work; entering false information on records; gross insubordination; incompetence or failure to respond to training; fighting or other physical aggression; sexual harassment; verbal abuse; using company property for personal business and on and on. How many of these have to do with job skills or knowledge? Few, if any. And how many are attitude and behaviour related? Almost all.
Mercifully, your “settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something” is not a curse you are stuck with from birth only healable by a miracle. No. It is a choice you make.
Easier said than done? Yes. We are human and we will always have our highs and lows.
What to do then especially for sellers who cannot afford sabotaging themselves with a poisonous attitude? Snap of it by taking stimulating action the moment you feel it or it’s pointed out to you.
Diligently make the phone calls, decisively complete the proposal, enthusiastically call up your clients to ask for referrals, or readily join the upbeat colleague and get infected with positive energy. Just take action against a negative attitude. Snap out of it. Or it will kill you.
Kageche is the lead facilitator, Lend Me Your Ears- a sales training firm; Email:lendmeyourears@consultant. com; www.lendmeyourears.co.ke