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Strengthen Your Sales ABs 

By Donna L. Cohen

Given the demands of today’s light-speed business world, sales professionals are increasingly required to come into the ring with a new set of skills— and a whole lot more. Winning in sales means a commitment to linking attitude, behavior and skills to forge an invincible circle of success.

If you were a boxer, you might have an awesome right hook, but without conditioning your body and your mind for the fight, you are not champion material. Preparing for a fight requires sparring and taking punches, getting your mindset in the right place, and feeling the pain yet persevering. If you could think like a prize boxer when you’re preparing to make a sale, your attitude would be focused. You’d have a solid game plan for what was likely to happen, but you’d still be ready for the unexpected…and prepared to excel in any situation.

Here are some tips for finding the right combination of attitude, behavior and skills to help you excel during the next round of sales calls.

‘A’ is for Attitude: Flex Your Attitude: Having the conditioning of a boxer, you would be able to concentrate your efforts on qualifying a prospect rather than “closing.” You could focus on adding value to the prospect’s business rather than making the sale. You could easily walk away from a non-qualifying prospect because you knew that, with the right prospect, your selling skills were invincible. It starts with attitude.

Here’s an example. At one point in my business I had to face the fact that if I wanted to move to the next level, I needed multimillion-dollar clients. However, years before, I had reported directly to the president of a $350 million company whose management philosophy was “management through intimidation and humiliation.” As a result, my experiences under his leadership led me to conclude that all CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies used intimidation and humiliation. So I chose to work only with small companies. I definitely needed an attitude adjustment.

Here is what I learned: we may be perfectly comfortable selling at one level and believe we are highly successful, when in reality we are terrified of moving out of our comfort zone because of a misperception about our abilities to sell and achieve at a higher level. Whenever you find fear arising from subconsciously negative perceptions, the trick is to focus instead on your past and present strengths.

Self-doubt is created in that part of the mind that holds negative beliefs we have about ourselves and others. Some of the negative thought patterns that plague salespeople are: I’m not creative, I can’t sell at the ‘C’ level (CEO, CFO, etc.), I’ll be rejected, I’ll look and sound stupid, my prices aren’t low enough, the competition has a better product, and so on. Such thoughts arise from a variety of experiences and situations, but whatever the underlying belief, negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fear, self-doubt and worry steal valuable time and energy from our commitment to providing value to our customers. If you feed your subconscious the belief, “I can’t call at the C level,” then you can’t. If you feed your subconscious the belief, “I have value,” then you do.

Always sell from a position of strength. You are either a fit or not, but either way is fine. Develop an attitude that you are capable, you know what you’re doing, and you have something valuable to offer, so whatever non-qualifying prospects may think is irrelevant to your mindset.

When you find yourself in situations where you feel out of control, take the time to find out why. It helps to keep a daily log of your attitudes, tracking and recording your past behaviors and activities. Setting meaningful goals will help you face the future with self-confidence.

‘B’ is for Behavior: Pump up Your Behavior: Sometimes simply changing your behavior does the trick. There are times we don’t take action if we only perceive an either/or choice—either I do it this way or I do it that way. It might be helpful to explore a third option. Your attitude becomes more confident when you allow yourself to pick among three options versus limiting yourself to only two.

For instance, a sales person sold software subscriptions to businesses to help them comply with tariff tax laws. This individual believed that attorneys (his main prospects) always wanted to argue about the product and why it wouldn’t work, and always wanted to change the contract. He was frustrated because he categorized attorneys in one of two ways—either argumentative or not argumentative (and he couldn’t find many of the latter!). By changing his attitude about attorneys and then his behavior, he was able to call on these prospects and let them “win” certain arguments. It made them feel good and they bought his services. His clients were so pleased with the results his solution provided; he soon was selling by referral only.

Work on Those ABs: Most importantly, it pays to work on strengthening the interdependence between your attitude, behavior and skills. Assess how much attention you are devoting to each area in your “circle of success.” Make notes in your log about the things you’re going out of your way to avoid. As you develop new skills and techniques, you may want to explore new guidelines for your own attitude and behavior. Take stock of your greatest assets and also continuously look at areas for improvement. Write up a plan and set up a timetable to activate it. Practice and review your progress regularly. Evaluate and modify as necessary. You will find as you change your attitude and behaviors you will naturally develop new skills and techniques. You’ll be champion material.

Read other articles and learn more about Donna L. Cohen.

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