Sales managers are responsible for optimizing seller performance to realize revenue goals. Often, sales managers rely on training to help improve seller performance, but this approach by itself is insufficient. Training and hands-on experience can only get sellers so far. In fact, the biggest difference between successful sales performance and a lackluster record is mindset.
Sales managers can best support their sales teams by helping each seller identify the mindsets that are limiting his or her sales performance—and then helping the seller overcome those mindsets.
What is a sales mindset?
A seller’s mindset is a set of beliefs that shapes how sellers make sense of their sales efforts to drive expected outcomes. It influences how they think, feel and behave as they manage their business and interactions with customers. And without identifying which mindsets limit seller performance, sales managers cannot see true improvement—even as sellers are trained on new skills.
The science behind mindsets has largely been driven by Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist. Dweck asserts that people’s beliefs play a pivotal role in what they want—and whether they can even achieve those results. There are two prevailing types of mindsets: fixed and growth. People who have fixed mindsets believe their intelligence and talents are static. Conversely, people with growth mindsets believe that intelligence and talents can be enhanced.
These two mindset-related frameworks are important because they affect behavior. When sales managers teach sellers new skills, there’s often an assumption that the seller will adopt new desired behaviors to incorporate a fresh skill. But unfortunately, this doesn’t happen. People won’t change their behavior if the skill or approach doesn’t align with their beliefs and mindsets. Therefore, a shift in mindset is the key to growing sellers’ potential.
Overcoming the 4 Most Limiting Sales Mindsets
Beyond training and experience, nurturing mindsets will make the biggest difference to sales success. Sales managers must help their teams identify and eliminate these restrictive mindsets. Here are the four most common limiting mindsets I’ve seen sellers fall victim to during my time as a sales leader:
Limiting Mindset 1: Sales success is inherently cyclical.
Replace with: Know that sales success can be consistent.
Many sellers have the mindset that their sales success will naturally follow peaks and valleys. They expect the seasonality that comes with times of hot streaks—and slumps. This idea limits performance because it takes power away from sellers; it can lead to complacency and variations in effort and growth.
Managers can help sellers overcome this mindset and replace it with the idea that the seller is in control of their own performance. To do so, leverage data and analytics to show sellers that the right activities and efforts are the biggest determining factors for success. Machine learning programs can help you mine behavioral data and touch points such as emails, phone calls and meetings. Show examples of how sellers with consistent performance conduct a steady set of the right activities, and demonstrate the correlation between those efforts and performance.
Limiting Mindset 2: Seller responsiveness can manifest sales.
Replace with: Set proper expectations with leads or customers and deprioritize non-sales activities.
Some sales representatives will bend over backward to respond to each call or lead. After all, sellers believe that the more responsive they are to customer requests, the more likely the customers are to buy. Surprisingly, this is not good selling behavior. Under this mindset, sellers will end up prioritizing resolving problems, answering questions that are not urgent, or pursuing opportunities that are not viable—all while disregarding critical sales activities that drive more business. Case in point: One survey found that sellers spend around 65% of their time on activities that don’t generate revenue.
To help sales representatives overcome this mindset and replace it with a more productive one, sales managers should help sellers see the benefit of setting clear expectations with customers and leads. Of course, this means sales managers have to approve of and encourage boundaries. Expectations around time and responsiveness can help sellers follow a plan that allows them to perhaps connect with a contact they have neglected with a new insight, prepare for a customer meeting, prospect a new account or prepare more strategic account plans.
Limiting Mindset 3: Selling is about positioning your products well.
Replace with: Focus on the customer.
Sales was once driven by product features and differentiators. Consumers used to turn to sales representatives to understand and learn more about the options available to them. Now, consumers perform this research on their own and often understand product features before coming to the sales representative. What’s more, consumers now expect to receive individual, personalized attention and information. Therefore, a focus on the product instead of the buyer prevents sellers from identifying the true drivers for the purchase and how the seller can help the customer accelerate their desired results.
Sellers need to switch from a product-based mindset to a customer-focused one. This means sales teams need more data and insights about their clients. Sales managers should conduct client interviews to understand what customers want from their sales reps and communicate that information to their sellers. This is also a good time to pull in data and analytics about buyer behaviors to drive a more customer-centric approach. Sales managers should challenge sellers to build value by connecting the offering to the business results the customer is trying to drive rather than delivering generic value statements.
Limiting Mindset 4: What’s worked in the past will continue to work in the future.
Replace with: Analyze sales approaches and allow them to evolve.
If there’s one thing we know in 2021, it’s that change is the only constant—and sales is no exception. The business landscape will always face change and uncertainty, whether that comes in the shape of global pandemics, small changes in consumer behavior, or something in between. With this in mind, sales managers need to push sellers to constantly evolve how they interact with their customers and manage their pipelines.
Sales managers should find every opportunity to proactively inform sellers on how the business could be impacted if they don’t progress their selling practices. Point out how business is changing and why it is critical to evolve. For instance, discuss the ramifications the pandemic has had on client expectations for face-to-face selling and how they might evolve their practices accordingly. Run examples like this and have sellers practice agility and flexibility.
The most important aspect of selling success often goes overlooked, and that’s mindset. No matter how much training or experience a sales representative is given, they can only achieve sustainable success by changing their mindsets. Sales managers should look for evidence of these and other limiting mindsets and help sellers adopt growth-based, performance-enhancing points of view. Through mindset coaching, sales managers can lead sales representatives to much higher close rates.
Photo by Rido/Shutterstock
Eduardo Umanzor, Ph.D., is vice president of learning design and innovation at BTS, an organization that works with leaders at all levels to help them make better decisions, convert those decisions to actions, and deliver results. Eduardo has extensive experience in sales, sales management, learning design, and training. By helping curriculums and learning programs evolve, Eduardo ensures companies can meet and surpass the demands that challenge them every day. For more comprehensive insights and skills pertaining to virtual-first selling, BTS offers a series of online modules on selling virtually.