Sales: Methodologies are useless without the right attitude

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:41 pm

In architecture, I’m told, form follows function. In sales, methodology follows mindset – or at least it should.

I recently got one of those out-out-the-blue phone calls from a friend and former co-worker. Todd worked for me at the Connecticut-based sales training company that I helped build from the ground floor many years ago. He’d recently launched off on his own to start a sales force hiring and selection company after stints with a few of the other national players in the sales training space.

“The world doesn’t need another methodology company,” Todd said in his attempt to explain his decision. Amen!

What’s a methodology companyω It’s any of the sales training companies whose offering sounds like, “Something [fill in the blank] Selling:” SPIN Selling, Strategic Selling, Solution Selling, and the like. It’s any of the sales training companies that refer to their “process” or their “proven methodology.” It’s any of the sales training companies that spend much of their training time showing you how to use their deal-strategy form.

Don’t get me wrong; methodology is good. And many sales methodology training firms are very good companies; I spent a year with one.

So where’s the disconnectω Why doesn’t the world need another methodology companyω

It’s simple: because their first sales call after methodology training still started with the newly minted “strategic seller” thanking the customer for his time, looking for the customer’s “needs” or hoping for the opportunity to quote on the customer’s business – all indicators of a mindset that is more likely to lead to failure than to success in sales, despite the seller’s new-found strategic sales methodology.

What is mindsetω Webster defines it as “a mental attitude or inclination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We are what we think about all day long.” Salespeople are no different. They are what they think about all day, and that fixed mental attitude is reflected in their actions and, more importantly, their language.

There is good mindset and bad mindset in sales. And sales has a “default mindset.” Unfortunately, it is usually a counterproductive one, and most salespeople come sort of pre-wired with it. However, mindset can be changed; it can be learned.

Let’s look at a few examples of this default, counterproductive traditional sales mindset and the corresponding productive mindset.

The customer is doing me a favor by meeting with me. If asked (and we have, by way of my company’s online assessment), salespeople will tell you they don’t believe that customers are doing salespeople a favor by meeting with them; that it’s a mutually valuable interaction. Why then, do virtually all seller/customer interactions begin and end with subservient expressions of gratitude such as “I know you’re busy” or “Thank you for your timeω” We can delude ourselves by labeling it common courtesy, but it’s not; it’s the default sales mindset at play. How about starting the meeting with, “I’ve been looking forward to our meeting, glad we were able to get our calendars to connect.”

The more effective I am at communicating my solution, the more successful I will be. There’s little debate that salespeople come pre-wired with a “tell mode” mindset. This isn’t to say that they’re all “show up and throw up” types. Nor is this to say that the ability to convey one’s value proposition isn’t a good thing; it is, of course. But the more successful mindset is “seek mode.” The seek mode mindset is a “mental inclination” towards believing that, “the better I understand the customer’s business (by the way, not ‘needs’), the more successful I will be.”

The better I am at finding the decision-maker, the more successful I will be. I have certainly written in these pages any number of times that “decision-maker” is a counterproductive – and misleading – term. Sales professionals must shed the default, look-for-the-decision-maker mindset and resolve to cultivate an “organizationally savvy” mindset.

People buy from people. I get in trouble all the time denigrating this mindset because of its near-sacred status in sales. Technically, yes, people do buy from people. But the problem with this being the default mindset is that it’s invoked, often on a subconscious level, to justify an over-reliance on rapport building by salespeople as a surrogate for building trust, confidence and credibility. Just how can salespeople build this credibilityω Why, by operating in seek mode, of course; by understanding the customer’s business, of course; by avoiding subservient language, of course.

Sales is a numbers game. The salesperson’s job description has two parts: helping customers see beyond price and committing resources according to potential return. This should be every salesperson’s overarching mindset, not the “Quote ‘n hope” mindset (i.e. sales-is-a-numbers-game) that is so pervasive, even to this day, in selling.

Mindset drives words and actions in selling. And words and actions are what drive success or failure. That’s why the right mindset must precede the right methodology.

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