As sales professionals, we now need to be able to sell ourselves and our products or services more effectively than ever to show what differentiates them from their competitors and to use sophisticated sales and account management techniques to win and retain clients.
Consistent success needs a special mind-set, with high levels of motivation, resilience and ability to cope well with pressure.
One approach that has been proven to be very effective in developing and maintaining this mind-set is ‘structured self-coaching’. Just like a series of real face-to-face coaching sessions, this involves clarifying what we want to change then identifying, exploring and overcoming the psychological barriers to achieving the goal, followed by creating an action plan to implement it.
Take the example of “I want to feel more confident when trying to get a client to sign up for our latest product”. One train of thought might be the mistaken belief that, if you cannot get them to sign up quickly, then you are not doing a good job and you will inevitably lose the client as a result.
This sort of thinking is obviously unhelpful and if left unchecked, results in reduced motivation, reduced ability to recover quickly from challenges and lower sales as a consequence.
An approach called ‘thought challenging’ is very effective in breaking this sort of unhelpful thinking pattern. It involves asking four specific questions take, for example, the belief: “I must be able to immediately answer any question that is asked of me in a presentation, or I will look stupid and we will lose the sale as a result”.
Question 1 – Am I making any ‘thinking errors’?
There is a common set of unhelpful thinking patterns that we all fall into from time-to-time. These include ‘emotional labelling’, ‘magnification’ and ‘should statements’. In this case, we can see evidence of all three. The word ‘stupid’ is an emotional label, we are magnifying the consequences of not being able to answer a question immediately and the “I should be able to” belief implies that there is some golden rule (created by whom?) that we are breaking.
Question 2 - What is the evidence for and against this thought or belief?
Do all effective sales presenters really know the answer to every question that the audience might ask of them? How do I really know this, what proof do I have? Have I asked any accomplished presenters if it is true?
Question 3 - What are other ways of looking at this situation?
What would happen if I said that “I’m not certain of the answer but that I’ll get back to you within 24 hours?” or what if I asked if anyone else in the audience had any opinions on the question? Creatively generating several options at this stage is always useful, to be able to pick one and give it a try.
Question 4 – What am I actually going to do about this situation to bring about a different result?
If I do nothing different then I’m very likely to get the same results, so I need to work out how I’ll think, feel and behave differently next time, to bring about different results, choosing from the options that I have just generated.
This structured approach, together with on-going reinforcement and practice, really does help people fine-tune their thinking and behaviour to be more successful in sales. In fact, using these techniques has been shown to result in a 20% increase in sales, compared to a control group who don’t use these techniques.
The techniques are easy to learn in principle but tricky to establish as long-term habits. The best way to make them become a long-term helpful habit, is to practice and reinforce them many times over a period of several weeks because old habits die hard and do not go away without a fight.
The techniques could possibly be learned from various books but an approach that is proven to work much better than just reading about them is interactive e-learning. It is used over a period of several weeks on a drip feed bite-at-a-time basis, when and where you want, is applied to normal working activities and brings about rapid changes in unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviour.
So next time you face a challenging sales situation that is proving difficult to overcome, dare to ask yourself theses four challenging questions, to bring about better results. You can also use these questions to help coach your colleagues and support staff to overcome their own sales challenges too.
About the author: Bryan McCrae is a sales psychologist, sales coach and the founder of Sales-Motivations. For more information visit www.sales-motivations.com