After a three-month unpaid internship, I got my first job as a salesperson. I was the most unlikely salesperson in the world. My dad was a doctor. He saw salespeople as pests who diverted valuable time from seeing patients. All five of his sons had been subtly indoctrinated to think that sales was a dirty word. In no way had I been groomed for sales.
Or so I thought.
One of my first assignments in my new job was to fly from Chicago to St. Louis to see one of our company's customers who was well-known for being a pickle. He was a middle manager at a very large telecommunications company and was an old hand at dealing with... vendors. I was just the latest in a parade of account executives this guy had seen -- fresh meat to a pro like him. I didn't know the precise reason for our visit that day. He had called the meeting, but I had a feeling it wasn't going to be a banner day. I was prepared for just about anything.
After the bare minimum of chit-chat, the customer gave me the bad news.
"I know you're the new guy and I don't want to ruin your day, but I've decided to take my business to your competitor." He went on, brusquely explaining his reasons. I couldn't help noticing that he kept semi-apologizing for what he was doing, like he was in a position of strength. Maybe he was even savoring a moment of guilty pleasure as he dealt with a young sales guy.
I remember that moment well. I remember sitting there in my brand-spanking new double-breasted suit. I remember the cramped, windowless office. And mostly, I remember feeling unusually calm. I had prepared myself. I knew this might happen. I had told myself many times that the outcome of this meeting wasn't going to determine the rest of my life -- so much so that I truly believed it.
As a result of that preparation, I felt strong. I said with a smile, "Hey, I appreciate how you keep saying that you don't want to ruin my day. And I want to reassure you about something -- you won't. Of course, I'd rather you kept your business with our company. I'll be disappointed if you leave us, no doubt. But it won't be tragic. You have to do what you have to do."
My unconscious ability to manage my mindset -- and especially my fear -- changed the whole dynamic of that conversation. Suddenly, we were peers talking about a business situation instead of a groveling young sales rep dealing with an all-powerful customer.
The outcome of the meeting was the same. The customer left us. But the outcome of my sales role in the company I was working for was actually strengthened by the experience.
Sales is a mental game -- maybe one of the most mental games you can play. All of the best techniques and tips and tricks mean little if you can't manage your mindset.
Here are a few mindsets I've observed in very successful salespeople and influencers of all stripes:
While mindset is partly each person's responsibility, companies have a big impact on the mindsets their people show in the market. So as a leader of your organization, think about the mindset you build into your people. Ask yourself a few questions:
What examples of winning mindsets and the organizations that foster them can you share?
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