The door-to-door salesman getting his foot shut in the door is a well-worn cliché. And Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman,” which shows the depressing, even tragic, side of this business, has become a literary classic. Things have changed in many respects from the bygone era in which the play and the cliché were born. These days, it’s “sales professionals.” And the door-to-door model isn’t as popular as it once was. But one thing that hasn’t changed about this tough but rewarding business is negativity.
We still get a lot of it. We lose sales, we get chewed out—even cursed at—by prospects who lack respect. Like Miller’s fictional salesman, we’re on the road a lot, which can mean stressful itineraries and cramped airplane seats. When we do arrive at our destination, it can seem like a big waste of time if a prospect is not interested, shutting the proverbial door on our foot—the same foot that had to go shoeless through the airport-security gauntlet. It’s exhausting. Forget “Death of a Salesman,” if you want difficult, try Life of a Sales Professional!
Staying the Postive Course
Coping with the emotional toll of missed opportunities and go-nowhere sales meetings can be almost as tiring as those setbacks themselves. But despite the trials, you must fight against what can at times seem like an onslaught of negativity if you want to get to the rewards. The best way to do that is by cultivating a positive attitude. However, the trick is not just being positive when everything’s hunky dory, but staying positive even when things don’t go so well. As they say, you can’t always control the outcomes of things, but what you can control is how you respond to those outcomes.
To quote the visionary Henry J. Kaiser, “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” Translated to sales, that means not dwelling on failures, but learning from them, and then applying those learnings to opportunities up ahead. If you lost a sale due to factors that are in your control, use your inner problem-solver to “solutionize” those factors and effect a positive outcome next time. Conduct a post mortem. What went wrong? What mistakes could have been avoided? Be honest with yourself. That honesty will go a long way toward avoiding similar missteps in the future. The term “learning experience” may not be appealing or exciting right away, but down the road what you’ve learned will be invaluable.
Letting It Go
After a deal has gone wrong, take your emotional pulse. Have you moved on from the failure, or does that missed opportunity still get your heart thumping with regret, even resentment? Letting go of what’s past is crucial to moving on and starting new positive professional relationships, no sales baggage along for the ride.
The Stale Odor of Failure vs. the Sweet Smell of Success
Perception is everything in this business. You know those honed instincts you have as a sales professional? Turns out other people have them too! When you enter a sales meeting, there’s a good chance your customer or prospect will sum up in an instant what your mindset is, even if they’re not consciously doing that. Customers don’t always want to be sold, but they are generally happy to purchase goods or services that will add value, maybe even change the way they do business. They are human, and would prefer to be sold to by a happy, friendly sales rep. If you don’t want to be written off as a negative Nelly, make sure you’ve done an attitude adjustment, accentuating the positive long before that first-impression moment. If not, the play starring you could be “Death of a Sale.”
A Small Worldview After All?
Sales reps with positive outlooks deal with less rejection than those with negative worldviews. Why? Because positive reps conduct business dealings believing that people want to hear from them and buy the great solutions they have to offer, and negative salespeople go around believing, long before they even make first contact with a prospect, that no one will be interested in the goods they’re peddling. It’s simple: If you think you’re going to fail, you increase your chances of failing; if you think you’re going to win, you increase your chances of winning.
In all aspect of life, not just sales, positive people have a tendency to take the reins of life. If they drive their proverbial cart into a ditch, they take responsibility for that—and whistle while they work their way out of that hole. Negative folks tend to blame factors outside themselves for failures and missed opportunities. You probably know some people like that. Observe their behavior, learning from the masters of negativity what not to do. Then observe the positive people you know, and let their way show you the way.
In our research over the years, we have observed the behavior of thousands of salespeople. Consistently, the top-performing sellers are the ones with a positive mindset in spite of adversity they may face. That right there is a reason to develop a positive outlook for yourself. The other huge reason is that you’ll be a happier, healthier, more likable person if you do.