In the competitive world of sales, everyone is seeking the magic bullet that will accelerate revenue. Companies run brainstorming sessions, hire consultants, and invest in expensive technology.
But there’s a simpler way to increase market share: Make your sales organization more optimistic.
Don’t roll your eyes; this isn’t going to be a Pollyanna article. Research shows that salespeople with high levels of optimism make more money for their companies.
Dr. Martin Seligman’s work with insurance company Metropolitan Life is one of the more famous case studies. Met Life was spending $30,000 on sales training per salesperson, but 80% of their reps had left within four years. Seligman started testing job candidates for optimism. His results proved soft skills do produce hard sales results.
Salespeople who scored high in optimism sold 33% more insurance than those who scored lower. After two years, these optimistic salespeople were thriving in their positions. Turnover decreased and sales increased because Met Life focused on hiring for optimism, not just hard selling skills.
What’s the baseline attitude at your sales organization? If your company is more pessimistic than optimistic, start at the top. CEOs and sales managers set the tone for the entire business.
Emotions are contagious.
This condition is called “emotional contagion” or “the transmission of moods.” Moods are typically communicated and transferred to others, whether those emotions are positive or negative.
To create an optimistic environment -- and reap the bottom-line benefits -- use these three methods.
1) Embrace adversity
When faced with a tough challenge, optimistic salespeople don’t become depressed or play the blame game. Instead, they ask themselves better questions, giving them stronger answers to handle setbacks.
Optimists consider these lessons to be free tuition, knowing the lessons learned today will make them money in the future.
- "What’s good about this challenge?" There's often a hidden upside.
- "What’s the lesson?" Optimistic salespeople are fierce about learning the lesson because they recognize that’s how character develops and growth happens.
- "What’s funny about this challenge?" Tough times can be stressful. The body responds to stressful situations by producing cortisol, and prolonged stress and cortisol lead to fatigue, confusion, and a lack of creativity.
Optimistic salespeople manage their stress with humor, which can put challenges into proper perspective. At a sales training conference several years ago, a bunch of “sales gurus” sat around and shared stories of sales calls we had screwed up. The anecdotes were hilarious and provided the much-needed perspective that we would all live to sell another day.
2) Choose your friends wisely
The late Jim Rohn, a business philosopher, said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Survey your team of five. Are you hanging out with optimists or pessimists? What kind of emotion is generated by your peers and colleagues? Are conversations upbeat or disguised versions of the pessimistic flu?
Form or join a mastermind of peers that will challenge you to think and act differently. One of the more famous mastermind groups included Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, President Warren G. Harding and Harvey Firestone.
I’m pretty sure this group focused on raising the bar and not defaulting to excuses.
3) Take control
Depressed salespeople generally have an “external locus of control.” They feel like everything is happening to them, i.e. “I don’t have good marketing collateral. The competition is bigger. My territory is lousy.”
Optimistic salespeople, meanwhile, possess a high internal locus of control -- feeling like they can and will control their fate.
If business is slow, they:
- Increase their prospecting efforts and activity or change their approach.
- Meet with mentors who will help them work more strategically or do something differently.
- Adjust their schedule, making a decision to outwork the competition.
- Get smarter so they outsell the competition.
Optimistic salespeople take control and manage results, not excuses.
Optimism is a soft skill, an emotional intelligence skill, one that produces hard sales results. Optimism is a choice. When adversity hits, change your response. Choose your peers wisely and take control of your situation. Optimism can and will increase your bottom line.