Useful vs unuseful sales thinking

usefulPay-off: This is the linchpin to yours and your sales team’s performance
Investment: < 5 mins

I wrote an article about this years ago. Time for an update, pointing this idea towards technical and non-sales. (The word ‘unuseful’ still doesn’t exist as a real word, but that’s not going to stop this useful idea in its tracks…)

In my own experience, I’ve found that around 60-70% of sales performance problems are mindset related. It all hinges on the psychology of your team, and what they think about sales, selling, their role, expectations etc. So let’s take a closer look at this and start with one of my favourite quotes about ‘thinking’:

“The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life” (or business, for our purposes)

Note this has been attributed to Edward De Bono, A.R Bernard and Brian Tracy, so let’s not get caught up with where it comes from, it’s just useful.

In my ‘accelerated learning’ work (which had me learning a lot about the mind and psychology) I was very interested in why people made certain decisions in life or business, and what paths their actual thinking sends them down. And I realised that there was an interesting cycle:

It all starts (and finishes) with your THINKING (both conscious and subconscious).

Your THINKING then impacts your FEELINGS.

Both either co-operate nicely or fight it out to influence your DECISIONS.

Your DECISIONS (or lack of in some cases) determine your ACTIONS (or inactions when perhaps you should have actually acted)

Your ACTIONS determine your RESULTS (an outcome of some sort – simple cause and effect)

And your RESULTS lead to REWARDS (again sometimes feelings or materialistic gain) and/or your HEADACHES and FRUSTRATIONS.

And then you interpret these accordingly (again, using your thinking, your mindset and the filters of your mind). Our beliefs of course heavily influence what we make of things, distorting reality to fit our preconceptions. I always loved this quote, again, source unknown:

“We don’t believe what we see, we see what we believe”

The point is, our thinking directly impacts our rewards, frustrations and quality of life or business results. Whilst you’re not responsible for the hand you’re dealt, you are 100% responsible for how you play that hand. And if you want to increase your chances, you can opt to learn how to play your hand in the best way possible. So, it doesn’t bring me pleasure to point out that you are in some ways directly responsible for the ‘headaches’ you’ve been experiencing. You thought your way into the situation, when you could have done something else.

This post is about helping you to think (and consequently act) your way into a stronger more rewarding position.

I like to think of our thought patterns as being a bit like computer code. We feed our minds a series of commands or thoughts. And then we run the program which creates an output. Most of us have buggy code and commands that shouldn’t be there, and sometimes this can crash our programs altogether. So we need to work out how to code our minds and behaviour better. Imagine if you could finely tune all those lines of code, so that you’re wired up to help people buy effectively, and frankly wired up to approach anything in your life in the way you want to.

So I’ll move you onto an idea I had years back that’s helped me and my clients ever since. Let’s look at ‘positive and negative thinking’, and why I’m not a fan of it…

Some years back, my frustration with ‘positive thinking’ reached its peak (how ironic?) I just got sick and tired of people banging on about thinking positively all the time. Only because, I think, too much of it can make you seem like you’re a fruit loop, and land you in trouble. (The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life).

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the point of positive thinking and that in the right situations it’s useful. But in the wrong hands, it can be damaging. The bottom line is, if a bus is heading your way, remaining positive and thinking you’ll be ok will result in quite a mess. So let’s work out how we can avoid that shall we?

I decided to reformat the model of ‘positive vs negative thinking’ into something more useful. That’s what my job is all about. So I came up with a new model; ‘useful vs unuseful thinking’.

Surely it is in itself more useful to categorise all thoughts into either ‘useful’ in relation to what you’re trying to achieve or ‘unuseful’ in relation to your objectives?

Now we’ve got something useful we can work with!

Note, some positive thinking can indeed be useful. “I’m going to get through this” can serve us well, sometimes. But some negative thinking can also be useful too. “This isn’t going to work” might just save you pig-headedly marching down the wrong path one day and invite you instead to consider better alternatives that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. That’s useful thinking.

Equally, both positive and negative thinking in certain contexts can be very unusfeul (and admittedly negative thinking is totally over done by most people – it’s a default based on our survival instincts to avoid pain, which as animals, is our priority).

So, the question is, in any given context, facing any particular objective, are your thoughts about it useful or unuseful? Once you identify the useful thoughts, you can focus on them as they’ll serve you well. And once you notice and acknowledge the unuseful thoughts, that’s great. You’re no longer mindlessly running the buggy program, and you can purposefully choose to replace them.

But what do you replace them with?

You simply design some more useful thoughts. I often ask myself as a mental exercise, “what would I have to think if I was to achieve this?” And I write those down, just like writing code when I used to program computers years ago.

And I keep running those useful thoughts through my mind. But I repeat, they’re not all ‘head in the clouds’ positive! Some of them are healthy warnings to myself. ‘This might not work’ is useful. It enables me to create further useful thoughts such as, “how will I know if it’s working?” and “if it isn’t working by x date, then I’ll execute plan B” and so on. That’s useful thinking. I might follow it up with, “But I think and believe that my Plan A will work (which is why I’m doing it first)” which gives me a positive confidence boost to throw my efforts boldly at it. Makes sense? Isn’t it useful to realise that you can choose your thinking to increase your chances? (And if you don’t, you’re on autopilot, so good luck to you…)

When I work with clients, I’m always listening to the words and things people say. It gives me an idea of what they’re thinking, and with that, I can begin to get a sense of whether it is useful or not. Then I can draw their attention to this and we can work on fixing the buggy code!

In a sales context, this is gold. And sales coaching is a great way to continuously challenge the quality of thinking of your people. Not everyone can beome a great sales coach, but the bottom line is, your sales people need support from one, whether they are internal and totally committed, or external.

OK, this article has introduced you to the idea, but if you have any questions just post them below. As I add articles and resources you’ll actually see this in action and what it can do for people. And if you think your sales team need to change their mindset and develop a useful one that has them engaging positively in revenue-generating behaviours and activity, contact me using the tab on the right.

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