It’s a very powerful quote from C.S. Lewis, which he expanded on in his book, Grief Observed, written after his wife’s death. He shared that it’s easy to say you believe in the power of a rope when you’re using it to tie up a box but that hanging from a cliff holding on to that same rope would help you learn just how much you really trusted it.
Of course, we’ve all been tested of late. And much has been written and discussed about positivity and optimism, traits that can certainly help people weather storms. But it’s the power of beliefs in the real risks referred to in Lewis’ quote that I’d like to focus on. And ultimately, in reference to selling.
First, some context. We’re all familiar with placebos, used by pharmaceutical firms in clinical trials to gauge the effectiveness of new drug treatments. Recently, one group of migraine sufferers was given an actual pain relief drug while another group received a sugar tablet with neither aware of which they had received. Interestingly, 50% of those receiving the placebo reported pain relief, simply through believing the placebo would help. While we can credit belief, there’s also a dark side to consider.
In 1966, Japan’s birth rate dropped by 25% from 1965, but rebounded to normal levels in 1967. What happened to cause such a plunge? What if I told you that the drop was fully expected as was the rebound? You see, 1966 was the Year of the Fire Horse in the 60-year Chinese Zodiac cycle. And culturally, the Japanese are quite superstitious. Many believe the ominous prophesy that female babies born under the Fire Horse are cruelly destined for lives of misfortune. Superstitious parents, as a result, avoided having babies in 1966, convinced that babies faced doomed futures. Additionally, historical statistics prove that Japanese born under the Fire Horse die up to five years earlier than those born in other years! Such is the manifestation of negative beliefs and their very tangible effect on people. This darker side of belief is known as the nocebo effect, where negative expectations produce actual negative results – the opposite of placebos.
Interesting stuff, right? But what does it mean in terms of selling? Consider a famous Buddha quote – “What consumes your mind controls your life”. I’ll paraphrase – “What consumes your mind controls your ability to win, grow and keep clients”.
Let’s take a moment for a short exercise. Think of something positive that helps you be effective in what you do. Got something? Great. Now, what are your beliefs about why it affects you so productively? Good feelings, right? Now, think of something negative that limits your effectiveness. What are your beliefs are about it and why it hinders you? Right……not such nice feelings now.
Of course, some of what you identified as positives or negatives are concrete – your facts, your reality. But in most cases, as with placebos and nocebos, those positive and negative beliefs are simply thoughts that dictate your attitudes and behaviors. And, just like the Fire Horse, they directly dictate your results.
So, given their powerful influence, what can you do to increase the likelihood that your selling beliefs are positive? Of course, there is psychology’s guidance about using positive self-talk. For this discussion, though, let’s focus on generating positive beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. How? By building confidence. And let’s examine some practical methods and tools that confident salespeople use to build the courage to be assured in their beliefs and be successful in selling. Because confidence is not a gift from the heavens but a powerful trait that can be developed.
Let’s consider what’s different about confident salespeople versus the rest of the crowd. First, they’re comfortable saying “no”. They utilize Go/No-Go frameworks to increase the chances that the deals they pursue are the deals they’re most likely to win. And they say “no” to the others. Confident salespeople plan. Prior to a calls, meetings and presentations, they use templates religiously. If an event is worth doing, it’s worth planning for. Confident salespeople ask lots of questions. They don’t pitch. They inquire and listen intently, gaining the knowledge that breeds confidence. But you must seek it to gain it. Confident salespeople are mindful. Preconceived biases and head trash are yokes around salespeople’s necks. Especially with prospects and clients, confident reps live in the moment of every interaction, building agility for the path forward. Confident salespeople are accountable, owning their failures and learning from them. They use candid post-mortems for lessons learned from losses to insure increased effectiveness on future deals. The Go/No-Go templates I mentioned earlier, by the way, flip to become postmortem frameworks after losses. And, in the end, confident salespeople take actions. Never standing still, they’re motivated by and characterized by forward motion.
In team selling, an individual’s beliefs can affect an entire group. This raises the belief stakes, increasing the need to fortify confidence – yours and by extension, your team’s. The tools I’ve mentioned can be huge enablers to ensure that your impact on your team drives infectious positive momentum.
So, put the power of your beliefs to work by building your confidence to increase your likelihood of success. Our tests come in all shapes and sizes. But if we believe in ourselves, they can bring out the very best in us.