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The Essential Salesperson Mindset
Blog / Sales Management / Sep 1, 2020 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 435 

The Essential Salesperson Mindset

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Of all the essentials for a sales manager—and our research has turned up dozens—the first and foremost of these is the sales manager’s very own mindset. With it, the sales manager is capable of changing or worsening their team and their performance.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Big Sales Manager Complaint

In research for a recent ebook, we talked to a number of experienced sales managers. The first and foremost complaint that seemed to come up, at least with the ones we spoke with, was that they were constantly having to motivate their salespeople to sell more or sell as much as they could. According to them, salespeople would generally go for the “low hanging fruit” when it came to leads, for example—doing their best to steer clear of the leads that took more work to qualify or convert to opportunities. In another example, they wouldn’t cold-call unless a gun was held to their heads. The overall summation ran along the lines of “salespeople will do as little as they can to get the most that they can.”

An Analogy: Football

Let’s take a look at a whole other game: football. Let’s look at the biggest game in football—the Super Bowl. Now, what if the coach of a team in the Super Bowl had to constantly harangue his team members, just in order to motivate them to play the game?

Yes, you’d think that was pretty silly. Any team that has made it to the Super Bowl is going to be plenty motivated to play that game—it will be up to the coach to provide particulars as to plays and so on, but there will never be an issue of motivation to play.

The System

Why is such motivation never needed in the Super Bowl? Because motivation is built right into the system of the game. Not only is it an extreme honor to play major league football, it is doubly so when a team makes it to the Super Bowl, and it pays extremely well on top of all that. No player that makes it to that level is going to need “motivation” just to play.

Now let’s bring it back to sales: what must be wrong if a sales manager is constantly having to “motivate” their sales team? Well, in football it isn’t the coach that motivates the players to want to play—it’s the game itself. Or, put another way, the system. The same is true in sales: if the sales manager is constantly having to motivate salespeople to sell to their full potential, there is something wrong with that system.

Taking Another Step Back

But there is yet something else behind that system—a causative agent that can change and even create that system. Can you guess what that is?

That would be you, the sales manager.

You as a sales manager have a certain mindset. You are receiving data about your sales team—but you are perceiving that data through that mindset. That mindset is going to affect the system and all the other elements of sales management.

For example, going back to the sales managers we spoke with as part of our research, they obviously think that salespeople are going to do the least amount of work for the most amount of reward. With such a skewed mindset on salespeople, they could very well put a system into effect that “demotivates” salespeople.

This mindset would also affect their use of technology, in that they would demand technology so that they constantly know what their salespeople are doing, all the time. It would affect their management and leadership style as well. It could even affect the commission and incentive structure—with a low enough opinion about salespeople, one could think that they “don’t deserve” high commissions or great incentives.

But let’s pull it back once more: is that viewpoint expressed by the sales managers we spoke with so generally true? Are salespeople really that bad, or that lazy, that nearly a whole team would require constant motivation?

In our company, we have never found that to be the case. We have found that people, in their basic nature, are good, really want to do good jobs, and will. From this perception, we have created a system—for onboarding, training, commissions, incentives, and the whole sales structure—that our salespeople are very happy with. They’re only too happy to sell.

Pipeliner isn’t the only company to operate from this conviction. One of the sales managers we interviewed told us that, at one point, when he knew he had a really good sales team, he went to management and demanded an extra 1 percent for himself, when quotas were met. Management agreed. He then went back to his salespeople and told them that whenever a quota was met, he’d be getting an extra 1%—and that 3/4 of that 1% would be divided amongst the sales team. Did his salespeople need any more motivation to sell? No, they did not! That sales manager just sat back and watched them run to make their quotas.

So it’s obvious that first comes the mindset, perception, or conviction—then comes the system.

What To Do?

So the first thing you very possibly may need to do, as a sales manager, is to change your own thoughts regarding salespeople, from more negative to more positive. To quote an old, but in this case appropriate, cliché, it’s changing from a “glass half empty” to a “glass half full” type of viewpoint.

Let’s point out that a more positive mindset will also affect other aspects of your sales management—such as your management or leadership style, the way technology is utilized, and much more. So such a change can have broad implications.

About Author

A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

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