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Sales is NOT about selling strategies, it’s about winning the internal game.

Selling strategies (how to close, how to cold call, etc.) are very helpful, good, and necessary, but if you don’t understand the forces that drive your behavior, they don’t matter.

One of my favorite activities is watching waves crash on the Pacific Ocean (I grew up in So Cal).  The power of the ocean and its sheer size totally humble and inspire me.

What I find even more fascinating about the ocean, is that its most powerful force isn’t even noticeable.

The current lies sneakily in the background under the surface, not getting any attention, yet it is the driver behind the water’s direction.

Your actions and behaviors are exactly the same. And there are three very powerful undercurrents you might not know exist that push you and drive your behavior without you even being aware of it, just like the current you don’t see beneath the waves is dictating the direction of the water.

All salespeople admit that many of their actions do not end up aligning with what they want to do or know to do, and I know that happens to me, too.

You wanted to make 25 more calls today.

You meant to call that CFO today to ask him if they made a decision.

You should have made that extra call when you were in that area today.

You really needed to…

Your time gets completely hijacked, and you don’t even know why!

You’re about to find out why, and once you learn the reasons why, you will be able to drastically improve your execution and better align what you want to do with what you actually do.

Winning The Internal Game

You see, you can continue to focus on all the selling strategies, and all of the things you have to do to everybody else to be successful, but, what I show salespeople that most sales training skips right over, is that if you haven’t learned how to win the internal game, all that other stuff doesn’t matter!

Yes, the selling strategies (how to close, how to cold call, etc.) are very helpful, good, and necessary, but, if you don’t learn this and understand how to build the RIGHT DRIVERS behind all behavior, they don’t matter.

AND, all of this is only 1 of the 5 internal forces that drive your behavior. Salespeople MUST learn how to build and use them for maximum success!

That’s why my motto is, “Sales is NOT about selling strategies, it’s about winning the internal game.”

Undercurrent #1: The Pain/Pleasure Principle:

All human beings have a basic instinct to move away from pain and towards pleasure.

This is not a theory or scientific guess. This is a psychological truth about behavior.

As individuals, the choices we make will typically move us closer to whatever it is we find pleasurable, and further away from activities that we view as painful, even if we “want” a certain result.

Activities I see where sales people are avoiding “pain” and seeking a more “pleasurable” path:

  • Cleaning their desk/office.
  • Organizing.
  • Talking to a co-worker.
  • Checking emails excessively during the money hours.
  • Researching too much during the money hours.
  • Calling a customer instead of a prospect when the customer can wait.
  • Living in too much detail so they stay busy.

The next time you find yourself putting off tackling a tough issue (calling a touch prospect, dealing with an urgent customer matter, or doing anything that is “painful”), try and catch yourself!

You are very susceptible here. The problem is you don’t realize what is REALLY happening. Check your behavior.

The most common example I can give you of this in action is procrastination.

Procrastination is simply delaying doing something painful, and we procrastinate when we keep finding other activities that are more pleasurable.

It’s amazing how many activities I can suddenly think of when I realize I need to tackle a tough issue (this is often referred to as “creative avoidance”).

You see, as long as you can continue to find activities that you view as more pleasurable, then you will keep putting off the task you need to accomplish.

Undercurrent #2: The Principle of Justification

I know that none of you have ever had this conversation with yourself, but let’s just pretend.

Robin is on her way home from a full day of customer visits. Five minutes into her drive home, she sees the facility of a prospect she has wanted to call on. Robin is fried.

It’s 4:30 and she just wants to get home. Emotionally, her bank account is at $0.00. Here’s the conversation inside of Robin’s mind.

Robin’s logic: “Oh, there is the company I want to cold call. That would be such a killer account.”

Robin’s emotions: “Yeah, but I am so tired and I worked hard today. I will call on that next time. I’ll be back in this area in two weeks.”

Robin’s logic: “Yeah! You did work hard! You’re right. Next time.”

Robin just closed the deal! In honor of one of my favorite movies, Glen Gary, Glen Ross, Robin – go get that cup of coffee! Oh, but the wrong deal!

What exactly happened? Robin justified what she wanted emotionally with a logical explanation. You see, we are all great salespeople.

You have justified thousands of bad decisions with yourself thousands and thousands of times in your lifetime, and you will do it many more times.

But hopefully now, it will be less than it was as you are now aware of what your mind and emotions are looking to do.

Remember, we are always looking to move towards pleasure, and when we identify something we want, our response becomes emotional.

We learn to justify having that pleasure at any cost even if it contradicts what we THINK we want. THAT IS HUGE. So stop, think, and then choose.

It’s the only way to give yourself a chance to make the decision that is best for you.

Undercurrent #3: The Principle of Accumulation

The true story below says it all:

Bill had come in second place in sales revenue for months. The person holding him back from the cherished title was Ron.

Bill finally became so sick and tired of being second that he came up to me frustrated during a break in a sales meeting.

Here’s their dialogue:

Bill:  “Mark, what does Ron do that I don’t?” (I was so excited he finally asked!)

Me: “Bill, what do you do when we have a break?”

Bill: “I go chat with Tom or one of the guys for a few minutes.”

Me: “Right. What do you see Ron doing?”

Bill thought for a moment and then answered, “He grabs his stack of prospects and makes calls.”

Me: “That’s exactly right,” I agreed.

I then went on to explain to Bill that if Ron is able to make 5 calls in 10 minutes that isn’t really a big deal in itself.

What IS a big deal is when we calculated what that would mean over an entire year (the numbers will vary by industry):

Three 20 minute breaks during a half-day sales meeting.

10 calls per break = 30 phone calls per meeting.
30 phone calls per meeting x 12 meetings per year = 360 phone calls.
360 phone calls = 60 appointments
60 appointments = 20 new accounts.

So, what is the difference?

It’s how the top dog spent their 10 minutes at break.

Big deal? One time?  No.

Cumulatively? BIG TIME.

In this business, 20 accounts per year equals a LARGE amount of money.

The lesson? The sum of all of the small choices you make, isn’t small at all, and selling strategies alone aren’t enough to guarantee your success.

As I say in all my talks to sales teams about the undercurrents that drive your behavior: BE AWARE or you better BEWARE.

About the author

Mark Heerema

Mark Heerema

“Mark is nationally recognized for his work in debunking unchallenged, long held sales myths…

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