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July 20, 2020
Is a sales mindset an advantage?
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle
Many great general managers have developed through a sales career path. The leaders who are the most successful have a high sense of self-awareness to the genetic code and permanent imprinting their innate sales mindset delivers – both the strengths and vulnerabilities. After 20 years of studying leaders’ performance in varied situations, one constant remains: as the intensity and pressure increases, sales-minded leaders often slip, stumble, or crash in the same areas. My goal is to help raise your awareness.
First, we must seek to understand: What makes a great sales professional?
The best sales professionals are excellent at business development – the ability to cultivate new customer relationships, capturing more market share. The key to being excellent at business development is the ability to confront, shed, flip, and convert customer objections while facing rejection. The best sales professionals move efficiently through every objection looking at the situation as an invigorating challenge; thinking like a sales professional is a well-practiced mindset. Business development professionals see a crowd of people or a target list of companies and focus on the potential of new prospects with the adage, “I know I can help everyone in the room.” In every failed sales call, professionals assess the point of rejection, adjust their approach, and they are off engaging new potential customers with newfound insight and even more confidence. Energized by the freedom the sales role provides, the simplicity of individual achievement, and the direct rewards for success, their passion radiates. Salespeople possess a depth of confidence, optimism, and perseverance that is formidable.
What are the traits and mindset of the top business development professionals?
Rugged Individualistic: “Overcoming all odds” describes some of the best sales professionals. The freedom and simplicity of looking in the mirror to create solutions is a typical pattern for success. Improving their skills and expertise is a continuous practice done with great enthusiasm. They are doers vs. coaches.
Motives and values: Sales professionals share the motives and values of serving their customers and individual achievement. Competition is at least a primary motive, if not the oxygen on which salespeople survive, overshadowing collaboration.
No fear of rejection (selling yourself): Humans’ general fear of rejection is real and limiting if not debilitating for many people. Steve Jobs’ method for moving through this fear was his “Reality Distortion Field.” Steve was able to convince himself and everyone around him to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, and persistence. Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs states, “It (RDF) was said to distort his co-workers’ sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and to make them believe that whatever impossible task he had at hand was possible.” The ability to distort reality to yourself is powerful to overcome the fear of rejection.
Social Magnet: These are optimistic and high energy individuals, geared for action. Enjoying social events to attract new relationships is a critical skill for sales professionals. People are attracted to personalities that possess high energy, confidence, and optimism. People generally are more drawn to those who are motivated towards action, enjoying life, with an idealistic perspective on events.
Proficiency Overcoming Objections: The secret to being great at overcoming objections is about creating and defining value. What determines value is subjective; therefore, the most successful salespeople understand the more extended the list of value offerings, the greater the opportunity to close the sale. The mental pull to create lengthy offering lists and quickly re-rank information based on the subjective values and needs of your customer becomes a subconscious behavior in the best sales professionals.
What are the traits of the best general managers?
The best general managers are compensated based on the size and quality of teams they build, the cultural competency of that team, and the level of complex problems they are adept at solving. The P&L keeps score as the ultimate report card, but mind you, it is merely a reflection of the results from the three top traits.
Building great teams: The best leaders take special pride in the development, advancement, and achievement of team members. Coaching and evolving the skills and expertise in others is their greatest reward. A great leader is the antithesis of being the rugged individualist. Coaching and developing people and refraining from being the “doer” or “performer” can be a tough habit to break.
We identify the difference in traits as “Captain Kirk” or “Lone Ranger” personality types. Each brings excellent skills, but only one is a leader; the other is an individual contributor with inherent limitations.
Creating a culture of competency: The first step is embracing the values of the team and customers. Defining the motives and values is an external process requiring collaboration and input of the entire team. High performing cultures provide people with the ability to measure their performance, and the collaborative synergy elevates everyone on the team. Great leaders carefully balance collaboration and competition, as they are wise to the dangers of a miscalibrated culture.
The sales mindset often struggles with trusting others, and a team collaboration process is counterintuitive. Sales minded leaders, when facing increasing pressure, usually choose to isolate themselves from the team to find an individual solution, limiting the team’s power and halting momentum.
Complex problem solving: The best complex problem-solvers gain energy from a methodical process. Scrutinizing “what is the problem to be solved?” saves many colossal blunders. Define and rank the top three most critical factors to make the decision, with great discipline to not allow more than three. Why only three factors? If you nail the right three factors and rank numbers 1-3 weighted precisely, it will enable you to focus your data collection where it makes the most significant impact and minimizes the most risk. The review of the data set as a team event to thwart individual bias increases the probability of sound decision making. If the decision is not clear, you simply have not collected enough data. No fear of pessimism from exceptional thinkers; they often start with worst-case scenarios and build up from there, allowing them to thrive during crisis situations. Bankers, engineers, and scientists are excellent decision-makers because they lack the traits and mindset that makes sales professionals good at business development.
A sales mind is action-oriented, and they quickly lose energy and patience in a methodical process. Intuitive thinking and looking internally to solve problems are their preferred method. Sales minds have a subconscious pull to extend the list of critical factors from 3 to 23 if left alone. Remember the selling process of creating a lengthy list of offerings to close customers; it is a subconscious mental program for salespeople to have that long list to provide the ability to sell themselves and others on their intuitive conclusion. The “reality distortion field” has no place in a critical thinking model.
Sales-minded leaders and professionals who want to be general managers – Increase your self-awareness of who you are by focusing on your behaviors under pressure while facing high-stress situations. Develop a method for constant assessments from people around you. Pick your virtual technology such as Microsoft Teams or Google Docs and create a simple evaluation card for the team to score their leaders and peers 24/7. You might consider the following traits listed on this sample evaluation card.
Every company is unique, and there is not a universal perfect mix of sales and leadership traits that fits every general manager position. Understanding how opposed sales and leadership traits are is the first step to increasing awareness. Celebrate your slips and stumbles as learning and growth opportunities. If the culture honors transparency and embraces slips and stumbles, they can be useful in avoiding the crash and burn.
Leaders – as you evaluate your current teams and look to grow your organization, be aware of the different key traits needed for individuals to be successful. Do you have the right people on your team? Are they in the proper role? Give the Misura Group team a call, and we’ll support you in identifying the unique traits needed for your teams to be successful.
Hire Smarter – Tony
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