Sales is very often a game of motivation and focus. It is not a job that you can just “phone in”. (Pun intended). You have to have your game face on for each call, meeting, presentation, etc. You have to be in the right frame of mind. You have to have your focus in the right place.

We can always choose to focus on those things that are in our control or those that are out of our control but psychology and human nature causes sales reps to suffer from the self-serving bias; a bias that in the long run serves no one.

Realizing A Need To Shift Focus

Moving from sales into sales management made me realize that one of the most important aspects of being a manager is being aware of psychological concepts for sales people to fight and utilize. Particularly, making sure you and your reps’ focus are on the right things.

Issues sales people focus on that are out of our control and a waste of energy:

  • Leads – If you’re looking for the perfect list, you might as well be looking for a unicorn. If there were a perfect list, there would be no need for sales people anyway. From a sales rep’s perspective, what good does it do blame the leads?
  • Clients – You can’t always control their decisions. You don’t always understand them. Sometimes they seem downright illogical. You don’t know all that could be going on in their world.
  • Processes changes – Sometimes you are given a process that you do not fully understand, or seems counterintuitive to your approach. Then you are told, “That’s just the way you have to do it.”
  • Organizational/Structural changes – It can seem that things happen on a “need to know” basis. Well, I need to know what’s going on.
  • My Dog, my car, my…It’s really hard to focus on a sales call when you are focusing on all the distractions of life.

Where is your focus? Do you complain about the leads, processes, and tools, whatever? Or, do you focus on what you can control?

Issues Sales people should focus on because they are in our control:

  • How do I work these leads to the fullest? – Focus on building your list, follow up on appointments if you can’t get a one call close, fight through objections and ask for referrals, make the most of every call.
  • How do I leverage efficiencies in these processes? – Instead of complaining about it, how do you work it? Whenever you observe a problem, propose a solution.
  • How do I best utilize tools given to me? – Learn how to use them efficiently and ask your peers and trainers for help.

Reps focusing on the wrong issues need great managers to put them on the track to success. Great managers acknowledge the difficulties they are facing that are out of their control, but then shift focus from the out-of-control to the in-control.

The Psychology And Sales Dangers Of Placing Blame

It is human nature to look externally to explain why something happened to us. It is easier to put blame or focus on something that is out of our control. Placing blame on external factors is a well-known psychological concept sales people need to fight called the self-serving bias.

Be very careful pointing blame and allowing others to point blame. “It’s not my fault!” Is such a powerful statement. As a single rep you can’t change the leads, clients, or processes this very second.

What impact can you have on something that is truly out of you or control? Studies show that engaging the self-serving bias will push you to believe you cannot improve what you’re doing if you point blame. Complaining about, and focusing on, those things you cannot impact is wasted energy and has a negative impact on your professional growth.

Treat Your situation Like A Game Of Poker

In Poker you have no control over the cards you are dealt. Great players don’t dwell on that; they accept it. It is up to you to play those cards to the fullest. Focus on what you can control.

Challenging the self-serving bias applies to all levels of the organization. Sales people can’t blame their customers to their perceived benefit. Managers can’t blame their reps. All the way up to the CEO level, you can either point blame, and apply the self-serving bias, or look at something that you can control, often within, and take responsibility.

Sales Psychology Lesson

Focus on what you can control

  • Point blame at yourself if you want to improve.
  • Making yourself a better sales person. Learn something new.
  • Measure your activity. Set your goals, push yourself, focus your energy.
  • Help your people develop. Focus on the How of development.

Bonus psychology for your sales career: