Sales is Tough. Get into the Right Mindset with These 8 Tips
Here’s the elephant in the room: sales is tough, but necessary in any business – or at least, any business that wants to succeed.
If you’ve been doing sales for a while, you’ll know that it can be demotivating at times. Getting hung up on during cold calls, harsh emails, a never-ending slump of working long hours, being scolded, and facing rejection – this stuff sucks and is hard to deal with.
And if you didn’t already know, I’ll be straight up with you – it doesn’t get easier. I’ve been doing this for years and despite building the metaphorical “thick skin”, it’s still hard.
Anyone in sales needs a truck-load of mental resilience. To survive in this industry, you need to keep picking yourself up. You need to keep going.
This is easier said than done, of course. If you’ve been in the industry for some time, you would have heard a range of common “encouraging” phrases. Let’s play a quick game of cliche bingo: Which of these phrases have you encountered?
Every no is closer to a yes
Don’t take it personally, it’s just sales / business
Just do one more call
Just keep going
If you nodded your head to more than one, congratulations! You’ve managed to survive so far. But why settle for just survival?
What if it was possible to thrive and more importantly, have a fun sales career? (Because let’s face it, if you aint having fun, what the hell is the point in grinding through the daily shit.)
The truth is, none of these cliches are really sustainable in helping you take negativity head-on. They may be encouraging in the moment, but don’t help in developing the right mindset for working long term in sales.
The obstacles in every sales person’s mind
At some point, most of us in sales will experience this: We start thinking of obstacles and the reason why we can’t do something, or why something won’t work. There’s a little voice of self-doubt in our head that starts saying things like:
They (potential clients) are smarter than me.
I won’t be able to add value.
What if… (play negative scenario)
They’ll just say no anyway.
I’m interrupting. They’ll be mad that I disturbed them.
Is this really worth it?
Will my product / service really help?
Our competitors are way better.
Telling yourself these things leads to call reluctance and procrastination. When we do this, we’re basically selling ourselves on the idea that nothing we do will work.
And if we examine these statements closely, we see that all of these boils down to one thought: I’m not good enough.
This imposter syndrome stems from a fear of judgement and even fear of failure. This could be a good thing because it means we’ll make the effort to keep improving ourselves – but it becomes counterproductive if it means we can’t get our jobs done effectively.
So how can you get into the right mindset to get past these personal objections?
I’m going to share some actionable – and sustainable – things you can do to help reframe your thoughts.
Eight steps to master your mindset
The best part about taking these steps is that you won’t just end up with some feel-good and trite statements. You’ll have a toolkit that you can turn to even on the worst of days, to help you get out of the funk.
#1 Research and understand empathy
Many sales and marketing guides talk about empathy and how it’s important to empathise with the customer. But what does it really mean to be empathetic?
Imagine this: You’ve just cold called someone and when they pick up the phone, they immediately sound annoyed. Your first impulse might be to think that they’re annoyed at you, so your defences immediately go up.
But if you think about it – how could you have annoyed someone in just a couple of seconds? Could there be another reason why they sound that way?
Spending time researching empathy, understanding emotions, and developing mental models for this helps you get in the right frame of mind to be empathetic when the situation calls for it.
Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to understand their perspective becomes part of your nature. So even if you call someone and they say something like: Don't fucking call me again!
Rather than react emotionally – or worse, continue to sell your product – you could bring their humanity back into the conversation. Perhaps by saying something like, “It sounds like I caught you in the middle of something, you know, is everything okay? Are you good?”
It’s your opportunity to turn that conversation from a negative experience into something maybe a little less negative. Even if you don’t make the sale, having that empathy helps you stay calm and engage with the person.
Since everyone processes emotions differently, you’ll need to do your own research to find what works best for you. The key here is to understand who you are as a person, what triggers you, and find resources that will help you empathise more.
#2 Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
This step is prescriptive because I believe The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey will be helpful, no matter where your career takes you. Even if you don’t want to read the whole thing, check out at least habit #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
This is part of developing empathy as well. Basically, we all come from different places in life – different cultures, different experiences, different stages in life – I have my worldview and you have yours. There’s a gap between our perspectives, which may affect our communication with and understanding of each other.
Being conscious of this helps when we encounter emotional situations. And when we internalise this knowledge, we can change the way we react when our emotions are running high.
Slowly but surely, we can train ourselves so our default reaction becomes more positive even in the heat of the moment.
#3 Talk to your happiest customers
I’ve found this to be one of the most effective tactics for getting into a positive frame of mind. Sometimes, you may be on a down streak – you go on 100 sales calls, do 1000 cold calls, and everyone’s saying your product is rubbish.
Imagine hearing negativity over and over again, throughout an entire week. By the time you get to Friday, you’re drained – not just energy-wise but emotionally as well.
Rather than wallow in this negativity, talk to at least three of your happiest customers and ask them:
“Hey, why did you decide to engage with me in the first place?” “What did you really like about the way we work together?”
When you gather these positive thoughts, you can use them to pull yourself out of the negative spiral that bad sales days can put you into.
Depending on how your workplace functions, you might have different methods for engaging with these customers. What I would usually do is ask my client success team to see if they have any client testimonials that specify why these clients like our product and continue to engage with us.
The key here is to find a way to get these positive vibes straight from the customer’s mouth – whether it’s videos, comments, phone calls – so you can really see that the work you do is valuable and is creating an impact.
#4 Create goals and build daily habits
If you want to change your mindset, the first thing you need is to ask yourself: How do I want it to change? You can only start going in the right direction once you know where your destination is.
Of course, working towards your goals is not an easy task. There’s a reason why New Year’s resolutions don’t work – they’re outcome-focused, not process-driven. If you want to achieve your goals, you need to focus on the process and start developing habits that will help you get where you want to be.
There are a number of systems and frameworks available for goal-setting, for example:
To get you going, you can start with one of these, then explore and tweak accordingly. What you need to remember here is that progress is better than perfection, so rather than fixate on the outcome, build a habit.
What makes this easier to do is to first think about where you want to spend your time. Ask:
Where do I find the most joy?
What do I hope to achieve (as my end goal)?
Is it in line with my personal values?
Eventually, what you’ll discover is that habits become part of who you are. Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.
#5 Talk to your product team
It can be demoralising if you feel like the product you’re selling falls short compared to competitors’ products. What’s worked for me is talking to the product team to get a better understanding of what they’re trying to build with the product. Often, you’ll find that there’s a bigger vision for what they hope to achieve.
By doing this, you start to see the product not just for what it is, but for what it could be. You get a better sense of the mission you’re trying to accomplish when you go out to sell.
#6 Talk to managers about the future of the business
This is always a great way to get inspired. Similar to talking to the product team, doing this will help you get a better vision of where the company is going and how your work and role will contribute to that.
Learning more about how your managers and leaders in your organisation see the future of the business – and what they hope to accomplish for the company – can help remind you of your purpose.
It not only takes you out of the negative mindset, but also reinforces the impact of your work. It reminds you that what you’re doing matters, and sometimes, that makes all the difference.
#7 Do hard stuff that makes your palms sweat
If you’re stuck in your comfort zone, it’s easy to become complacent. Personally, this is not a position I enjoy being in. The thing about life is that things never get easier, we learn how to handle ‘hard’ better.
That’s why one of my top values is progress. And if I’m not pushing forward, I get unhappy because I feel like I’m stagnating – I’m not growing or learning.
There’s a reason why the phrase “growing pains” exist. Rapid growth can sometimes be a painful process, but it means that you’re stretching yourself. When you push past your fears and do something you’re afraid of, it can go one of two ways:
You score a win; or
You come away with a good story (another ‘win’ in my opinion!)
Either way, you get something of value from the experience. And the best part about having a good story is that you now have something you can use to help someone else tackle their challenges. You get to be their inspiration.
As the leader of a team, what I learned from challenging myself is that it also earns you the right to push your people past their comfort zone – and in doing that, help them become better versions of themselves.
#8 Implement a gratitude moment daily
Finally, one of the simplest – but not always easiest – things to do is to practice gratitude. Notice how I don’t say “be grateful”, because gratitude may be simple, but definitely not easy.
When you’re feeling upset and unmotivated, it can be difficult to find something to be thankful for. You can start small – just one moment in your day, perhaps a conscious thought as you’re brushing your teeth, then progress to something bigger, like writing a thank you note to someone.
You can do this the through a process of Habit Stacking, which James Clear talks about in his book Atomic Habits:
From the full article, the habit stacking formula is:
After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]. For example: - After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute. - After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes. - After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today. - After I get into bed at night, I will give my partner a kiss. - After I put on my running shoes, I will text a friend or family member where I am running and how long it will take.
As the saying goes from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Everything begins with having the right mindset
Researchers have found that gratitude can make you happier, improve your relationships, and even boost your health. But achieving these effects requires some emotional maturity and mindfulness, so it’s not as simple as just being grateful.
As you can see, everything goes back to mastering your mindset. To do that, you need to develop strategies, build habits, and eventually, reframe your default way of thinking.
One thing that’s helped me throughout my career is having the excitement for new stories. It’s what helps me keep trying because there are two outcomes from just giving it your best shot – you score a win, or you come away with a good story. Either way, it’s all good.
Do you have more tips for mastering your mindset for sales? I’d love to hear your stories.