Overcoming Limiting Beliefs in Sales

Limiting beliefs in sales can become a huge barrier to reaching higher levels of success. To get past these limiting beliefs, we have to understand where they come from in the first place, and why they’re so powerful.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment that comes off of a great year in sales. Hitting that aggressive goal, or maybe even surpassing it — it’s exhilarating. But then you realize that your sales manager is going to expect an even more spectacular year from you next year.

So now you’re feeling some pressure, maybe a little angst. You might even start to wonder if you have what it takes. Can you really do this? Is that number possible? Before long, limiting beliefs will creep in, those inner messages that tell you: Nope. You’ve maxed out. That was the best you can do.

This tendency to focus on our limits is pretty common. We’ll do ten things right, but the only thing we think about is the one thing we did wrong. It’s especially common with salespeople, many of whom will plateau at a certain level and become stuck there as a result. In fact, more than technical knowledge or skills, limiting beliefs can become a huge barrier to reaching higher levels of sales success.

To get past these limiting beliefs in sales, we have to understand where they come from in the first place, and why they’re so powerful.

How Beliefs Can Limit a Salesperson’s Success

“Integrity Selling” author Ron Willingham explained this phenomenon through a three-circle model that represents the three dimensions of human behavior

At the top is the smallest dimension, the Intellectual ”I think” dimension. This is where logical thinking resides. The educational system is built off of this dimension. You’re taught something and then you’re expected to know it and go out and use it. Of course, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

The middle circle, which is slightly larger, is the Emotional, or “I feel,” dimension. It overrides your “I think” dimension. For example, let’s say you’re on a diet. You arrive at a meeting where there’s a full spread of cookies, cakes and other sweets on display, and everyone’s diving in. You know intellectually that you should go for the fruit, but your emotions come into play and override that. Before you know it, you’ve gobbled down three cookies.

As Dr. Williams James once said, when emotion and intellect are in conflict, emotion rules the day. That’s why what you feel will override what you think. You may know what you’re supposed to do, but if you don’t feel like doing it, you won’t.

Here’s how that plays out in the sales world: You may know that you need to make a certain number of calls or see a certain number of clients today, and that if you complete those activities, it will lead you to be successful. Intellectually, you know that. But also, you just don’t feel like doing that today. And so you don’t.

At the bottom of the model is the largest dimension of human behavior, and it overrides both of the others. It’s your Creative Unconscious/“I am” dimension. This is who you are. It’s what you say to yourself. Your self-talk is where all of your actions, behaviors, abilities and feelings are housed.

Your “I am” dimension is created throughout your lifetime. Somewhere along the way, someone might have made a comment about how good you are at math, for example, and that you should pursue a career that involves numbers. You thought to yourself, well, I do like math. If you then studied math, took tests and proved that hypothesis right by making good grades, then you naturally started to internalize this belief in your math abilities.

But maybe somewhere along the way, someone told you the opposite. They said, “You’re not really good with numbers. If I were you, I wouldn’t pursue a career in a field that requires a lot of math. You’re just going to struggle.”

You thought about how you don’t really like math, and now they’re saying you’re not really good at it. You then studied, took tests and made poor grades, “proving” that you’re not good at math. And that’s the message you internalized from then on. These internalized messages and self-talk create the limiting beliefs that hold you back.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs in Sales

We all make decisions about all kinds of things every day: What car should I drive? What neighborhood should I live in? How much do I think I can sell? Put together, those decisions become your “Area of the Possible,” what you believe you’re capable of. But that area can be expanded. And once it’s expanded, the floodgates often open up.

Another name for the Area of the Possible is your comfort zone. Many of us automatically resist when we’re asked to step outside our comfort zone. But instead, salespeople can resist their limiting beliefs and learn to break through their plateaus. Here’s how:

  • Identify your limiting beliefs: What do you tell yourself about what’s possible for you? What decisions have you made about yourself that are holding you back? Until you face up to your limiting beliefs, you won’t be able to let go of them and put them behind you.
  • Work on reprogramming your thinking: What new beliefs do you want to embed in your “I am”? Once you begin to think differently about what you can achieve and what you deserve to achieve, you’ll be able to change your self-talk and expand your Area of the Possible.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable: Cold calling, asking questions you don’t really want to ask, seeing new people, whatever part of the sales process you’re uncomfortable with, you have to get in the habit of doing these things, because that’s what will help you to step outside your comfort zone.

There’s no reason this year can’t be even bigger and better than last year. Set your sights just outside your comfort zone, where those goals and rewards you previously thought weren’t possible for you lie. If others can achieve it, so can you.



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