Assessing a Sales Mindset: The hidden weaknesses to watch out for

Having a sales mindset

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In sales, it really is mind over matter. No amount of skills training will overcome a poor selling psychology. In fact, at SalesStar we’ve found that 80 per cent of a salesperson’s success comes down to mindset. It’s why hiring people with the right mindset is so critical to developing a high-performance sales team. But what sort of mental attitude should sales managers look for?

There’s also the question of the mindsets of your existing sales staff too. Can you improve their selling psychology through training? Answer: yes, you can. It’s also the most effective sales training your team can undertake.

“Our biggest breakthroughs have been training in mindset,” says Paul O’Donohue, SalesStar’s Founder and Global CEO. “It makes salespeople far, far more effective.

“We recently had a client, a car dealer, grow by 30 per cent in six months—the market only grew 13 per cent—when we focused on mindset training.”

The 2 sides of a positive sales mindset

There are two parts to the selling mindset: the will to sell and psychological competencies. The top salespeople rank high across both these aspects.

1. The will to sell

Skills, while important, mean nothing if a salesperson lacks the five essential components that fuels a salesperson’s drive to sell. These are:

  • Desire: Does the salesperson have a strong desire to be successful?
  • Commitment: Do they have unconditional committed to doing everything they can to hit their targets? Are they prepared to do the stuff that will make them successful even if it is scary or uncomfortable? Whether that’s picking up the phone (cold calling), presenting to a proposal to a group, or having a conversation with a CEO.

    “A lot of salespeople want to be successful, but they lack that real commitment to do whatever it takes,” says Paul. “Salespeople have to be tenacious.”

  • Responsibility: Do they take responsibility for their activities, or do they make excuses? Do they blame external factors on their failure, or do they look internally and ask what they could have done better?
    “Top salespeople have a huge amount of self-responsibility,” says Paul. “Without these internal conversations, a salesperson will never get better.”
  • Outlook: How positive are they? Do they look at a market and see an abundance of opportunities or a scarcity of them? A strong outlook tends to result in more resilient salespeople who can handle rejection.

You either have it, or you don’t

These “willingness to sell” traits are the foundations of a successful selling mindset. Without them, salespeople are not just ineffective, but virtually untrainable.

2. Psychological competencies

There are several psychological barriers that can hold a salesperson back and prevent them from being effective. While they are common—especially in sales teams that struggle to hit their targets—they can be overcome.

These barriers include:

  • Need for approval: the need to be liked by others. This weakness gets in the way of asking tough questions to advance a sale. According to Paul, this weakness alone can have a 33 per cent impact on a salesperson’s ability to close a sale.
  • Self-limiting beliefs: Selling is about belief. Belief in oneself, the product, the company and the value proposition and price point. Without it, self-limiting beliefs can form, such as “this sales process is ineffective” and “I can’t sell on value”. Even if it’s never verbalised, it can have a massive impact on a salesperson’s psyche.

    “It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You start to buy into that self-limiting belief,” says Paul. “It then limits the activity you do and how effective you are at it.”

  • Uncontrolled emotion: Salespeople who get emotionally involved tend to act erratic and get flustered easily. Their decisions are not always rational, which can cause them to deviate from your sales process.
  • Money weakness: Being uncomfortable discussing money, budgets and finance is a major issue for a salesperson. Not only can it prevent them from fully understanding their customer’s needs, but they also tend to discount things and can’t sell on value.
  • Buy-cycle weakness: This is the tendency to empathise with people who have a similar buying process to you. If you’re an impulse buyer, you expect others to be as well, which could result being assertive at closing time, and likely to close more and faster deals. Likewise, if you prefer to spend time considering a purchase, you might miss an opportunity to close a sale, as you may think the prospects wants to think it over and comparison shop, resulting in blown out sales cycles and can impact closing by 50 per cent.

Add it all up…

These psychological conditions are what Paul refers to as the “human handbrake” as we are often not aware of them and they can slow us down. Combine these weaknesses together: the need for approval with a 33 per cent impact on closing, buy-cycle weakness with a 50 per cent impact, self-limiting beliefs, and money weakness, and it really starts to add up.

“When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see why some salespeople simply aren’t effective,” says Paul.

4 tips to overcome a mindset weakness in your staff

1. Conduct a sales assessment

A sales assessment will help identify the type of weaknesses a salesperson has.

2. Determine whether skill or mindset weakness

Explore why a salesperson didn’t do certain behaviours or activities. Do they know how to do it, or did they avoid it?  If they don’t execute on the skills they know, it’s a mindset issue.

3. Coach through the barriers

Provide ongoing coaching and guidance to help your team member overcome their weaknesses. Pre-call strategizing and post-call debriefs are a good place to start.


4. Check your sales managers

The mindset weaknesses of sales managers and leaders can in turn affect the rest of their sales team. Self-limiting beliefs and buy-cycle weaknesses, for example, can originate in a sales manager and spread to the rest of their team, i.e. instructing team members not to push to close a sale when in fact they should.

If you’re looking to increase your sales, your sales team should start embracing a consultative selling strategy. Download our FREE eBook: Stop Selling, Start Consulting. 


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