Can psychology help you sell?

Yes and no…

Yes: for example, positive psychology can help if you struggle with prospects saying ‘no’. Positive psychology looks at how we explain setbacks and successes to ourselves: are they personal? Are they permanent? Are they pervasive? If we’re struggling with sales rejection, we can make life hard for ourselves by explaining it as ‘down to me’ (personal), ‘no matter what I try’ (pervasive), and ‘always happens/never works’ (permanent). If we’re doing all three of these to ourselves, known as a pessimistic explanatory style (as in ‘how I explain stuff to myself and others’), it’s going to be tough to get selling.

Whereas someone who explains a sales rejection as ‘it’s their situation, not me and what I’m selling’ (not personal), ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ (not pervasive), or ‘it’s just not right for them at this time’ (not permanent) will be better able to withstand the ups and downs. Such people are termed as having an optimistic explanatory style.

And the good news is that we can learn from these optimistic explainers. Yes, we all have defaults and tendencies to one or the other. But a more optimistic explanatory style can be learned and developed with practice.

So think back to a time when you encountered a sales rejection, and just check in with your inner dialogue at the time: how did you explain this to yourself? If any of your explanations were personal, pervasive or permanent, you can now pause for thought and seek evidence for/against. What happens if you apply the alternative, optimistic, explanation to the situation? Does it ring true? Often, people are surprised to find it does.

For more on positive psychology and selling, check out Dr Martin Seligman’s excellent book, Learned optimism and you can find enlightening questionnaires on Authentic Happiness.

No: psychology won’t help you sell if you don’t apply the theory, practise methodically and reflect on your progress. As with any development, it’s not a magic pill!

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