Most B2B sales professionals cringe at the thought of the stereotypical image of the sleazy salesperson who will do or say anything to close the sale. But there are salespeople out there who attempt to badger, coerce, or lie their way to a sale.
In his keynote presentation, “How to Succeed with Sales 3.0 – Lessons from History for Winning in 2019,” at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas, Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder of Selling Power magazine, discussed integrity in selling. He said behaviors like cheating and lying in sales are actually manifestations of a negative mindset. Here are the two main mindset traps he outlined.
Mindset Trap #1: A ruthless desire to win at all costs
Many salespeople have a strong drive to win. The problem is, some people want to win at any cost. This kind of attitude can have complex roots, but a simple shortcut is to look for feelings of anger and insecurity. “When you have anger, you always lose in the long run,” said Gschwandtner. “Anger is a negative emotion. The burning rage is like a fire in the mindset of sellers who want to win at all costs.”
When anger and the drive to win combine, the result can be cheating, lying, and even criminal fraud. Gschwandtner reminded the audience of what happened at Enron, an energy trading company that collapsed after a massive accounting fraud scheme was revealed. He also cited research showing at least two conditions need to be in place for fraud to occur.
- Pressure – A large amount of pressure to deliver great results, without proper support, can give some people the motivation to do something outside the bounds of integrity.
- Rationalization – The idea that you can “get away” with fraud can sometimes make it easier to choose to engage in fraud.
In sales, a desire to win is absolutely necessary – but a ruthless desire to win can lead to a massive downfall. Enron’s 2001 bankruptcy filing was the largest in American history at the time (estimated losses totaled $74 billion). Many people participated in fraud at Enron because the business culture was steeped in a lack of integrity. People figured: If everyone is acting this way, it must be okay.
Gschwandtner also discussed the example of Lance Armstrong and his doping scandal. Psychologists have called Armstrong an example of “duping delight”: Armstrong actually got pleasure from misleading people and getting away with it (at least for a time). As Gschwandtner put it, “Armstrong knew people liked to see him win, but they wouldn’t have liked him if they knew he was cheating. And they wouldn’t have let him compete anymore. His attitude was, ‘I loved winning – and audiences loved it when I won, too.’”
Gschwandtner urged sales leaders to be a moral compass at their companies. “If you see this kind of behavior at your company, stand up and be counted. Say, ‘This is not right.’”
Salespeople who drive sales to a close and have a winning-at-all-cost attitude tend to get lots of sales…but they also tend to create a lot of cancellations and even chaos in an organization. The reason many people end up drifting toward tactics like coercion and lying is because they feel inferior. Such salespeople equate money with their own value. They see sales as a literal representation of how much they’re worth. In these cases, sales leaders need to teach salespeople their value is inherent and not negotiable.
Mindset Trap #2: Wanting to be liked at all costs
The second mindset trap Gschwandtner outlined was salespeople who have a deep need to be liked. When salespeople want to be liked too much, they tend to
- Schmooze with prospects and customers without ever networking effectively.
- Avoid customers they perceive as too challenging to talk to.
- Avoid prospecting and closing.
Gschwandtner shared a video from Dave Kurlan, showing that a full 53 percent of salespeople simply make a lot of friends and never sell anything to them. Among elite salespeople (top performers), only 11 percent say they feel a deep need to be liked. By contrast, 86 percent of the weakest salespeople feel a deep need to be liked.
If you have salespeople who suffer from this challenge, ask them the following questions:
- In your mind, what are the advantages of being liked?
- What are the disadvantages of being liked?
- Is being liked by prospects and customers helping you reach your sales goal?
- How do you think you can balance your need to be liked with the need to close the sale?
As a leader you can help salespeople change their mindset. As Gschwandtner said, you want to help them increase their productivity and not be sabotaged by their need to be liked.
Download the PowerUp Sales App to Get a Mindset Lift
As a practical tip, Gschwandtner encouraged the Sales 3.0 audience to download the PowerUp Sales app in the Apple Store (developed by Precise Wellness LLC – the same makers of ThinkUp, which was named the best motivational app of 2017). The app allows you to record affirmations specific to your needs, in your own voice. Simply listen to these affirmations daily to improve your levels of happiness and success.