The Mindset of a Sales Leader

By Gerhard Gschwandtner 

Think of your sales team. How many of your salespeople operate at peak performance levels? My guess is about 20%. I’d also guess that these high performers are the self-motivated go-getters, sales hustlers that do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to reach and exceed their goals. They’ve created a Peak Performance Mindset. You don’t have to worry about them making quota, they are wired to crush it.

What to do with the remaining 80%? How can you lead the rest of the team to peak performance? The short answer is: Hack their mindsets. The latest discoveries from Neuroscience show that sales success is the result of the right mindset, the right skills set and the best toolset. You can buy great sales automation tools and sharpen their skills through training, but the creation of a Peak Performance Mindset requires exploring, energizing and activating the best parts of your salespeople’s minds. Here are four practical ideas and action steps:

1. Create a Wall of Dreams next to your scoreboard
Ask each one of your salespeople to share what they want for themselves. What are they dreaming about? Do they crave riding in a fancy SUV, invest in a vacation property in Hawaii, a heli-skiing trip in Alaska, a yoga workshop in India, or a trip to Tibet to volunteer in an orphanage? Invite them to paste pictures of their dreams on the wall next to the scoreboard. Below is an example.

Picture1While the scoreboard is a reminder to make their numbers, images of their dreams allows them to express their inner desires and assert their individuality. This small change will transform the conversations in your office. People will understand their peers on a deeper level and they will become more aware of the “why” behind their sales goals. As the saying goes, the bigger the why, the harder the try and the better the how.

2. Deploy empathy as a leadership tool
Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP uses the word “empathy” in almost every keynote on leadership. If you want your company to be customer centric, you want to inspire your sales team to show empathy for their customers. Emotions play a vital role in the customer experience. Customers want to be understood on a logical and emotional level. The same is true for your coworkers. Says, Bill McDermott in his bestselling book Winners Dream, “If you treat people with dignity and respect, they will give it right back to you.” As a leader you want to demonstrate that you care and that you take an interest in your salespeople’s lives. Show genuine curiosity about what’s important to them. One great icebreaking question: “What’s cooking in your kitchen?” Listen intently, and reflect on what you hear in a thoughtful and genuine way. Empathy elevates the dignity of the human spirit.

3. Evangelize a no-limit mindset
Salespeople know that they can do more if someone will encourage and persuade them to reach deeper. Here is an example. In one of our recent Peak Performance Mindset workshops we discussed the no-limit idea of deciding to shoot a hole in one on the golf course. I actually “coached” the VP of Sales to experiment with a three-step process: 1. Clear your head of all negative self-talk. 2. Move your mind’s operating system from the left brain hemisphere (logic and critical thinking) to the right hemisphere (emotions, feelings, intuition, music, color, shape) and trust your muscles to execute the right swing. 3. Visualize and feel your swing, how you connect with the ball, how it takes off, watch the arc of the flight, see the ball land on the green and then roll towards the pin, disappearing in the cup. The result: after this quick coaching session the VP of Sales came within six inches of the cup. The following day we conducted a workshop, and a female account manager took this lesson to heart and decided to apply it two days later on the golf course. On the first hole she declared that she’d shoot a hole in one. Her boyfriend told her about the slim chances given her high handicap. She shrugged off the negative comment, stepped up to the tee box, went through her no-limit mindset routine, connected with the ball and watched it soar and land on the green, slowly rolling towards the pin and disappearing in the cup. Her boyfriend was stunned, she was ecstatic and today she is firm a believer in no-limit thinking.

The VP of Sales applied the same no-limit thinking to his sales culture and his team responded by creating the biggest quarter in the history of the company.

4. Encourage your salespeople to create a positive and happy mindset
Research by Dr. Shawn Achor shows that happy salespeople have 23% more energy, they are 31% more productive, they sell 38% more and they are 300% more creative. Here are four action steps that you can implement in your business.

a) Say no to emotional littering. Don’t accept “hanging in there” as a professional response to “how are you doing?” Teach people by your own behavior that a positive Mindset starts with your choice to make yourself feel good when you use language that’s active (not passive), optimistic (not doubtful) and positive (not negative) language in the office.

b) Begin every day with a positive affirmation. Here is an example: “Every day in every way I am getting better and better by the decisions I make and the actions I take.”

c) Smile the moment you get out of bed – even if you don’t feel like smiling. Research shows that the moment we change your physiology; you will change your feelings.

d) Use the “Power Pose” before you get to the office. I her TED talk, Dr. Amy Cuddy shared what she called the victory pose that athletes use after they’ve won a race, or broken a record. They raise their arms over their head, they make a fist with both hands like a champion. When you hold the Power Pose for 2 minutes you will experience a 25% drop in Cortisol and a 20% increase in testosterone. This means, 25% less anxiety and 20% more confidence.

e) Before you go to bed, write down three specific things that you are grateful for. Gratitude will make you feel good. It’s been proven by science that gratitude isn’t just good for improving your state of mind, it will also improve your immune system.

Today’s sales teams want less of a director that tells people what to do, but an orchestra leader who encourages people to create a more productive, more resilient and more growth focused mindset.