How a Song Can Help 58% of Salespeople

It sometimes is the odd duck who waddles to excellence. This is something I have noticed over numerous years in the sales business. Frequently it is the salesperson who marches to his own beat who is the best.

It struck me the other day when I was listening to music in my car and heard “I’m Not for Everyone” by Brothers Osborne (yes, I am a Country music fan). It’s about exactly what its title says.

One of my favorite lines in the song is “I’m a bad joke at the wrong time.” I imagine that is the way it is with most every pursuit. The people who care less about what others think are not constrained by worrying about thoughts and beliefs. They are mission-focused. They are clear on the goal and they pursue it without the fear of not being liked.

The Need to Please

Here’s my point. Way too many salespeople care what other people think of them. They need to be liked more than they need to close the business. 58% of salespeople fall into this category.*

Since, by and large, sales is a people business, this isn’t necessarily surprising. Connecting with people is something most salespeople enjoy and why many are in the job. And, after all, relationship building IS a function of selling. It’s the way to earn trust from the prospect or customer.

However, when salespeople care more about what the prospect thinks of them than they care about helping the prospect, it becomes an impediment to selling. It can derail sales success. Even if salespeople know what they are supposed to say and do during the sales call, they can still fumble it by shying away from being bold with a prospect or customer.

It shows up when a hard question needs to be asked to uncover the real issues facing a customer. It shows up in negotiations when the customer asks for a lower price, or even before they ask, simply because the salesperson believes the customer is going to think the price is too high. The salesperson doesn’t want to disappoint the customer, so they are lackluster, avoiding discomfort, rather than being focused on truly helping the prospect.

Further, this need to please is instilled in us at an early age. For example, remember back to elementary school when gold stars were handed out when someone participated in class. If we pleased the teacher then we were praised and, unfortunately, this and other similar situations create a belief that pleasing other people is a must.

Managers Too

While this behavior is sabotaging the success of far too many salespeople, it plagues sales managers too. It manifests in them being less than forthright with their salespeople about expectations and performance.

The behavior is rarely addressed with training or coaching. The training industry focuses on what to say, what to do, how to overcome objections, etc. But it does not address underlying mindsets that get in the way. Since more than a majority of salespeople have this mindset, addressing it only makes sense, but I admit it takes time and conscious effort to change these deeply rooted beliefs.

How to Change

The first step is to have salespeople who care too much about what others think of them listen to the Brothers Osborne song and internalize the mantra “I’m Not for Everyone.” Managers can also help salespeople seek adulation, not from the customer, but in other ways to change their mindset. For example, instead of celebrating closing the business, celebrate success for the customer. This will help salespeople relax and move past the difficulties of saying something uncomfortable to the prospect. It will also aid them to realize that they aren’t for everyone. They can’t be and it’s okay.

We help salespeople and managers overcome this and other mindset issues along with building selling skills. If you would like to understand a bit more about “The Need for Approval” and how it sabotages skilled salespeople’s success, watch this 28-second video with Dave Kurlan, CEO of Objective Management Group.

Now go ahead and encourage your salespeople to clap to their own beat (listen to the song).


*Data source: Objective Management Group