It is very easy for us as sales professionals and business owners to look at certain prospecting activities and say to ourselves, “Oh, that would never work for me!” Really? You can’t say that without putting effort into it and really see if it would work. You can’t say that without actually trying it first. Unfortunately, I see that negative attitude all the time. It’s amazing the preconceived notions that people can and do have.

Eventually, it all goes back to expectations and behavior. Why do you think it would never work? Maybe you visited with someone three years ago who tried it about 10 years before that and it didn’t work. So you’re going to base your entire decision making on second-hand information from a decade and a half ago? Things change. Mindsets change. Technology changes. Times change, and if you don’t keep up, you could be left in the poor house.

Many times, I’ve heard people say that specific networking groups don’t work. Then I’ll talk to someone else, and they’ll tell me that 80 percent of their business comes from that very networking group. Do it before you dismiss it and really give it a chance. Don’t just try it once and dismiss it when it’s not immediately effective. Some prospecting activities take longer than others to really start working. It’s different for each activity, and it’s different for each person.

Professional athletes record their behaviors and analyze the results of those behaviors. They know when something works and when it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, they first look inward to examine whether it is something in their approach that is causing them to come up short on the desired outcome of the behavior. They then make adjustments and continue to test and measure their results. So, the professionals’ self-concept is strong enough to allow for them to accept responsibility for their failure to get the results they are looking for. This is what empowers their ability to look inward, grow and change.

Unfortunately, many business owners, sales executives and salespeople focus all of their effort on their sales technique but miss the critical component of their attitude and mindset toward prospecting, selling and other aspects of their revenue production role in their job. The dismissive attitudes toward prospecting as addressed above are just the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s presume a sales team role-plays a new referral technique in a sales meeting, but one of the salespeople – let’s call her Janet – has a belief that someone who sells her something should be grateful they got the order and not ask for future business or referrals because she sees that as pushy. When Janet goes into the field later that day and is sitting in front of her best customer, how likely is she to use the sales technique she practiced with her team in the sales meeting that morning? It’s quite likely that the little voice in Janet’s head that screams “don’t be pushy, be grateful for the business this customer is already giving you” will win out over the sales technique and sales manager’s encouragement to practice the new technique.

Let’s take attitude and beliefs one step further. When you make calls, whether it’s a brand new sales call or a service call to a customer, the level you call on within the organization is a reflection of how you see yourself conceptually – that is, a reflection of your attitude and beliefs about your own self-concept. If you make sure to meet the president, then you believe you belong there. Amateur salespeople will only go as high as their “inner parent” will let them go; they’ll keep calling on purchasing agents and other non-decision makers time and again even if they get nowhere. Professional salespeople know how to get invited in to see the president, and they also understand conceptually why they belong there.

Where do your salespeople wind up? The president’s office, or the janitor’s closet? Who you call on and how you prospect is often a conceptual thing, not a technical thing. How much time are you spending on changing the attitudes and beliefs that are standing in the way of you or your salespeople going to the bank more often?    

Bob Bolak is president of Sandler Training in Boulder. For a free copy of “Why Salespeople Fail and What to Do About It,” call Bolak at 303-376-6165 or email bbolak@sandler.com.