Recently I wrote an article about the importance of mindset to personal growth and success in life. This article focuses specifically on how mindset can make a significant difference in both the short-term and long-term success of salespeople.
First, a quick recap of mindset: Carol Dweck tells us that people generally fall into two camps in terms of their attitude towards personal ability. Some people think we’re born with a fixed amount of personal ability and can’t do much about it, and others see ability as very malleable and able to be improved through hard work.
Your mindset influences the type of goals you set for yourself. There are two general types of goals that people set for themselves, performance goals and learning goals. Performance goals are about reaching a set target, which is frequently related to how you compare to others. Learning goals focus on learning, getting better and comparing yourself to yourself.
The prevalent quota-based, competitive, short term goal approach of most sales forces is highly conducive to performance goals, but research shows that learning goals actually lead to superior sales performance, both in the short term and in the long run.
In one study, researchers tested 167 medical device salespeople involved in a 90-day sales campaign for a particular device. It cost about $5,000, and salespeople were offered a $300 bonus for each device they sold. The nice thing about this study is that it was real-world, with actual dollars at stake and precisely measurable results.
Before the campaign was announced, the salespeople were given a questionnaire to determine whether they were performance-oriented or learning-oriented. Basically, they were asked to indicate their level of agreement with statements such as, “It is important for me to learn from each selling experience I have,” or “I feel very good when I know I have outperformed other salespeople in my company.” In addition, the researchers also asked participants questions about their personal sales targets, how much effort they planned to put into the campaign (they still had to sell everything else), and how much planning they would do.
The study found that “a learning goal orientation had a positive relationship with sales performance” which is the academic way of saying the learning-oriented salespeople kicked ass.
Based on that study, plus some additional research and my own 20 years’ experience in sales training and consulting, I’ve listed ten ways that the proper mindset and goal orientation make you more successful in sales:
In sum, the right mind-set can give a you sales force of happy, productive, self-starters. These results should lead to two obvious questions: can you test for goal orientation before hiring, and can you teach a learning orientation to those who don’t have it? The answers are yes and yes, but that is a topic for next week’s article.
 VandeWalle, Brown, Cron, Slocum: “The Influence of Goal Orientation and Self-Regulation Tactics on Sales Performance: A Longitudinal Field Test.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 1999.
Succeed, by Heidi Grant Halvorson