Are You Poisoning Yourself With Pessimism? glass half empty


I want you to be honest with yourself.  No one will know your answers but you ;p

Have you ever said…or thought, any of the following phrases:

“Ughhhh…This lady hates me.”

“(Long Sigh) This guy and I don’t get along at all.”

“This (negative term, possibly expletive) guy owes me an order.”

We all have right?  I’ll admit I’ve done it!  Luckily not so much that it killed me.

Since I’ve been fortunate enough to ride with and study dozens of salespeople for the last several years, I’ve had the opportunity to hear some interesting dialogue that occasionally includes some of the above types of statements.

This is the most interesting thing I’ve observed as I reflect across the spectrum of aptitudes, work habits, and mindsets of the 50 or so people I’ve worked with one on one: the most successful ones tended to rarely (if ever) utter the above phrases.  The guy that stands out in my mind as the worst, absolutely LIVED in these types of statements.  I heard him utter dozens of times, “This f*er owes me an order.”  Yeah…he didn’t sell much.

We just covered the Case for Eternal Optimism, and I realize the irony that these two posts’ themes are basically two sides of the same coin.  In fact, this could have just as well been called The Case Against Needless Pessimism.

We’re going to cover the pessimism side of the coin to warn you of the harmful effect your negativity could be having on you.

It’s a fantastic coincidence that I just finished reading a book that deals directly with this phenomenon.  I’d highly recommend you pick it up.   It’s called “Leadership and Self Deception”   Its a business fable that also spills over into some pretty great personal life applications.  Its about a 2.5 hour read, and it’s well worth the time.

The premise of the book is this: the challenge we have in life is that we tend to get faked out easily.  Our primary focus should be on producing the results we want, but very frequently we abandon our focus on the result we want, and we begin to focus on why someone or something else is holding us back from it.  We stop treating people as people, and begin treating them as obstacles.

The book calls this phenomenon, “entering the box.”  The problem is, once we’ve entered the box, it is nearly impossible to get out.  We are locked into a self fulfilling prophecy of doom.  Seriously.

When we move our focus from the result we desire, to blaming someone else for our problems or lack of results attainment, we completely relinquish our ability to produce the result we said we wanted up front.  In fact, we now need to NOT achieve the result, in order to justify our opinion about where the fault lies (notably, outside of ourselves.)  I know that’s a brain twister, but it’s worth reading again if you need to.

Put another way, once you form an opinion about why something can’t be accomplished (typically founded in negativity,) you NOW need the OPPOSITE of what you said you “wanted” going in, to happen.  This way, you keep congruence with your negatively formed opinion.

A Real World Case of Being Stuck in the Box

Let’s look at a practical example.  Take the above situation I told you about the guy believing he was “owed” an order.   Let’s call this salesperson Adam.

(Lest you be speculating: I did not train this person.  I was asked to ride with him after he’d already been with that company for 10 months.  After trying to help him modify his approach for 2 months, I recommended he move along.  I trust you’d have done the same.)

I vividly remember getting out of Adam’s car on this one call and as we did so he said those words:

This f*er owes me an order.

His tone of voice was comically angry and hateful.  I remember feeling physical revulsion that this guy could be this vulgar and negative, over a person that he barely knew.  I just knew the call wasn’t going to go well.

We stood in the lobby and waited for our prospect to come out.  After a few minutes he did, and he looked annoyed that we were there.  He told us he only had a few minutes (classic move buyers use when they suspect you’re of no value to them).

Adam proceeded to perform a lackluster sales call, not accomplishing any of our key selling processes.  He then asked the buyer if he was ready to order some random soap item he must have talked with him about on a previous call…that conversation’s existence apparently having thoroughly convinced Adam that he was going to take an order for it.

The buyer didn’t need (or want) anything and he asked Adam to not call on him any more.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t surprising to me, having seen Adam’s attitude and work habits.  As the buyer motioned for us to depart, the tension in the lobby was palpable.

We walked back to the car and I remember this rep literally cursing the buyer under his breath (yet plenty loud enough for me to hear).  It was tragic to watch.  But his initial anger about being owed an order, and now not getting said order, all lined up in a self fulfilling prophecy.

He was angry before, and he was angry after when his suspicion came true.  The trouble is that this guy literally could not see the role he played in the problem.  To him, the lack of an order was 100% on the buyer.  His inability to deliver any value didn’t seem to register on his self awareness radar.

This was one of the worst cases of pessismism I’ll probably ever see…and it had correspondingly poor results.  The guy never sold more than a couple thousand dollars of product in an ENTIRE YEAR.

This is an extreme story to be sure, but I’ve seen great salespeople still fall prey to this.

Although nowhere near as bad, it still hurts their ability to connect with their customers.

A Real World Story of Resisting the Box

Once upon a time while riding with a salesperson, as we walked into a call I recall this person saying, “this new buyer lady doesn’t like me very much.”  There was also a specific comment about her lack of friendliness.   Something tells me the minute he formed that opinion of her, that is exactly how she stayed.  He needed her to stay that way.

10 minutes later I’m sitting in a meeting with this lady, the rep, and a couple other people from the customer’s company.  We had a good meeting, and this lady was the last one to leave.  I ended up asking her a few personal questions (tenure with the company, where she came from before, etc.) and a beautiful conversation developed.  I will admit that while I observed her in the meeting, my first impression of her seemed to be that my salesperson had her pegged pretty accurately.  The crazy thing, is that in giving her a chance to open up, SHE DID.  Once we got her going, she wasn’t aloof or unfriendly AT ALL.  The conversation ended with a warm handshake and a sincere thanks for our visit.  Weird and wild stuff right?

So for the next several days, (or the rest of your career) if you feel yourself thinking or feeling negatively about someone, put the brakes on that for a moment.  Read the case for eternal optimism again, and live that for a bit.    Your results will prove the effort is worth it.

Good selling friends.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.