In today's tough economy, with more and more people struggling to either find a job, hang on to the one they have, or make their businesses prosper, it's important to recognize everything we can do to help us be more productive. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote an intriguing book called Learned Optimism. In his book, he offers many simple techniques to break an "I-give-up" habit and develop a more constructive explanatory style during challenging times. This can help you develop a more positive inner dialogue that has been found to break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, and just plain make you happier.
Why is it important that salespeople learn to be optimistic?
For sales professionals, it is especially important that they are able to be resilient when a prospect says "no". In Seligman's book, he cites a study with Met Life, where the optimistic life insurance salespeople sold 21% more in year 1 than the pessimists. In year 2, they sold 57% more! They also stayed with the company significantly longer. One other study showed that extremely optimistic insurance agents outsold extreme pessimists by 88%. It all comes down to our "explanatory style": what we say to ourselves when the going gets tough.
What are the components of someone's "Explanatory Style"?
The 3 components are: Permanence (if you think it will always be that way), Pervasiveness (if it will impact all areas of your life) and Personal (if it was caused by you and not something outside of you). Optimists tend to think most adversities are temporary, impact only one area of life, and are caused by the environment or something else. However, pessimists tend to think the adversity will always be there, it will impact everything, and caused because of some personal failure. We all experience adversity and hit the wall sometimes. It's what we say to ourselves that gets us over it.
How can I learn to be more optimistic?
The good news is that Seligman found that Optimism can be learned. The best place to start is to pay close attention to your inner explanatory style. Really listen to what you are saying to yourself. Then challenge yourself to dispute anything negative that may not be helpful to you. Will the challenge really always be that way? Did you really cause it because of some inner weakness, or could there be another explanation? Don't make it permanent, don't let it impact every area of your life, and don't blame yourself.
It's not hard to recognize what the consequence will be. If you think and feel more optimistic, you will be willing to make one more sales call, feel better when you talk to the next prospect, and eventually sell more. When you don't make the sale, it won't feel so bad and you'll keep going. As a result, you'll earn more and enjoy the process.
For More Information
Listen to this recorded radio show where Susan Cullen was a guest speaker on the "Let's Talk Sales to Increase Your Income with Len and Jack". She discussed research behind Learned Optmism and shared techniques with listeners that anyone can use now.