Watch Out for Twisted Thinking Part II

Do you manage salespeople? Do you wish they were more productive? Do you wonder what’s keeping them from being as successful as you think they should be? It could be that your sales team suffers from Twisted Thinking.

One of my favorite books to recommend to clients is The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D. This is a book about depression. The subtitle is: “Overcome depression, conquer anxiety, enjoy greater intimacy.”

Why am I recommending a book about depression to my clients? Because the book is really about cognitive behavioral therapy and is a commonsense look at changing the way people think (“cognition” means “thought”), and thus changing their behavior.

In The Feeling Good Handbook Dr. Burns lists “10 Forms of Twisted Thinking” that occur when people are depressed. My years of training and coaching sales professionals have made it clear that people who are not depressed can fall into these twisted ways of thinking, too and many, many sales professionals, unfortunately, employ “‘twisted thinking” when it comes to prospecting.

If your team members are caught in any of these twisted forms of thinking, it will negatively impact their ability to successfully pursue prospects. These types of twisted thinking affect a sales representative’s ability to handle rejection, maintain a positive attitude, learn new skills, solve problems and, bottom line, successfully set up a first appointment.

You can judge for yourself. The following list is the first 3 of the 10 types of “Twisted Thinking” Dr. Burns lists in The Feeling Good Handbook with my paraphrases and sales-related illustrations of each. (You can read about #1-3 here.)

4. Discounting the positive

Discounting the positive is rejecting positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count.”

If a representative is doing well, they may tell themselves that it is a fluke, or really wasn’t good enough or that anyone else could have done as well or better.

In this instance, your goal is to keep the representative focused on what they have accomplished. Make them write it down. Post it on their wall or bulletin board; keep a notebook of achievements — anything to help that representative remember that they are having success.

5. Jumping to conclusions

Jumping to conclusions is about interpreting things negatively when there are no facts to support the negative conclusion. There are two categories here:

Mind reading: Representatives arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting to them negatively, with no evidence to back that up. An example is the representative who, when told their prospect is in a meeting, interprets this to mean that the prospect does not want to speak with them or that the prospect is not interested.

Fortune telling: Representatives predict that things will turn out badly, claiming (again, without evidence) that prospects “are not interested,” or “I’m bothering them,” or “They’ll probably say ‘no’,” or “They probably already have a vendor.” In the representative’s mind there is no reason to call because they’ve already predicted what will happen.

Mind reading and fortune telling are very, very common in prospecting situations. Sales representatives may tell you in great detail what their prospects (whom they’ve never met or even had a conversation with) are thinking and what their prospects are going to do in the future. Do not let them get away with this. No one can know what a prospect is thinking; one can only know what the prospect says and does (or does not do).

When you have someone, who is prone to jumping to conclusions, do a reality check with them. Ask, “How do you know?” Make the representative explain in detail why they are so certain that the prospect does not want to speak with them. Ask, “Is it possible that your prospect really is in a meeting?”

This type of thinking will not change overnight, but if you consistently help your representative check reality before drawing conclusions, it will go a long way toward helping them succeed.

There are 5 more types of “Twisted Thinking.” Stay tuned for future articles.

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