Are You Hanging Out with the Winners or the Whiners on Your Sales Team?

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No, your mother didn’t get me to write this post! But after leading many many workshops and speaking at tons of sales team meetings this year and then observing sales team members afterward at the hotel lobby bar, I feel compelled to challenge you on this topic.

Who are you hanging out with from your sales team?

Are you gravitating towards top-producers with positive attitudes, or do you find yourself palling around with those who spew negativity – the naysayers, cynics, skeptics and scoffers?

Please don’t blow this question off. It’s not inconsequential. In fact, your answer might have more to do with your success in sales (and life) than any sales training tip you pickup during a workshop!

Not to oversimplify this, but as I observe the cliques within sales teams and who is hanging out with whom, it is pretty amazing how often I see a group of negative under-performers hanging out together. It’s almost as if they seek each other out for affirmation – the wrong kind of affirmation. They take comfort in surrounding themselves with other critics who loudly complain that the company is a mess, the leadership is a joke, the training has no value, etc. They also tend to demonstrate other “loser” characteristics, like External Locus of Control. That’s a fancy/technical description for people that see themselves as victims, who instead of looking in the mirror when the results are poor, they look outside of themselves to place blame on others and circumstances. People in this group become masters at finger-pointing and negativity…and many seem to take pride in bringing along as many as will join them on this path of doom and gloom. It’s a pretty sad sight and the future results of members of this group are unfortunately very predictable.

So, let me ask again: who are you hanging with on the sales team? Actually, let’s expand the scope of the question even further: who are you hanging out with – period? I believe Jim Rohn may have proclaimed this first, and many popular big voices (Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins) are still proclaiming it: You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

I have no idea how much research or empirical data backs up that statement – and frankly don’t care. I think we all would admit, that at face value, there is a lot of truth in the theory. We become a whole lot like the people with whom we surround ourselves. This summer my church’s sermon series has been from the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Proverbs is considered wisdom literature, and what’s been interesting to me is how much of the texts we have looked at talk about the importance of friends and their role in our lives: Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. – Proverbs 13:20.  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses – Proverbs 27:6.

My pastor and friend, Scott, really challenged us recently with a series of questions that seem absolutely appropriate for everyone in a sales role:

  • Who is investing in you and in whom are you investing?
  • Who is celebrating you and celebrating with you?
  • Who are you trusting to “wound you” (to confront you and speak truth in love)?
  • Who is there to help carry you through the rough spots, to support you, to believe in and encourage you?
  • Who is journeying alongside you that truly cares about you and your success?

Friends, while these are powerful questions that challenge and confront us about important holistic life issues like isolation, transparency, community, support, etc., I would argue that they are also extremely relevant when it comes to our careers, and particularly our sales success. So much of sales has to do with heart engagement. I like to say that in sales, “you gotta wanna.” My mentor, Donnie Williams, is always preaching that sales is much more about the heart than about the head.

So let me ask you for a third time: who are you hanging out with in general, and specifically, on the sales team? My strongest coaching to you is that if you want to change your thinking, your attitude, and your results for the better, it might be essential for you to change where and with whom you hang out. Get away from the negativity and the Debbie-Downers. Be intentional about seeking out those who are successful – those that are winning. Believe it or not, many of those top-performers would love to see you win, too. And if you work or sell alone, or feel there really aren’t people on your sales team that you would benefit from being around, then seek out others who can be positive influences and part of your support network. I have a select handful of sales and business friends. We regularly check-in with each other, share our goals, successes and struggles, even our incomes. In some cases, I’m the mentor or senior person in those relationships. In others, I’m definitely the mentee. The common denominator of all these relationships is that we are for each other, we mutually encourage and challenge each other, we speak words of truth, and provide counsel as needed/requested. It’s awesome, life-giving, and energizing having people in your life who want to see you win and that are willing to contribute to your effort. So choose your friends wisely, and next time you head to the lobby bar after an offsite sales meeting, be very intentional about which group of salespeople you decide to hang with.

(and for those who love to send notes nitpicking grammar from free blog posts, please believe that I know I ended several sentences with prepositions and took great pleasure in doing so 🙂 )

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