When I first heard the term psychological safety, it didn’t even occur to me that psychological safety could have an impact on sales. Frankly, it sounded like the latest fad put out by business and human resource consultants. After all, aren’t sales professionals supposed to be hard charging, thick skinned and resilient?
However, I challenged myself to “eat my own dog food” and examine my limiting beliefs around this concept. Surprise, surprise, we’ve been teaching psychological safety for years because our sales and sales leadership programs include emotional intelligence training.
Emotionally intelligent salespeople and sales managers create psychologically safe conversations with prospects, customers and each other because:
Psychological safety has been defined as the ability to share one’s thoughts and feelings without the worry of being judged, shut down or put down.
Salespeople that are worried about being judged by their sales manager or peers don’t speak up or show up. They are not comfortable taking risks and as a result:
- They avoid selling into new markets. (I could fail and be judged by my boss or peers.)
- They are reluctant to try new selling skills. (I could stumble and bumble on a call and be judged by the prospect or customer as incompetent.)
- They avoid calling on bigger accounts. (I might be asked a big question by a big decision maker and not know the answer. Better to just play it safe, not speak up and avoid asking the tough questions.)
It’s important to recognize that when salespeople are worried about being judged, they are also worried about failing. This is the underlying reason they default to status quo, play it safe selling behaviors.
Now, let’s unpack this fear of failure concept a little bit more. We’ve all heard the phrase, “You learn more from your failures than your successes.”
The problem is that most salespeople and sales managers don’t believe this quote. If they did, they would be selling into new markets, trying new selling skills and calling on larger accounts!
So how do we develop sales cultures that create safety and improve a salesperson's ability to embrace risk, failure and increase sales?
#1. Change the paradigm on failure to create psychological safety.
At your next group sales meeting, ask each salesperson to come to the meeting prepared to share a failure AND the lessons learned. Ask each salesperson to share specifically the lessons learned from the failure and how the lessons will help them win future business. This practice sets up a sales culture where it’s safe to share setbacks. No judgment, only support and sharing.
#2. When a salesperson fails---which will happen---the emotionally intelligent sales manager addresses the fear of being judged and fear of failure to create psychological safety.
They remind the salesperson to take the failure on his or her role performance. “You made a mistake. Take this setback on your ROLE as a salesperson, not on your self-worth.”
Psychologically safe sales cultures encourage their salespeople to risk, fail, gain valuable lessons which allow them to continue to grow and improve.
When salespeople continue to grow and improve, so will your sales revenues.