February 7

What’s in Your Salesperson’s Briefcase?


A popular television commercial asks, “What’s in your wallet?” Whenever I see the ad, I immediately think of another question: “What’s in your salesperson’s briefcase?”

Salespeople get hired and show up at work with two briefcases. One is visible, and a sales manager has seen the contents because they hired the person. This briefcase is full of industry experience, a number of years in sales and sales success.

The other briefcase is invisible and its contents are less visible. This briefcase is stuffed full of beliefs, some of which are supportive and others, less so. These beliefs invisibly affect a seller’s ability to execute the right selling behaviors and skills.

Sales managers: Do you know what self-limiting beliefs are in your salesperson’s invisible briefcase?

It could be full of limiting beliefs, such as:

  • Our company is too small to pursue bigger opportunities.
  • Our company is too big. We aren’t nimble enough to win the best deals.
  • I’m too old to learn this new technology.
  • I’m too young. No one wants to work with a new salesperson.
  • I’m a woman selling in a man’s industry. No one will take me seriously.
  • I’m a man selling in a female-dominated industry. No one wants to do business with a guy.
  • And you can fill in the rest of the list …

When sales leaders hear a limiting belief, it’s tempting to jump into tell-and-convince mode, telling the salesperson why these beliefs aren’t true. But we all know that if you are telling, you are not selling. Changing self-limiting beliefs is a sales job and no amount of telling by a sales leader will change a long-held belief.

Sales leaders, apply the EQ skill of delayed gratification and invest time designing questions that challenge a salesperson’s beliefs.

People believe their own data, so ask questions to help salespeople discover a different belief, one that drives the right selling behaviors.

For example, if a salesperson believes the company is too small to pursue larger deals, apply impulse control. Ask, don’t tell.

“I’m curious. What makes you believe the company can’t land bigger opportunities? Is your perspective based on a previous experience or perception?”

“Well, I tried pursuing a larger deal last quarter and the prospect went with our larger competitor.” Ask, don’t tell. 

 “Did the prospect choose the competitor because of their size or did the competition do a better job of uncovering the true need?”

(Hmm...Maybe the competitor did a better job of selling its value. It wasn’t just its size.

“What lessons did you learn from the previous loss and how have you applied those lessons to calls?

(Uh, well, I didn’t really analyze the lost deal because I blamed our company size for the loss.)

“Belief” coaching questions improve your team members’ self-awareness about their self-limiting beliefs. Great questions build a salesperson’s self-responsibility and accountability, which eliminates blame and victim thinking.

What’s in your salesperson’s briefcase? Make sure you identify the invisible beliefs in it. Stop telling and start asking.

Good Selling!


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