A Positive Selling Attitude

Many would argue that you need a positive attitude to succeed in sales; but it is worth asking what is a positive attitude and does it really help?

Years ago when I arrived at 7 am to open my small office in a building open to the public, I was surprised by a young salesman. He hailed me loudly, “Good morning! How are ya?”

“Fine…” I replied tentatively, “How are you?”

“Oh, just great man!” he enthused. “Just great. I got some stuff here I want to show ya that I know you’re going to love.” With that he ran up to my desk, dumped a bag full of leather items on it. “Isn’t this just the greatest stuff you’ve ever seen? There’s calculators, note pads, diaries… You should buy some of this stuff!” He was very upbeat.

“Why?” I responded.

“Because it’s great man!”

It was uncharacteristic of me, but I immediately ushered him and his stuff out the door. I figured that this guy had probably just come from a meeting during which his sales manager commanded, “Get out there and be positive! Positive thinking is catching and people will buy from you.”

Since then, we’ve come to understand that such an approach to selling isn’t positive, it’s bullying.

In spite of my low opinion of that misguided salesperson, I do agree that there is value in positive thinking.

Early pioneers of positive attitude, including Napoleon Hill, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Dr. Maxwell Maltz inspired me to believe in the power of a positive attitude; that the habit of thinking confidently would give me positive intelligence or a more effective and successful way to look at and respond to the world. The evidence of its power was mostly anecdotal but my own experiences suggested there was something to it.

More recently, Positive Psychology, a new field of science pioneered by Dr. Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has added scientific rigor and research to thinking positively. They’ve taught about its power to students, business people and the US Army with documented, constructive results. Positive intelligence is internal, not external. It’s not Pollyanna thinking, but the intelligent, most appropriate response you choose in good times or bad. When you have it, you don’t have to ‘act positive.’ You’re just being you.

You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can always control your response or attitude toward them. In selling and in life, that’s important, because what you do next is what counts.

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July 1, 2013

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