The inner game of selling

mind tools for sales professionals
by Bill Cole, MS, MA

   Professional golfers say the toughest golf course they will ever play is a tiny little six-inch course. The six inches between their ears. Their brain. The mind game. Pro golfers know their inner game makes or breaks them.
   How about you? Many sales are won or lost in your mind. Can you access the almost limitless mental resources you possess? I believe you can be an inner winner--all the time. Let's take a look at how you can use inner game mind tools to help you sell better, present better and relate better to your clients.
   In 1974 Tim Gallwey wrote the seminal book, "The Inner Game Of Tennis." This book was revolutionary at the time, and today is still considered controversial, yet its teachings have spawned a new learning and performing perspective and method of instruction in all sports, and other arenas.
   Gallwey said that every game has an inner game and an outer game. Selling is a game. Salespeople keep score in the outer game by how much they sell. The inner game is the game that takes place in the mind of the salesperson.
   To win the outer game, you must first win the inner game. Your best performances originate from inside yourself. Yet salespeople create mental barriers, or get in their own way, resulting in performance deficits. In a moment I'll show you ways to overcome these mental blocks, but let's first take a look at the ten most common negative habits of mind that plague salespeople.

Ten Ways Salespeople Block Themselves
  • Trying too hard.
  • Attempting to micro-manage.
  • Self-instruction during their performance.
  • Negative thoughts.
  • Negative mental images.
  • Negative beliefs.
  • Preconceived beliefs.
  • Self-limiting thoughts.
  • Lack of self-trust.
  • A busy mind.
The Two Major Skills Of The Inner Game Of Selling

   Gallwey taught two primary mind tools that would lead to consistent, high-achieving performances. These are among the first mental skills I teach a new client who wants to reach more sales potential.

Quieting The Mind

   When your mind is calm and quiet, your focus is in the present.
All good performances unfold when your mind is in the present, not the past (the hiding place of regret and criticism) or the future (the hiding place of worry and fear). Top sales performers have methods to keep their mind in the here and now. Quieting the mind is the starting point.

Letting It Happen

   Performances that are forced are not as powerful as ones that are allowed to spontaneously blossom.
Letting it happen means to relax and simply do what you know you can do while enjoying the process. Attempting to micro-manage and over-control results in a stilted, stiff, lifeless performance. What is the trigger for letting it happen? Trust and confidence in yourself. Gallwey placed a high value on the notion that if you trust yourself, you will bring forth your best abilities, even under pressure. When your mind and body are working together in harmony, a spontaneous performance is more likely to be ignited.

How Do Sales Performances Happen Naturally?

   To let a great selling performance happen, you need the proper sales skills foundation. If you have not paid your dues in learning, training, planning and practice, you won't achieve the proper execution in your performance. Once you have a firm selling skills foundation in place, the performance magic can happen. Experienced performers then know how to step aside and allow the performance to automatically come forth.

   Study yourself, build your mind tools, and you'll be an inner winner all the time.