Duke University research on subliminal advertising shows that we are strongly impacted by what our subconscious mind experiences and it can activate based on what the imagery represents to us. The study uses the Apple logo and its brand image of creativity to trigger creative behavior in the study group without them knowing it.
When our subconscious minds believe something is true, whether these thoughts have a positive impact on us or not, the conscious mind will work to assure that contradictory beliefs are eliminated. This means that what our subconscious believes has an enormous impact on our behavior.
Let's look at sales-specific beliefs that negatively impact sales execution. When a salesperson subconsciously believes the statements below are true, coaching alone will not be enough to overcome the problem. Until the subconscious mind agrees with the coaching, the subconscious mind will resist it and our attempts to embrace it.
- It's OK if they think it over.
- I have a long sales cycle.
- I don't like making cold calls.
- I have to call on procurement before end-users or decision-makers.
- If they're happy with their present vendor, then I can't help them.
- Prospects that think it over will eventually buy from me
- It's not OK to confront a prospect.
- Any lack of results are due to the economy or marketplace.
In the context of a sales call, when prospects say things that are aligned with our subconscious beliefs, we begin an internal struggle over which belief to act upon. For example, even though "my experience is that most people who think it over don’t buy from me, it sounds like this person may be the exception.” This thinking is the result of the conscious and subconscious disagreeing and the subconscious attempting to convince the conscious that it is correct.
The first step is to get your salespeople to understand that what their mind tells them may cause nonsupportive actions. The salesperson's natural reaction will be to explain why, in this situation, their thinking is correct and they should ignore lessons from prior, similar sales scenarios. Sales leaders whose thinking is similar to their salespeople may not even recognize the problem, which makes it very difficult for them to help their salespeople overcome these challenges.
Sales leaders often express frustration that their salespeople have a difficult time executing the strategies they develop for them. They may take it personally or wonder if their salespeople are smart enough to incorporate new ideas. While these are understandable responses, they miss the mark. The problem is not whether they know what they should do, but whether they are ready to do battle with their subconscious thinking.
Do you know how your salespeople's subconscious thinking affects their ability to execute your coaching? A sales force evaluation will quickly get to the heart of these issues.