In The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, I wrote that success in sales is not only about individual effort, but also requires the right mindset, skill sets, and tool kits. While all of these components are necessary and worth working hard to get, mindset is the most important—that’s why I devote half the book to it!
One of the most debilitating threats to B2B salespeople is the victim mindset, the idea that external forces are working against you to prevent you from succeeding. Those who possess this mindset even retain it in the face of unassailable evidence all around them, and it poisons every aspect of their professional efforts.
Victim Mindset: Prospecting
People possessed by a victim mindset will complain that “no one answers the phone,” and that “cold calling doesn’t work.” They will follow up with some derogatory remark about the marketing team and the quality of the leads, or some such complaint. Whatever their script, they want you to believe that it isn’t their fault so you’ll validate their failure—and if you’re not careful, they’ll infect you with their beliefs, too.
The problem with believing the victim in this case is that others who work in same industry, in the same company, and even in the same building effectively schedule new client meetings every day. The reason the victim avoids their success is that they don’t believe success is possible, so they choose to waste time and energy complaining instead of working harder.
Prospecting isn’t easy—it never has been. But you have to take an active role in it. Improve the value you trade for a meeting. Be professionally persistent over time. And be completely convicted and confident about the value you create.
Victim Mindset: Process
The victim will gripe that “the client ghosted me after our first meeting.” They’ll indict the client for canceling a meeting, and will moan on and on about how hard it is to work when the clients “control the process.” The root cause of their problem, they insist, is always a person, a place, or a thing—but never themselves. They cannot bring themselves to believe that the reason their prospective client disappeared is because they didn’t create enough value in the first meeting to persuade the client to keep showing up.
As the sales conversation becomes increasingly more complex and less linear, it’s that much more important that salespeople change that they believe about how to help the buyer manage their efforts. There are plenty of salespeople whose clients do show up for their meetings. Many of them, especially the most successful ones, have found a way to help clients agree to the meetings they need to have, heavily influencing the process their client follows to ensure that they achieve the results they are pursuing.
Victim Mindset: Competition
Those who choose to be victims instead of protagonists suffer endlessly at the hands of their competition. They will explain to you in great detail how their “competitor always undercuts” their price, making it impossible to win the client’s business. Without no evidence to speak of, they will describe their competition as being “dirty and underhanded,” lying to their clients to snatch a big deal.
It can be very difficult for the victim to accept that their coworkers are also selling the same solutions with the exact same pricing. Their peers also compete against the same competitors, calling on the same set of prospective clients. How, you might ask, can the top half of the stacked ranking succeed consistently when the victim fails? There’s the rub: the victim is not easily swayed by any proof that would destroy their ability to believe and behave as if their poor results are due to some external force.
You will have competitors whose sales models rely on offering a client the lowest price. They are easily beaten by good salespeople every day. You will also have some sketchy competitors who will do whatever it takes to win a deal. They may occasionally fool a client into hiring them, but just wait—soon enough, they’ll undo themselves by violating their client’s trust and continually disappointing them.
Victim Mindset: Losses
To be sure, the victim will tell you all about why they lost a deal. Once they finish griping about their competitor, they will tell you that the client “didn’t give me a fair chance.” They’ll also share that the client didn’t “recognize the greater value in the solution,” to make sure you know that they only lost because of their higher price. You will, however, never hear the words “I didn’t do a good enough job conveying the value” slip past their lips.
The protagonist, one who believes they have the agency necessary to succeed, holds ideas that are the exact opposite of the victim. When they lose a deal, they take full responsibility for the loss. Instead of looking for someone or something to blame, they look for ways to improve their performance in the future.
It’s not easy to create and win new opportunities. The reason that victims struggle more than those with a positive, optimistic, empowered mindset is that they have already lost in their mind. Success in sales is individual, and it starts with your mindset, what you believe to be true, and what you believe is possible.
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