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Are Your Wired for Sales?

2010/04/01 12:00 AM
By Jerry Browning,

Are You Wired for Sales?

APRIL 2009

We’ve all heard about the rejection that sales people go through time and time again.  Successful sales people may be ‘wired’ for handling the rejection and other dynamics experienced in selling.  The reference to ‘wired’ refers to how we naturally process information and situations.  One of these processes that impact sales abilities is our ‘explanatory style,’ which is the way we explain failures and other situations internally to ourselves. 

Martin Seligman wrote Learned Optimism that reports about research resulting in identifying three components of explanatory styles. While these styles indicate either optimism or pessimism, I wonder if these components are also the same things that help successful sales people.  Let’s explore the three P’s of explanatory styles:

  1. Permanence
  2. Personalization
  3. Pervasiveness

Permanence is determining if you explain the situation as being temporary or lasting forever.  Optimists think that a bad thing may be a fluke and that a good thing may be permanent.  Pessimists believe the opposite:  good things are flukes and bad things are going to happen again.  For good sales people, do they believe the rejection is temporary and that the next prospect will be a buyer?

Pervasiveness is the way we look at something being specific or universal.  Is this just an episode or does it apply to everything in our life?  Optimists are more likely to see a good event extending to their whole life and a bad event being just an isolated incident.  Pessimists think a good thing is a fluke and something bad is representative of their whole life.

Personalization is either internal or external.  We believe that we are responsible for the event and that it is internal or that something outside our control is responsible and that it is external.   Optimists pat themselves on the back (internal) when something good happens, while the pessimist will say the good thing is just luck or because of something else outside their control (external).


Seligman also indicates that the explanatory style can be revised with cognitive skills for talking to yourself when you fail or face rejection.   This can change the style from pessimism to optimism.  So could sales success depend upon optimism?  Seligman says, “People who make permanent and universal explanations for their troubles tend to collapse under pressure, both for a long time and across situations.” 

So, if we are not ‘wired’ for sales can we improve our explanatory style?  Martin Seligman tells us, “Habits of thinking need not be forever.  One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.”   Whether you are highly successful in sales or needing improvement, perhaps the way to improve is with what you are telling yourself, especially about rejected sales.  By changing what you tell yourself you may become better ‘wired’ for successful sales.  

Jerry Browning

Consultant, Coach, Facilitator