Believing in What You Sell

The Constructive Belief Systems of CEOs

During my interview with Peter Bell, the co-founder and CEO of StorageNetworks, he shared with me his very strong belief about his involvement in the sales process:

"I believe strongly that I must routinely 'disrupt' the sales process--from the standpoint of shortening the sales cycle--by doing a 'title-to-title' call or in-person meeting. In all these cases, though, I will still hold my sales team responsible for working the sales process."

Peter believes that involving himself in the sales process has a clear benefit: shortening the amount of time it takes to turn a suspect into a customer. He has amassed so much evidence for this belief, in fact, that it has taken on the form of a conviction.

Could Peter's belief be changed? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Why? Because the emphasis he put on the word "strongly" gave me the sense that he had strongly invested himself in this way of looking at the world, and that employing this vantage point had paid off for him handsomely. Peter has developed a constructive belief system about involving himself in the sales process.

Does that belief, that sense of conviction in what his company has to offer, pay off? Consider the following story.

"For two hours," Peter told me, "a C-level prospect spoke of nothing but what our competition could do for his company. I thanked him for his time and hospitality. I gave the deal a 50/50 chance. Two days later he called me and gave us the business."

Take Control of Your Own Beliefs and Convictions
It's virtually impossible to understate the importance of beliefs when it comes to harnessing the power of a CEO who sells. Once you take total responsibility for your own empowering beliefs and convictions, you will, by definition, be thinking, acting and selling like a CEO.

Perhaps it's time to examine some of your own beliefs. Here are some examples of what I call self-limiting "killer beliefs":

  • CEOs would never take time out of their busy day to see me. (After having met with hundreds of CEOs, I can attest--this one doesn't withstand the test of experience.)
  • I have nothing to offer this person.
  • I'll never make "salesperson of the year"; my territory isn't good enough.
  • CEOs make me nervous.
  • I choke under pressure.
  • CEOs are difficult people to talk with.
  • My parents ruined me for life! (I think we should all get rid of that one.)

Each of the negative beliefs has a corresponding positive counterpart. (For instance: "I can add significant value to the day of the highest-positioned person in any organization.") Take a moment now to write positive, empowering beliefs on a separate sheet of paper; make sure to compose one for each negative belief you feel you may now be harboring.

Change Your Own Beliefs . and Sell Like a CEO on a Mission!
It's not always easy, but beliefs can be changed. It's a matter of applying the right stimuli and taking advice from the top. Let's start by focusing on the three conditions necessary for our mind to change or adopt a new belief or strengthen an existing one. When we're done, we'll take a look at a list of core empowering beliefs that the most effective CEOs have--the beliefs that make their sales meetings less like presentations and more like divinely ordained missions.

What have you got to do to change a belief?

  • 1. Gather or create new information. The more supportive information you add, the stronger your belief will become, until it eventually develops into a conviction. Because convictions tend to stick around forever, the ones we embrace have a huge impact on the quality of our lives and the success of our business endeavors. The right convictions can mean prosperity, optimism and happiness. Latching on to the wrong convictions, on the other hand, can literally kill you. So focus on the right stuff. (Note: You've already taken a huge step in that direction by reading this column every month, because you are gathering new, positive, empowering information that will help you begin to change your beliefs about selling.)
  • 2. Add emotion. Once you gather your new information, you'll need to apply your emotions to the process. The greater the emotions, the greater the speed at which the new positive belief will move toward the level of a conviction--a "way of life." The greater the emotional experience we connect with a belief, the stronger the belief tends to become. (Example: At the conclusion of my interview with Jim Amos, he gave me a bear hug! Let me tell you what that did for my beliefs and convictions about this man, his mission and purpose. I am now ferociously proud to be one of Jim's allies, and I know I'm not the only one who feels that way about working with him.)
  • 3. Gather social proof. If Siskel and Ebert give a film "two thumbs up," millions of people are likely to attend that film with the expectation that they will enjoy it--which certainly doesn't hurt the odds that they actually will enjoy it. This illustrates the power of social proof as a reinforcer of beliefs, positive or negative. So choose the experts you decide to "tune into" carefully. (How's this for an example of social proof: From the moment you drive into the parking lot of Mail Boxes Etc., you can see the recognition that is paid to the management and top producers. Covered parking is provided for all key employees and top producers, with their names and titles proudly displayed. As soon as you enter the lobby, you can clearly see all the recognition plaques hanging on a "wall of honor." Constructive social proof is everywhere you look!)

Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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