Selling Monkey Mind Goes Bananas–But We Don’t Have To

bananasWhere does Selling Monkey Mind—the negative mental chatter that pops up around selling—get all those bananas!? How come it can swoop in to paralyze us, and take away our selling fun?

Selling Monkey Mind only gets the better of us when we think that what it’s saying is true and real! In fact, Selling Monkey Mind comes from a number of specific external sources, none of them very reliable. Over the years, we’ve taken this unreliable information and made it our own, so that we think “that’s just the way things are.” When we actually examine where Selling Monkey Mind comes from, it loses its power very quickly. Here are some sources…

1. Ghosts from the past
A huge chunk of Selling Monkey Mind comes from bad, embarrassing, or limiting experiences we may have had in the past, either as sellers or as buyers. How was your experience of selling Girl Scout cookies? Or tickets to the school play? Or newspaper or magazine subscriptions? Did you ever find yourself the day before the raffle with a fistful of tickets you’d promised to sell? Did you ever pressure anyone to buy anything?

My friend Mary was having trouble selling ad space in her nonprofit’s magazine, and finally remembered a chilling incident from parochial grammar school. Every year, the school conducted a fundraising drive for overseas missions. Most kids hit up their parents. Mary’s mother was very critical of this practice, and each year the fundraising drive became a catalyst that kicked up all sorts of nightmarish screaming and criticism that was humiliating for Mary.

That shame had carried over into selling ad space for the nonprofit. Each time she set out to sell, her normally sunny and warm presence turned a little brittle, and she didn’t seem entirely genuine. People responded accordingly, and she only got minimal results. When Mary realized that ghosts from the past had her in their grip, she could take a deep breath and let them go.

Selling Monkey Mind can also come from negative experiences as buyers. Have you ever been bothered by telemarketers? Were you ever pressured into buying something? One woman told me, “I have such contempt for those people on the phone. The thought of people feeling about me the way I feel about them is agonizing! I’d rather not even have my own business than face that.”

Release those ghosts, and you’ll have more fun selling.

2. Society’s attitudes: Stuff people hand us
Another chunk of Selling Monkey Mind comes from family, friends and society at large. What did your parents say about salespeople? What did you think of people who sold for a living? When and where did you first hear about “used car salesmen?” How does it feel when mall vendors chase you down?

The conventional wisdom is that whenever someone is selling, they’re out to take you for a ride. Many of us approach buying with skepticism, and sometimes even with animosity. It’s no wonder that when we go out to sell, we’re afraid other people will approach us with skepticism or animosity. When we are concerned that people are going to see us that way, we often show up as defensive or apologetic. Even if we manage to hide the defensiveness fairly well, people usually sense “a tremor in the force.” When they sense that something is wrong, or that we are not 100% behind ourselves, they are less likely to buy—and that confirms our worst fears.

3. Our own projections
Projections occur when we have an attitude, feeling, or thought—but we don’t really want to have it, or don’t want to admit we have it, and so we decide (consciously or unconsciously) that it’s actually going on with someone else. It’s not us! It’s them! If I’m angry, for instance, I might look at the woman in the next lane of traffic while we’re stopped at the light, and think, “That woman looks angry!” That’s projection.

Based on little or no information, we decide that what is going on with us is really going on with someone else. We might think, for instance, “That person is depressed. He won’t buy today.” In fact, we may be depressed. This is what happened to my friend Ralph, who sold computers and had a very thin string of stinginess. One day when he was in a foul mood anyway, a woman strolled into the computer store with a pinched frown on her face. Ralph decided she was stingy, and turned her over to the new guy. The woman bought a computer for herself, and another to surprise her son. She had simply had a headache that day, which accounted for her “pinched frown.” Who knew? Not Ralph, who was out two commissions.

When we project our thoughts and feelings on to other people, we do both them and ourselves a disservice. We don’t stay open to new interpretations, or to objective observations of what is truly going on.

4. Stuff we make up
Sometimes Selling Monkey Mind is just stuff we make up. It comes from nowhere except our own creative minds, perhaps seasoned with a pinch of projection and a whisper of fear about selling. It sounds crazy, but we simply make things up in our heads, based on nothing, then go out into the world and act as if they were absolutely true.

There was a time when I sold seminars on the phone for six to eight hours each day. Sometimes I would just decide, based on nothing more than the sound of someone’s voice, that he didn’t want to enroll. One time I made this decision and was rattling through my pitch, knowing I was doing a bad job but just wanting to get it over as quickly as possible so I could get on to the next person, when the man stopped me. “You don’t really have to do this,” he said.

I froze, embarrassed to be caught in such bad behavior. “I’ve already decided I want it. Can I give you my credit card?” My negative thinking had resulted in an interaction that was less than honoring. It was just dumb luck that I got a good result, and that he had been so generous of spirit.  It was like watching a tennis ball slap into the top of the net on my side, then dribble over into my opponent’s court. All I could do was promise myself to behave better in the future, and be particularly good to that poor guy.

5. Plain old fear
Selling Monkey Mind originates in fear, and generates fear. Fear that we’ll be too pushy, or too docile, or that we’re just not powerful enough to get results. Or that we are powerful, but can’t be trusted to treat people well. We’re afraid of our own inadequacies, or our own brilliance, or of what people will think of us. We’re afraid we’ll be rejected. Or do better than somebody we love. Or that we won’t speak in an articulate or persuasive way about our product or service. Or that there is some huge, mysterious secret to selling that everybody else knows, but we don’t. Or a million other things.

Fear is normal, in selling and in life. But when we don’t unearth and name those fears, they become congealed and solid. They start insisting that we carry them around all day. They demand attention and soothing—and they see that if they whine or yell at us, they get even more attention. Before long, we are focusing more on them than we are on our results, or the joy of offering people something that we value.

Figuring out where Selling Monkey Mind comes from helped me to take it less seriously, and that helped me do it with a lot more joy, and a lot more success.

What do you do about Selling Monkey Mind?

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