Optimism a key lifeline for successful salesperson

One research showed that life insurance agents that were optimists sold 37 per cent more insurance in their first two years than did pessimists.

Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. Optimism is not idle banter for a salesperson; neither is it feel good talk by a motivational speaker. Optimism is a lifeline for the salesperson. One research showed that life insurance agents that were optimists sold 37% more insurance in their first two years than did pessimists. For anyone who has sold life insurance, the first year is an exercise in emotional turmoil-to sell 37% more because of being optimistic is profound.

Optimism and the hawker

Optimism is the reason why the hawker simply moves on to the next car when you roll up your window at his approach. “Oh well, not today”, he muses. “Maybe she had a bad day and wants her space. Let me try the next one.” And sure enough somewhere in the traffic jam will be a buyer for the tool kit or calculator on sale. And here’s the thing about optimism. The hawker will be in the same jam the following day and week, oblivious to the fact that most won’t buy. But knowing one day the lady who rolled up her window will possibly beckon him to buy the reflective triangle because a traffic policeman pointed it out as missing in her car and a requirement to have by law. Now if the hawker had been pessimistic at the first sign of “Not interested…”

Pessimism: a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future. Pessimists complain about the sales process being laborious and “that is why the sale is taking long.” Optimists take responsibility for it. It’s a fine line but a yawning gap. The pessimist will complain that the bank takes too long to process insurance premium finance applications and “therefore I cannot sell”. The optimist will seek to understand the process and accelerate it from outside. He is solution oriented; the pessimist is problem prone.

Infectious states of mind

Optimism and pessimism are states of mind. It sounds surreal (even cliché) for those who have never experienced it, but for those that have, it is as factual as life. Optimism lends itself to determination and curiosity, traits which successful sellers possess. Because I believe things will be better I consciously look for another way to access the viable market I have just been told does not take kindly to sales people. The determination to do so leads me to be curious why this is so. The revelation that salespeople in the past have disrupted work lets me offer a formalized approach, for instance, group presentations. As for the pessimist…

Optimism and pessimism are both infectious. Sadly, the latter is more potent.

Salespeople who have stayed in one organization for an extended period of time with little to nil growth can be especially toxic. Pessimism runs through their veins and pours out their mouths. Naïve new recruits see them as ‘wise’-after all they’ve been here longer, so they must know what they are saying. And what is it they are saying? “Don’t bother with that market. They don’t buy there”; “Relax! Mambo ni pole pole hapa! Kazi hii naielewa” (Quit with your haste. Let me show you how it’s done). “Commissions are not paid on time here and Fulani is successful because he is just lucky”.

Excise the toxic pessimist

These old-timers are even worse if they are handling accounts which were given to (not earned by) them. They don’t grow (in fact poison) the accounts but defend them tooth and nail. Toxic salespeople unwilling to change their ways are best shown the door before they infuse their pessimistic toxins to fresh recruits.

And how do you remain optimistic? Hang out with optimists and go with that flow.

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