“The economy is hurting us”
“Our solutions are too expensive”
“We need better marketing, website, social media and brochures”
“Our competition has better features and benefits than us”
When salespeople are struggling, they have a litany of excuses for their troubles. While some of these reasons might be valid, there is usually something deeper going on: that person isn’t self-actualizing as a salesperson and therefore, not doing what is necessary to find new opportunities and close new business. At Venator, we use an acronym called SLOBS (self-limiting obstructive beliefs) to describe this situation.
Some examples of SLOBS include:
- Cold calling no longer works.
- I must send a quote as soon as my prospect asks for one.
- My prospect will get offended if I ask about competition and budget or ask too many questions.
- I must discount in order to get the business.
- Questioning my key contact’s budget authority or influence will hurt the relationship.
- Any type of conflict with a prospect will destroy the relationship.
- I must bring a subject matter expert on a first call to earn credibility.
These are just a few sample beliefs that salespeople collect throughout their career regarding what they can and cannot do. Besides limiting the ability to hit quota numbers, these SLOBS severely reduce the effectiveness of any and all sales training. Regardless of how good the process or training technique is, if self-limiting beliefs go unaddressed, they will cripple a salesperson’s ability to execute.
So how do we overcome SLOBS?
Step 1: Identify the SLOBS
Since SLOBS are programmed so deeply within our subconscious, how can we identify them? After all, we may not even be aware they exist in the first place. A great way to litmus-test these SLOBS is for a salesperson to ask themselves the following questions:
- If the opposite were true would it be to your advantage?
- Do you find yourself emotionally defending the belief despite contradicting experiential evidence?
- Do you quickly dismiss other people’s offering of proof that contradicts the belief?
- Would questioning the belief require action that is uncomfortable?
Step 2: Question the SLOBS
Nobel Prize winner Arno Penzias (American radio astronomer that co-discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation) used a type of questioning technique which he called “Jugular Questions.” Each morning he would wake up and ask himself these questions:
- “Why do I strongly believe what I believe?”
- “What am I inclined to believe?”
- “What if I didn’t believe it?”
We can leverage these “Jugular Questions” to get to the root of our SLOBS and move on to the next step which is challenging them.
Step 3: Develop the will to challenge your SLOBS
Rather than looking to validate SLOBS, seek experiences that contradict them. Some examples include:
- Prospects who keep answering qualifying questions.
- Key stakeholders that are willing to give you information or access to their manager.
- You or a colleague closing a large opportunity that came from a cold call.
- A prospect who shares information about budget and competition and a deal closing without having to discount.
All these scenarios go against our deeply held SLOBS and if we take a different perspective, we can see them clearly and ultimately challenge them.
In sales, the right mindset is crucial. If a salesperson is holding on to SLOBS, they will likely sabotage most deals and potentially an entire sales career. SLOBS are only as strong as the references that support them and these references influence our perspective on reality. Effectively addressing and correcting these beliefs is critical to sales success.
To quote Nathaniel Branden (psychotherapist and writer known for his work in the psychology of self-esteem), “One of the hardest expressions of self-assertiveness is challenging your limiting beliefs.” Are you willing to take that challenge?
The key in both these scenarios is to create alignment with the higher-level stakeholder, prior to engaging with their lower-level reports, which can be accomplished by asking some critical questions. This approach will also allow you to explore and amplify the top-level person’s perspective on the issues, concerns and vision.
Ultimately, the objective is to evoke a sense of interest and urgency with the top person, so they protect us from tripping on the way down.