Two Bad Habits That Are Costing You Sales (And How to Overcome Them)


In sales, we have three enemies. Sure, we’ve got competitors, but the other two are self-generated enemies that we bring to the party…

  • Having an Expert Mindset (I know my s*#t)
  • Mistaking an early conclusion with the right conclusion

These may not sound like big problems, but they are. They lead to you missing valuable information and failing to create trust with your prospect.

The solution is to change the way you approach a sale so that you are building emotional safety with your prospect. That feeling of trust and safety is what will make you stand out and help you close the deal.

Building Emotional Safety®

Your prospect is a human being. Like you, they’ve got a work life and a home life with pressures you may not fully understand.

They could have a lack of trust from above due to a predecessor doing a bad job.

They could be worried about returning to the office after sheltering in place or about a loved one who works in health care.

By creating Emotional Safety®, you are creating a space in which people feel safe opening up to you.

You’ll learn where your solution can be most helpful. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the internal dynamics between the buyers/stakeholders who will ultimately decide which vendor to go with. And, most importantly, you’ll learn their fears.

This is what will allow you to effectively help your prospect and close the deal.

So, how do you create emotional safety?

It starts with overcoming those 2 bad habits we mentioned earlier by developing a learner’s mindset and finding the right solution by staying curious.

The Learner’s Mindset

In a book I wrote with Dr. Colm Foster, he says:

When we have made up our minds about something, we stop thinking about it.

In other words, once we think we know something, we stop seeing or listening to new data. We love it when we can quickly understand the buyer’s needs and have a ready-made solution for them.

If you have a successful sales record, you can look in the rear-view mirror and justify some level of expertise. You know your product/ service, your CRM, your sales funnel, and you know how to do a needs assessment with the prospect to show your solutions fit.

With the right lead and relationship building, you will close the deal.

In other words, you feel you are an expert.

The problem with feeling like an expert is, you might be missing some important information. This is especially true in a market as dynamic as this one.

What if your prospect is communicating an unusual need?

What if they are asking a question you don’t have the answer to?

What if you don’t know the right next step?

The salesperson who enters with an expert mindset is looking to rely on information they already have and may be missing the new, more relevant information that is coming in.

In contrast, the best salespeople have a learner’s mindset and are constantly seeking information they don’t already have to make the deal.

3 ways to develop a learner’s mindset:

Study or read something that is new to you. Build the learning muscle. If you never read classic literature and only read sales stuff… It might be time to break out Moby Dick. Maybe you need to take a music lesson.

This isn’t about learning something that will be immediately relevant to sales (although you’ll be surprised with how much you can apply to sales). It’s about learning to love learning.

Ask yourself, “Is it true? At each step along the sales funnel, challenge your own assumptions and pressure test for validation.

This will help you break out of the habits and ruts created by feeling like you’re already an expert.

Share stories with a peer about your failures. When we reflect on failures, we generate humility, something that fuels the Learner’s Mindset.

This is incredibly important, especially in order to develop the empathy needed in today’s sales world.

Staying Curious

My friend and colleague, Michael Bungay Stanier, wrote in his latest book, The Advice Trap, that, in sales, we need to stay curious longer.


Staying curious allows us to do more discoveries and learn more about what the real problem is.

For example, when we receive an RFP, we often assume the buyer knows what they need and is simply looking to see how our offering can meet the need.

In other words, we take the first conclusion and roll with it. This saves us time and energy. But as sales professionals, we should know that the first problem may not be the worst problem.

The stated problem may only be the tip of the iceberg leading to deeper issues.

And a bigger problem to solve means a bigger sale.

Staying curious and spending some extra effort in this discovery space means you have additional insights to help draw the right conclusions.

It also gives you a competitive advantage over other vendors who don’t have these details.

Here are three questions to ask to reach the right conclusion:

If you find a vendor who provides you with what you need, what problem will you be solving?

You’ve done a great job of explaining what you are trying to accomplish. What else is pressuring you?

Let’s say we solved the problem with our solution, what else might still be in the way?

Notice the theme developing here. If we stay curious and dig deeper, we might uncover what is keeping them up at night, or we might uncover the real problem that needs to be solved.

The Benefits of Building Emotional Safety

We were prospecting with a company who wanted our Winning With Accountability™ Training for 3000 of their mid-level managers. Their Executive Team had already read our book, liked our method, and wanted to proceed with the training.

We could have just responded to the RFP, and we almost did.

I remember how good my ego felt when they were already this warm and had a pre-baked solution.

I felt proud of our solution and relieved that the sale would be this easy. But towards the end of our discussion, I asked, “Why Accountability? What will that do for you? What problem will be solved with our training?

While our competitors started creating proposals that were based on their limited understanding, we dug for more information and heard a firehose of information from this CHRO.

She said things like:

“We’re trying to train the middle when it’s really our CEO, my peers, and even me who are not accountable to our strategic plan.”

“My CEO wants me to train and change the middle of our organization when it is probably us at the top who need to change first.”

Once we learned they were behind on the implementation of their strategy and needed to model Accountability as a leadership team (not preach it), we were speaking to the REAL problem.

For them, the shift here means attacking their biggest problem, not the one they felt comfortable presenting.

For us, this meant a two-year, multi-million dollar strategy implementation sale vs a 6-month training sale worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

Plus, they still bought the training. We waited a year to start it. And during that year, the executive team got to model what strategic implementation looks like.

By digging deeper, and not immediately assuming I was the expert who had all the answers, the CHRO trustested that I had her best interests at heart.

She had the courage to tell me what was really going on, because I created Emotional Safety® for her. And I won the deal because I did that better than my competitors.

It’s Time to Build Trust

By leading with a learner’s mindset, looking for the right conclusion (not just the first one), and creating emotional safety, you can build strong relationships with prospects, get to the heart of their concern, and outperform your competition.

Once you’ve done that, you’ve one.

Whatever your product or service, you can be the person your prospect trusts most, confides in best, and ultimately selects as their partner of choice.

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