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Alistair McQuade


Sales Transformation Consultant

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Can Mindset Improve Your Ability to Learn?


I often start my sales trainings courses by referencing the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck on Mindset, to get everyone into a growth mindset. This blog article explains why and how we do this in sales training, and how trainers can use this in their workshops.

When seasoned sales people attend our sales training workshops, they typically have a positive self-image. Remind me what 'self-image' is? People with a negative self-image usually see themselves as worse than they are; those with conditions like anorexia and bulimia usually suffer from a negative self-image, disliking the way they look. People with an accurate self-image see themselves as they are. Sales people often have a positive self-image, being a little over confident in their own capabilities.

And let’s face it, it helps to be confident to sell, so we really do want sales people with a positive self-image out there selling for us, resilient at taking knocks and confident in building relationships with new clients. But this positive self-image, so helpful in selling, can get in the way of an effective learning experience. People with a positive self-image are less likely to see their own skills gaps and so when presented with new ways of doing things, they can also become reluctant to change.

With this in mind, we discuss with the delegates about the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Here are some characteristics:

Growth Mindset:

  • I can succeed if I apply myself
  • Failure is an opportunity to learn
  • If I don’t take responsibility,
  • I can’t fix it
  • I welcome most challenges and have an appetite for risk
  • I can always say I don’t know

Fixed Mindset:

  • My success is down to my natural talent
  • Failure is to be avoided at all costs
  • Failure is generally someone else’s fault
  • I know my limits
  • I must appear to know at all times

A fixed mindset person believes that their character, intelligence, and creative ability are granted at birth and they can’t change them in any meaningful way. Success comes from the intelligence and capabilities they were born with, and avoiding failure at all costs becomes a way of maintaining this sense of being smartness or skill. A growth mindset person, on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as stepping-stone to growth, and for stretching our existing abilities.

To improve your sales skills you need to have confidence when the knocks come, so that you remain resilient.  But you also need to have a growth mindset to learn from the mistakes that you make, so that you improve over time. Now there’s not one delegate in all of my sales training courses that would disagree with that statement. But getting some sales people to admit that they actually made a mistake in the first place, so that they can learn from it, is the tough part. “Why did you lose the deal?” “The competition undercut me!” Really? Was that really why you lost the deal? Or did you not create sufficient value in the sale? Were you outsold by the competition but prefer to protect your self-image than to recognize a learning opportunity that can lead to future success?

Using the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck gives my delegates a vocabulary to describe their mindset and helps them to recognize the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. For me as a facilitator, I then have the reference points to call people out when they are hiding behind a fixed mindset and missing an ideal learning opportunity. This is a trick that we encourage sales people to use every time an opportunity to learn comes along, which let’s face it, in sales is most days.

One Response

  1. Great post, thanks for
    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    In my experience the art of selling comes down to positioning yourself as a trusted advisor and extension to the target company…the sale is then naturally a by-product of successfully doing this.

    I recently wrote a blog about how to execute Consultative Selling as a Training provider;, it may be of interest to yourself or other readers.

    Thanks again.

Author Profile Picture
Alistair McQuade

Sales Transformation Consultant

Read more from Alistair McQuade

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