Sandler Training has many novel approaches to selling. But back in 2000 when I started my sales training business, there was one topic in particular that I wasn’t expecting in a sales training curriculum. There was an entire section dedicated to insuring that salespeople’s self-identity was separate and distinct from their sales role. I figured that since salespeople get rejected a lot, this chapter was there to ensure salespeople had methods to deal with rejection and not take it all too personally. Years later, I’ve come to realize that is NOT the primary reason why salespeople need to separate their own self-concept or notions of self-worth from their role in sales.
Any clients that couldn’t handle some rejection left sales so quickly that there was no time to even get them to embrace the separation of self-worth from how they make a living. But what I did see were salespeople that experienced early success from using some of the more basic Sandler concepts and an interesting thing happened to them: they soon stopped using the new techniques or they started to “modify” them and nullify any improvements that the techniques had been able to provide. I was dumbfounded. Why would a new skill that actually worked be altered or watered down by the very person that was experiencing the success? I assumed it was a lack of understanding or the eager learner trying to take a new skill to a higher level but making an error in judgment.
Then I read an article about lottery winners. Those rare and lucky people that win a huge sum of money in a state lottery frequently seem to find a way to lose it all. NFL and NBA players get massive contracts after college and then get into equally massive trouble with the police, IRS or bill collectors. Hollywood actors enjoy mega success and then end up in court for misdemeanors and unforgiveable crimes that a chauffeur could have prevented if the actor would have used one. Even major corporations experience incredible success only to eventually lose market share and implode. Executives enjoy phenomenal success, make enormous paychecks and inevitably deal with infighting, turf wars and organizational chart power grabs. I’ve had personal experience with some of these business people and it is a sad sight to witness.
Separating one’s role as a business person from their self-concept (or self-worth) is to enable them to accept their own success. Not the failure, but the success they enjoy! This includes salespeople, too. How often have you seen a salesperson experience success and then find some way to undermine it and go back to their previous results? Identity vs. Role has been studied by scholars such as Pulitzer Prize recipient Erik Erikson. Most scholars and psychologists associate this area with adolescents, not successful business people. But David Sandler recognized that the ability of a salesperson to embrace financial success as an independent achievement separate from their personal identity was crucial for adults too. If you have salespeople that have ample potential but seem to have plateaued, it may very well relate to their own sense of identity or self-worth, not their work ethic or sales skill.