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If You Want More Sales, Be Negative


I know, I know. You can't be negative if you are in sales.

The entry level requirements for any salesperson worth their salt is to have a positive, "Can Do" attitude. You must be optimistic, seeing a solution to every problem. Great salespeople are highly-motivated, persistent, and see the world through rose-colored glasses. The Rainmakers cultivate a positive attitude by consuming positive content, writing down and repeating their daily affirmations, and generally not allowing themselves to have a bad day.

That's not what I'm talking about. There is nothing wrong with any of that. Nothing at all. Having a positive attitude has it's place.

But so does a negative attitude. And you Jon Gordon and Zig Ziglar aficionados stay with me.

Sometimes, my positivity can turn to Happy Ears. I only hear the good stuff my prospect says. I become a touch naïve. My Happy Ears are so big - so big - that they cover up my eyes and I can't see the truth. We sales folks have a tendency to be overly optimistic.

If we want to sell more, we should be more negative.

There is an ancient Stoic idea based on the concept of premeditatio malorum. Essentially, it's imagining all the things that can go wrong. Seneca said, "All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes." Think about it as negative visualization. If I count the costs - good and bad - up front, visualize what could go wrong, then I'll be able to mitigate these things in advance.

Think about an upcoming sales meeting. As a part of your pre-call plan, think about the things that could go wrong. Say, "I've got this important meeting coming up with a prospect. It's going to be a complete and utter failure. Why?" That will take us down a mitigation pathway that will actually help us be more prepared, having anticipate the worst.

"My prospect will be rude and abrupt. She will try to force the flow of the meeting."
"I won't establish equal business stature and not have control of my process."
"I'll talk too much and end up not finding out the information I need to find out to proceed."
"She'll ask me about price and I'll flinch, become emotional, and sell from my knees."

If I identify what "will go wrong" through my negative visualizations, I can rehearse what I will do if this happens. I can role play it in my mind. I can prepare my talk tracks and questions that will avoid the negative scenario I have imagined. Anticipation of all the things that could happen - not just the good - will help me stay on course and not be derailed in the moment.

It helps me prepare for everything that I may encounter. It strengthens me.

So the next time you are planning for an important meeting, updating your goals, getting ready to make your prospecting calls, or even making plans to start an exercise routine, apply the concept of premeditatio malorum. By tucking in your overly optimistic Happy Ears and thinking about why you do it, or how it will go sideways, you'll be able to prepare a better plan and hit your goals more consistently.

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Robin Green

Robin Green

Robin Green is the President and Owner of Ascend Performance, Inc., a certified and award-winning Sandler Training Center in Richmond, VA. He specializes in helping companies of all sizes to develop the Attitudes, Behaviors, and Techniques that will help them reach new levels. Robin is a keynote speaker and podcast host. You can reach him at We help companies and motivated individuals with sales, management and customer service training.