The power of positivity: how to inspire your team to leave their limiting beliefs behind

Collin Stewart, CEO

29 August 2019

Every sales team, without exception, is looking to hire top performers. Top performers close deals. And closed deals mean revenue.

It’s a simple formula.

The only trouble, of course, is finding top performers. How do you know, buried amongst the avalanche of applicants for an in-demand sales gig, who is up for the task? Sales, and prospecting in particular, is not for everyone, despite what their LinkedIn profiles say. The job is tough – filled with roadblocks, demanding quotas, and, at times, less-than-responsive targets.

Isolating those types of applicants – those strong-willed, tackle-very-challenge candidates – was the quandary facing Kaitlyn Buckheit, Sales Development Manager at Lever, early on in her career.

Eventbrite, the company she worked for in those days, was growing rapidly and the team was determined to bring on the right kind of people. To do so, leadership challenged Buckheit to come up with an ideal profile for a top performer – not an easy ask, to say the least.

But after some research, and reflection, Buckheit managed to isolate a characteristic that surprised even her – positive mindset.

“It was a tall ask. So I started listing everyone I had managed, and what made that top performer constantly hit their quota. Then, I looked at other strong players, not quite top performers, and then inconsistent players,” says Buckheit, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“I asked myself: ‘why is this person a top performer, or why is this person inconsistent?’ And I identified one thing – it was positive mindset. I had goosebumps. But, my company wasn’t asking for that. They wanted a profile. How do you find someone with a positive mindset?”

Defining and hiring for the right mindset

Once Buckheit returned to her leadership team with her findings, the company set out to overhaul their interview process so they could determine whether or not their applicants actually had that particular frame of mind.

Buckheit’s first step: defining mindset.

“Positivity gets thrown around a lot, and no one disagrees that it’s important. But what we meant was an unwavering belief that a person can get to where they need to go,” says Buckheit.

“But it isn’t cockiness – it’s not getting rattled. It is a belief that things will happen, and the diligence to stay strategic and focused to get there. From that place, we had to totally adjust interview process. You have got to be ready to do that.”

From there, the company did away with digging through LinkedIn profiles and reading resumes with a fine tooth comb, to attribute-based interviewing. They started to ask more poignant questions like: “tell me about a time the odds were stacked against you” and “tell me about one of your failures.”

“These are important topics. We would get out the administrative stuff in a phone screen [handled by the talent team], then when they get in the room we would dig into the mindset stuff. In these interviews, the candidate does most, if not all, of the talking,” says Buckheit.

“We only ask 3 questions in a 30 minute interview, and probe with deep follow ups.”

By asking such poignant questions, adds Buckheit, you’ll get a look at how a candidate views a challenge, and how they view themselves in relationship to that challenge. For example, there is a stark difference between: “they raised our quotas on us” vs. “it was a new fiscal year, and we had to tackle the new challenge of increased quotas.” 

(Editor’s note: we had Pendo’s Bill Binch on the pod a while back to discuss how to hire a develop great salespeople. You can read about our chat here, or listen to the whole podcast here)

Want to know if Outbound sales will work for you? Need help building your SDR team right from the start?

Book a complimentary 15-minute assessment now.

Coaching reps for mindset

Like any skill, carrying a positive mindset takes work. It’s hard to feel good, and up for the challenge, all of the time. But an empathetic, tuned in, sales manager can help.

For example, Buckheit says a critical skill for every effective sales manager is the ability to listen. Your team, whether they want to or not, will mention what they are struggling with, and exhibit some limiting beliefs that keep them from performing at their best.

“At first, managers, you will get this wrong. But, it takes time. You have to listen for it and your team may not come to you for it,” says Buckheit. 

“It could be over indexing on emails because you don’t think you can convert on cold calls. Or, you didn’t hit quota, but you think that’s okay because you’ll just make it up next month. So, listen for those clues so you can help.”

To be even more proactive, Buckheit suggests sitting down with your reps to discuss their feelings, chat through what, if any, things that aren’t working, and discuss where they can make changes.

But, be prepared, Buckheit warns, these discussions can be powerful, and require a strong relationship and open culture to work. Often, limiting beliefs are grown and nurtured over time. We start accumulating wounds when we’re young, and those wounds (or negative associations) can live with us our whole lives. So, take care when talking to your reps about these topics.  

The way Buckheit suggests framing these talks are:

  1. Open with identifying the feeling – what is it that’s bothering them?
  2. Then, identify where that feeling comes from. And, ask if it is an indisputable fact. For example, are they an inconsistent performer in every way, all of the time? Challenge them to think whether or not it is a fact because, really, it is just a belief they hold. And they can change that.
  3. Then, ask where else that limiting belief comes up, and share examples of when you’ve have had similar limiting beliefs. Likely, these feelings have been wired in their brains for a long time. A helpful way of honing in on these beliefs is asking “how does this hurt you?”
  4. Then, investigate where culturally this comes from. For example, culture tells us there is only room for one superstar, but that is not true. For what seems like forever, we’ve heard about that one perfect person and if you already have that person on your team, people can think there is no room for them.
  5. Finally, ask them why they keep telling themselves that same story Does it let them off the hook, perhaps? 

“My callout here is making sure you have a culture of talking about this, and living it. You have to ask: ‘do you think you can change this?’ Do you really believe you can choose this more positive future? If yes, find out how they are going to reframe this,” says Buckheit.

“It could be ‘I choose to show up every day and be consistent with calls and emails’ or ‘every time I pick up the phone it is a new opportunity to be successful.’ It is from there that the change happens.”

For more on Buckheit’s thoughts on empowering salespeople – including how to live with new beliefs, and some of her “aha” moments when doing this work with her teams – check out the rest of her interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.