How to Develop a Winning Sales Mindset: Critical Self-Talk vs. Pep Talk

We’ve all been there: you’re in the middle of a sales call and start rambling. You only realize it after you’ve been going on for a few minutes.

You kick yourself, try to focus on the topic at hand, and wonder why you always have trouble sticking to the topic. You worry that the client is bored and question whether you’ve botched the call.

That kind of critical self-talk distracts you from the task at hand and may lead to a bad sales call that doesn’t result in a deal. Your sales mindset is directly connected to the effectiveness of your selling.

Self-criticism is a healthy and vital part of growing as a salesperson. But if you’re criticizing yourself during a sales call, you’re doing it all wrong. There’s a time and a place for self-criticism.

Believe me—I've been building sales organizations for over 20 years, and I'm not in the camp of sales leaders who practice fake positivity.

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Let’s step back briefly and discuss why self-criticism is important. Then, we’ll understand why you’re probably going about it incorrectly and how you can use it to improve your sales mindset.

Critical Self-Talk is Crucial for Growth

Growing and improving your performance in any field requires a healthy dose of self-awareness. If you know what you’re doing well and need to improve on, you can make the changes you need to be the best salesperson possible.

Being honest with yourself gives you the necessary information to make changes in how you prospect, sell, or manage. People appreciate it when you’re able to take a look at hard truths. It’s an admirable quality and a crucial part of any sales training.

But there’s one factor that can really mess you up if you have it wrong: timing. At the wrong time, criticizing yourself can derail your sales cycle.

Timing is Key for Effective Self-Criticism

Let’s go back to the experience we discussed—beating ourselves up during a sales call. Maybe you rambled. Or slipped up and said the wrong thing. Or forgot the prospect’s name. Whatever the case, it threw you off your game, and you’re pissed about it.

That’s when self-criticism starts spiraling out of control. And that doesn’t do you any good.

Real-time self-criticism saps the energy and time needed to make a solid connection with your prospect and close the sale. If you’re not in the right sales mindset, you’ll miss out.

Imagine you're talking with a business owner, and they harshly reject you. You'll fold and lose the deal if that triggers your inner harsh critic. You want to expect the yes and embrace the no.

It’s the same as when you’re pressured and rushed—you’ll make a mistake and miss out on an opportunity.

Stay Positive During Sales Calls

Instead of getting down on yourself when a call doesn’t go well, use a different self-talk mode: encouragement. Positive self-talk helps you stay positive and make the best of every sales call.

Don’t let your inner voice tell you, “This call isn’t going well.” Remind yourself that you're a pro, and ask yourself great questions to direct your thoughts in a productive direction:

  • How can I make a comeback after this mistake?
  • What can I do to gain this prospect's trust?
  • When was a time when I turned a bad sales conversation around and closed the deal?

‎Remember that you’re good at your job, you’re capable, and you’ve salvaged sales after slipping up before. That's how you take your sales performance to the next level.

Research has consistently shown that positive self-talk can make a difference in performance. Most studies have looked at athletes’ self-talk (and I can tell you from my own Muay Thai experience that it’s true). But the idea works across all areas of life, including sales.

Staying positive helps you do your best. Even when things aren’t going well. Slipups build your reservoir of valuable sales experience.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do after a poor sales interaction is to take a mental note of what you can learn and then move on to the next lead in your CRM or keep relationship-building on LinkedIn.

Your Feelings are Contagious

If you’re still not convinced that positive self-talk is a valuable sales technique, think of it this way: during sales calls, it’s your job to make the prospect feel great. And prospects pick up on feelings of passion, excitement, and confidence. Those feelings are contagious.

Unfortunately, so are negative feelings like nervousness, doubt, and self-criticism. Those aren’t the feelings you want your prospect to have on your call. We've all seen sales teams where either a positive or negative feedback circle of emotions played out, and affected the entire sales process.

Positive self-talk helps get your prospect excited about what you’re selling. Even if that were the only benefit, it’d be worth it.

But it can change your entire sales mindset, too, and if you bring it into your sales meetings, it'll elevate your coworkers, too. Your sales manager will notice your positive mental attitude and understand the impact it has on the bottom line in the long term.

Getting Self-Criticism Right as a Sales Professional

Okay, so you should stay positive and use self-encouragement during sales calls. When do you start the self-criticism process?

After a sales call or presentation, take some time away, then come back and look at what went well and what needs improvement. With a bit of distance and perspective, you’ll be more effective in finding ways to improve.

Ask yourself what you can learn, how you can grow with the experience of your last pitch, and how you can master your sales strategy even more.

Constructive Criticism in Sales Coaching

Coaching is key to sales performance. Ask your manager and even your peers for feedback on your sales calls.

Here's how our CRM software can help you:

Most of us tend to be hypercritical of ourselves. It's good to have an outside voice give us honest, unfiltered, and critical feedback, especially if the feedback comes from your sales manager or someone with more sales experience.

Focus on Constructive Self-Criticism

focused rep sales mindset

Remember that self-criticism isn’t about being hard on yourself. It’s about identifying the areas where you can grow and establishing self-awareness.

During this process, don’t get discouraged or nitpick every error you’ve made. Be dispassionate and identify things you can do better. Find a way to improve your sales mindset.

Tasha Eurich points out that experience can get in the way of self-awareness—so don’t let your self-confidence go to your head. Everyone can continue to learn and improve their sales skills.

One thing you can start doing right away to improve your self-awareness is asking what instead of why, says Eurich. It’s easy to see where you might do that in sales. Instead of asking, “Why did that call go so badly?” you might ask, “What do the calls that I think go badly have in common?” Successful salespeople never stop learning.

This question helps you find commonalities between calls that have gone bad, which could help you identify factors hampering your sales success. Asking why is more likely to get you answers that are focused on your fears or insecurities, and that’s not helpful for your sales mindset.

Instead, focus on what questions that have constructive potential. That’s how you’ll achieve true self-awareness and growth for you as a sales professional.

Where are you in this process? Do you skew to one side of the critical self-talk scale? Or have you found a balance between encouragement and criticism?

Becoming a top performer is a never-ending journey and an incredible opportunity to learn more about yourself and others. Our Sales Library provides actionable tips and templates to get you on the fast track to sales success.

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