Research: Optimists Sell More

By Lori Turner-Wilson

Years ago psychologist Martin Seligman discovered a dramatic correlation between a salesperson's optimistic outlook and his ability to close sales. Optimists do indeed sell more than pessimists – 33 percent more. They handle rejection more easily; in fact, rejection increases persistence. Plus, they are more likely to stay motivated on their own and less likely to give up when a sales call doesn’t go well.

Optimism in this context doesn’t mean having an unrealistically positive outlook all the time. Instead, it’s about how a person deals with setbacks.

Not a “glass is half full” person? Don’t despair. This same study confirms that a pessimist can be coached into exhibiting a more optimistic viewpoint, at least when it comes to their outlook on sales.

An optimist sees the cause of a customer saying “no” to purchase as external to them – a customer’s choice, a specific situation vs. a universal issue, and a one-off occurrence vs. a trend. In contrast, a pessimist takes the rejection more personally, assuming that it will be a recurring issue they will always face.

If you are a sales pessimist, take these steps, based on Seligman’s research, to alter your selling vantage point. It’s called the ABCDE model.

Be on the lookout for elements of sales adversity (A), your related beliefs (B) and the consequences (C) of those beliefs. If you made 20 sales calls today and weren’t able to make it past a single gatekeeper, that’s your adversity. Your belief may be that future calls are in vain. The consequence of that belief is that you just go through the motions on future calls, don’t give it your all, and your fears become reality.

To overcome that internal negative talk, dispute (D) it, offering alternative reasons for the lack of sales success and questioning the usefulness of the pessimism. Actively tell yourself, for example, that you’re new in your role or in calling on this type of client. With time and persistence your skills will improve and you’ll successfully reach more prospects. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Lastly, pay attention and celebrate how arguing against self-defeating talk energizes (E) you. It’s OK to admit that you’re still a little disappointed or frustrated, but acknowledge that you’re not letting it get you down because things will improve.

For a significant behavior change to stick, it’s vital to involve others for support and accountability. Find a mentor or supportive peer. Share your struggles and victories. And ultimately ensure that you choose your friends wisely. Late motivational speaker and author Jim Rohn, said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Are they optimists? It’s contagious.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and Founder/CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing, You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (