Salespeople: Don’t Believe Everything You Think


(By Paul Weyland) When it comes to sales, we can be our own worst enemies. Sometimes it’s like there is a little devil sitting on your shoulder telling you that you will fail, that you are wrong, trying to convince you that you have less value as a person. I’m referring to the constant voice inside your head, the one that fires off repeatedly during waking hours.

What you’re experiencing is a human condition called “automatic thoughts.” Automatic thoughts are almost always negative. They are self-generated and assumptive. Psychologists and psychiatrists often recognize this syndrome as “delusional thinking.”

Years ago my wife Nancy meant to say “optical illusion” but instead she said “obstacle delusion.” It was a funny slip of the tongue but after we laughed about it I considered it further and realized that obstacle delusions and automatic thoughts are essentially the same thing.

Automatic thoughts are self-inflicted psychological obstacles that we unconsciously throw into the middle of our paths to success. We are barraged with automatic thoughts each day. These thoughts are not necessarily based on facts. In fact, they’re usually our opinions, not always based on facts at all. A.T.s are almost always negative, in fact in many cases automatic thoughts are unreasonably negative. In summary, automatic thoughts are our own worst bullies.

Some of these obstacle delusions might have been holding us back for years. For example, math was always a challenge for me. In fact, my fear of math caused such undue stress in my life that I consciously figured out a way to graduate from the University of Texas without ever having to take one single math course. You wouldn’t believe the amounts of thought, energy, and conniving it took for me to make that happen. Much later I came to appreciate math, especially when it came to calculating return on advertising investment for my local direct sales clients.

Automatic assumptive thoughts could cause you to accidentally miss out on big bucks. Our station had a system called the “wheel.” That meant that one salesperson had to eat lunch at the station and be ready to deal with any client that might call in or walk in during the lunchtime period.

One Tuesday it was my turn at the wheel. I got a call from the front desk. A potential client was waiting in our reception area to talk to me. I finished up a phone call and headed up front to meet the potential client. What I saw when I got there was a little disappointing.

Crammed into one of our nice chairs was a rotund man in sweat-soaked and grease-stained khakis. He got up and extended a smudgy hand. We shook and I took him back to my office. Reeking of cigarettes and sweat, he took a seat and I asked him what I could do for him.

He told me he installed and maintained those big refrigeration units you see in grocery stores and that he wanted to talk about advertising on our stations. I racked my brain but I couldn’t think of a single way that he could benefit by advertising with us.

I was about ready to wrap up the conversation and see him out when all of the sudden he said, “You see, I’ve done so well in the grocery refrigeration business that I bought a chain of grocery stores here in this area.” Holy moly! I couldn’t believe it.

Turned out that he now owned five Piggly Wiggly grocery stores in small towns across our signal coverage area and our stations (country) happened to be his personal favorites. He wound up advertising with us for years and spent thousands of dollars a month.

That taught me a lesson. “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” How about, “Don’t jump to conclusions based on automatic thoughts”? I automatically assumed that judging from the way the man was dressed and groomed that I had no time for him. I was wrong.

Now let’s focus on some automatic thoughts specific to the broadcasting industry and ways to overcome them.

A.T.– None of my friends watch/listen to my station.

Response — So what? Thousands of others still do. Just because you or your friends don’t tune in doesn’t mean that many other people don’t either. Do you think that salespeople in the pharmaceutical industry have to personally take all of the drugs they’re selling to doctors? Of course not. You’d know if they did because some of the side effects would probably qualify for local news coverage.

If you were selling furniture and you didn’t like a particular style, would that mean that you wouldn’t sell that kind of furniture to people who do like it? Come on. Get over that.

A.T. — Business owners can only afford to pay this certain amount for advertising on our station. That’s why I never pitch them a penny more than ______ dollars a month.

Response — Well, don’t you think it might be presumptuous of you to think that way? How in hell do you know that? Is that based on fact or just your own opinion? What if the client is an RV dealer? What if his average sale is $60,000 and his gross margin of profit is 15 percent? And you think this client can’t afford to spend more than $250 a week? That, my friend, is delusional thinking. Fifteen percent of $60,000 would represent $9,000 that the client could use to plow back into her business.

One new cigarette smoker is worth one thousand dollars a year to a local convenience store owner. Per thousand dollars a week spent on your station, how many loyal new customers would you have to bring to that business? How about for five grand a week spent? Defeat the automatic thought. Raise your bar and don’t be afraid to ask the client for bigger budgets.

A.T. — All of the businesses here in my area have already been called on.

Response — Really? How many businesses actually exist in your signal coverage area? My hometown Austin, Texas as of 2010 had 45,000 private businesses. In the other counties in the metro, there are thousands more. And how many of those companies might a radio or TV station have on the air at any one time? I’ll bet fewer than two hundred, maximum. How many would that leave that have probably never even been called on by a broadcast sales rep at all?

A.T. — Our ratings suck. We’re not even in the top 10. Nobody listens to us.

Response — I have worked for number one stations and I have worked for stations that were not number one. Frankly, being number one had its share of problems for me, like getting spots on the air. Having to massage bumped commercials back onto the log is a whole ‘nother hell of its own. I never had avails problems on the stations that weren’t number one. Once you have an audience of any kind you can make sales. All you have to do is show your clients that your plans for their success are better than theirs and then you don’t have to be number one. I remember doing a seminar in New York City and being approached by a seller of Bloomberg Radio who said, “We hardly have any listeners.” And I asked, “Does Mr. Bloomberg listen? Do you think that other big decision-makers listen?” He agreed that that was most likely the case and that quality often trumps quantity.

A.T. — The economy here is bad. Nobody’s buying.

Response — Pardon me but that’s just pure bull****. Every day people are buying food, gasoline, roofs, new kitchens, jet skis, cars, hardware, software, pet supplies, carpets and rugs, swimming pools, art, plants, vacations, bookkeeping services, retirement savings, septic systems, homes, doctor appointments, dental exams, college educations, meals, beer…you name it. Come to think, shocking as this may sound, there are even many business owners buying radio, television, print, billboard, and Internet advertising schedules from somebody in your area right now.

Don’t let obstacle delusions delude your thinking. Don’t allow the automatic thoughts to bully your mind. When the negative thoughts slip into the forefront of your thinking, simply stop thinking about that. Stop. That. Thought. Then walk around it. Take a 360-degree look at it. Examine it for substance. Is it factual or is it just opinion? Are you just assuming that it’s true? Where does this thought actually come from? Is it helpful to me? If not, could it be causing me harm to think this way?

Look at the problem in a more universal way. Imagine that you’re looking at the situation from a different view, as if you had a helicopter. Then you might tell yourself, “It’s not like me to think that way anymore. In fact, it’s more like me to think _______.” And then replace the negative self-talk with the more positive thought.

Pay attention to A.T.s . They happen fast and sometimes they just sneak up on you unnoticed. Challenge them. Are they actual facts, or are they just your own opinions based on your own judgmental thoughts? As Marge Simpson said to her husband after his head turned into a donut, “Homer, stop picking at that thing!”

Paul Weyland helps broadcast stations sell more long-term local direct business. To reach out to Paul go to or call him at 512 236 1222.



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