CommentaryJul 13th, 2017

Mental Toughness Is the Key to Automotive Sales Success


One thing I’ve noticed in my 20 years in sales is that the feeling of self-doubt and insecurity is one of the largest constraints on sales success. After all, selling is not an easy job.

If you’re like most people, you have your good months and your bad months. Mental toughness is what gets us through those highs and lows. It’s a key part of professional development in sales. Although insecurity is something everyone feels at some point, it doesn’t pay to beat yourself up when you’re unable to sell a vehicle to a customer.

Think about it: If you beat yourself up for all the deals that you lose, and your dealership’s top performer has a 30% close rate, it basically means that you’re beating yourself up at least 70% of the time — and that’s a best-case scenario. This isn’t healthy for your sales team, and it isn’t healthy for your dealership as a whole. The problem with insecurity is that it can manifest itself into negative behavior. After all, most of our bad behaviors come from insecurity. Feeling inadequate as a result of losing deals or not hitting quotas can cause a downward spiral of negative behaviors.

As a leader of a sales team, I’ve found that one of the most important aspects of my job is for my team to realize its self-worth. Regardless of what stage they’re at in their sales career, there’s no denying that each individual on your sales team has value. Although your team will come to you for answers and guidance, it’s important to understand that you won’t have all the answers, and that some things need to be figured out through trial and error. As a sales leader, I try to convey to my team that they have value, potential, and that they’re capable of doing almost anything they put their minds to. I do my absolute best to ensure that my team’s mentality and confidence are impenetrable.

Here are two ways to help build a more mentally tough sales team.

Failure now doesn’t negate past success

Again, your sales team is going to have ups and downs. They’ll have their good days and their bad days, and good months and bad months. It simply comes with the territory of working in automotive sales — or any type of sales. When members of my sales team have a poor sales month, they’re often pretty rough on themselves.

The biggest risk is that they start to question their abilities as a sales professional. When I approach a challenging sales scenario that I haven’t yet faced or if I’ve lost a deal recently, I use my previous sales successes as a source of confidence that I will be able to find a positive outcome again.

The same is true for my team. Any selling snag that a team member is currently experiencing doesn’t negate their past success. I challenge my team to share one or more successes with me that make them proud. Then I remind them that a lost deal doesn’t take away all the deals they won. Once we get back to a place of confidence, they are more open to feedback on the parts of their process that could be holding them back. They can then absorb the feedback without it impacting their belief in themselves.

Leverage the success of others

Along with making sure that I’m encouraging my team to push forward, I also push my team to encourage and support one another. Although automotive sales is aggressive and highly competitive, our team has goals that need to be met too. Mental toughness is a group effort in our environment. When sales reps isolate themselves, I know they’re ultimately limiting themselves. I am quick to address this in a one-on-one, and urge our team to rely on each other for encouragement, new ideas, fresh messaging, and ways to conquer in a low month.

Not only does the extra encouragement help boost individual and team morale, but in general, sales reps all learn from one another. Despite different styles of selling, there’s always room for improvement — and mental toughness in a new sales environment is best learned from a strong peer group. One thing to note is that this type of encouraging behavior might not happen on its own. I see my job as a leader to ensure that it does. Even though many sales reps are team players, it’s easy to focus on your own performance, your own metrics, and your own prospects.

If I see someone that’s struggling or someone that could use a morale boost, I encourage seasoned reps and top performers to reach out to them and offer insights. Sales isn’t for the faint of heart, and automotive sales is particularly challenging — especially in a leadership role. Encouraging your team to let go of failure and push each other up can be an exceptionally powerful way to ensure your dealership is reaching its full potential.

Jenny Vance, executive vice president of sales at PERQ, has helped over 350 companies from across the world develop sales generation strategies, including Fortune 50 clients, companies with series A/B/C funding, and early stage entrepreneurs at seed stage. Jenny has a strong ability to identify sales talent, cultivate leaders, scale proven sales performance, and develop aggressive ramp toward value for new employees.

Authored by

Jenny Vance

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