According to global commercial heavyweight Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman, and CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide. “Selling has changed because buying has fundamentally changed.”[I] Being the Chairman and CEO of one of the largest marketing communications companies in the world, Fetherstonhaugh knows a thing or two about the shift in buyer behavior and the impact on selling. Fetherstonhaugh points to a chain of causation between what’s happening to buyers and the effect on sales populations and the need for salespeople to be able to adapt to this change.

This is why sales people need to have a growth mind-set, so they can readily adapt to these significant changes in the market. To be successful individuals, sales people should be able to adapt and change to the changing environment around them. To be successful sales organizations, sales leaders should be able to steer their sales teams through the environmental changes, turning external threats into opportunities. Fixed mind-set people really struggle with such adaptation. Fixed mind-set sales leaders really struggle to identify change opportunities and steer their teams to take advantage of these changes, such as market changes. We saw the example of Kodak that illustrated this. The effect is a limitation on growth and a failure to build competitive advantage, or what we have been calling the Sales Performance Paradox.

What about your organization? On a scale of one to ten, one being a fixed mind-set and ten being a growth mind-set, where are your sales teams? You’ll not be surprised to know that the Dunning Kruger effect and the optimism bias co-habit comfortably under this particular rock. When asked this question, sales people typically describe themselves as having a growth mind-set. No surprise there. But when we compare this to a test designed to assess their mind-sets, and compensate for their biases, we find they are more prone to a fixed mind-set. This adds a layer of complexity onto the situation, because we’re not just dealing with a population who have a fixed mind-set, that would be problematic enough. We’re dealing with a population who are particularly blind to their fixed mind-sets. And, as if that were not bad enough, sales people are masters at covering their fixed mind-sets, after all, they are employed for being socially adept individuals who can filter their responses for customers.

Let me explain. When I ask salespeople if they need training, they invariably answer, “Yes.” So on the surface, we have a growth mind-set response. We’d expect that person to be engaged in the sales training. But when I drill down a further layer and ask what they are particularly looking forward to, the answer changes to the less filtered: “The training will benefit the others, the underperformers, and the new guys. I’ll take just the bits that I need.” This view, behind the filter, betrays evidence of a fixed mind-set because they are ruling out the majority of self-development opportunities in advance. So here’s the conundrum.

We have a population who need to make growth mind-set decisions because of the changes in their profession and the market, but when we test them we find fixed mind-set decision making. To complicate the situation, they are blind to this fact, but really good at covering it up. In terms of problems to solve, you have to admit we’ve picked a good one! Fortunately, in her book ‘Mindset’, Carol Dweck gave us a number of insights about mind-set that are relevant to sales organizations and sales enablement functions, that help us to structure our journey in this book. Dweck told us that mind-sets can be changed, the question for us is how do we do that in sales? How do we move sales teams from making fixed to growth mind-set decisions?  Put simply, the book ‘Deal Hack’ has a simple five step process, which can be used as an organizational development framework to develop a growth mind-set culture in complex sales organizations:

Deal HACKS Framework

The first step on the journey is to have a mechanism for highlighting the blind spots that are a cause of the fixed mind-set behaviors. We’ve already seen how Deal Hacks can do this at both the individual and organizational levels. In Part Two we go on to look at how people make decisions to see why sales people are particularly prone to social brain thinking, which is a key component of fixed mind-set behaviors. From this, we develop strategies to avoid social brain thinking and reactions.

Dweck showed us that mind-sets are affected by the environment, so in Part Three, we look at the organizational impact on sales cultures. In Part Four we look at how, by keeping learning in the workflow, we can drive a growth mind-set sales culture and grow sales as a result. Finally, in Part Five, we return to the organizational development perspective to look at how reporting and feedback structures can keep the growth mind-set culture on track for the long term.

[i]Karl Moore. March 2010. Transcript: Goodbye sales funnel, hello social media.