How A Scarcity Mindset Will Sabotage Your Sales Efforts (And How to Overcome It)

August 25, 2016 Daniel Threlfall

What you’re about to read could be the difference between a killer sales week and an awful sales week.

Think with me for just a minute.

It’s Monday morning. Your calendar is primed and ready with plenty of sales calls, follow-ups and a hot list of warm leads.

You know that you’re going to gain some customers, sign some contracts, and bag some deals. You know that business is booming. You know that there are customers out there, ready to sign up and pay.

You’re ready to get on the phone and make it rain.

What’s going on?

You’re in a sales mindset. With this kind of mental control, you’re unstoppable. Things are going to go your way.

But what if we were to flip this situation?

What if you were to start out with the proverbial Monday mentality? Life sucks. Your customers are morons. Your colleagues are greedy. There aren’t enough prospects to go around. You’ll probably need to argue with your boss about sales quotas. You expect to argue with your spouse about a lower-than-average paycheck this month.

Your week would look a lot different.

The key difference? Mindset.

Having the right mindset in sales is just as important as your skill set, experience and qualifications.

As the old Chinese proverb states:

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.

It’s not just Chinese proverbs that make this point. Some of the world’s greatest salespeople have said the same thing:

O.B. Smith wrote, 'Confidence and enthusiasm are the greatest sales producers in any kind of economy.'

Brexit? Recession? Doesn’t matter. If you have the right mindset — 'confidence and enthusiasm' — you’re going to make some serious sales.

Another sales sage, William Clement Stone, said the same thing in his book, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude: 'Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman.'

Brian Tracy, the inspirational sales training legend, places this right at the top of his list of leadership qualities. He wrote, 'Top people maintain a positive attitude….cast off the shackles of fear and dependency that hold most people back and pursue life with a positive attitude.'

You get the idea. The point I’m trying to make here is that your thoughts influence reality by changing your behavior.

Nowhere is this more true than in sales.

But there’s a problem.

There is one phenomenon I’ve seen time and time again that hinders the progress of salespeople. It’s the scarcity mindset.

It often occurs on the subconscious level. Many times, we’re not even aware that the scarcity mindset is sabotaging our efforts and derailing our progress.

If left unchecked, the scarcity mindset can have a host of unsavory consequences. When an entire team of sales people gets stuck in this mode of thinking — and it happens — it can destroy the entire company’s productivity, revenue, and viability.

My purpose in writing this article is to explain what the scarcity mindset is, warn you about its dangers, and learn how to overcome it.

The implications for your sales career could be enormous. More sales volume, a higher close rate, increased leads, and more successful prospecting — these are the kinds of results you can expect from implementing a true abundance mindset.
 

What’s A Scarcity Mindset?

A post on Evan Carmichael’s website summarizes the term quite nicely:

A scarcity consciousness is keenly aware that there is never enough to go around. Never enough money, resources, freedom, love, opportunities and other good things. A scarcity consciousness feels anxious, fearful, hesitant, desperate and constricted. The glass is always half-empty from this perspective, and all you can see are problems and challenges.

In other words, it’s the classic glass half-empty mentality and is inherently pessimistic in nature.

But it’s not just pessimism. The term 'pessimism' is too vague.

The scarcity mindset is the pessimism of not enough. It’s the difference between saving and investing, between hanging on for dear life and climbing.

What does this look like in your sales efforts?

  • 'The market is too small. I don’t think there’s enough of a market to succeed.'
  • 'Shoot. I only have twenty calls to make this week. That’s definitely not enough to make my quota.'
  • 'Industry close rates on sales like this are only 5%! There’s no way I’m going to be able to make it.'
  • 'Only 12 online leads to follow up with? How am I expected to survive off of that?'

These are sales scarcity thoughts. They’ll kill you!

Sales people with a scarcity mindset seldom thrive because they’re locked in a constant state of fear that leads will dry up, they won’t convert, they won’t meet their quotas and so on. The problem is that this tends to create a vicious cycle that will go on indefinitely.

Ironically, salespeople who are otherwise poised for success are most likely to suffer from this malady.

Here’s why: Saving time, saving money, being productive, and exercising efficiency are good things, right?

Well, sure, but they can also be smoke screens for a scarcity mindset.

Someone who is operating with a scarcity mindset needs to save time, save money and be productive because she views the world around her as a place of scarcity, need, and insufficient time or resources. Even something as innocuous as a sales quota could produce a scarcity mindset.

The emphasis on saving is a symptom of scarcity thinking. We can think of it as ‘downstream thinking’ - being pulled along by events, focusing on keeping your head above water and not hitting rocks rather than striking out on a self-determined course. That focus on saving contrasts with the attitude you’d have if you had a plan and were expecting success. Then, you’d be moving upstream, focusing on your goals, and investing time, effort, energy and, yes, money, into a better tomorrow.

Trouble is, if you didn’t do that yesterday, today’s going to be that much harder, and the temptation to slump into a scarcity, survival mindset is even stronger.

‘Most days,’ says Alice Kemper, ‘everyone is guilty of going about their business to put out fires and get through the to-do list.  Just doing the same things day in and day out keeps us stagnant or moves us downstream.’

While qualities like being productive and efficient may be good, be aware that they could be masking something that’s not good — the scarcity mindset. People with a scarcity mindset will ‘stick,’ hesitating to take risks and engage in an open-ended way.
 

What’s An Abundance Mindset?

At the other end of the spectrum is the abundance mindset.

To quote Carmichael again:

An abundance consciousness KNOWS that scarcity is just an illusion. It is firmly rooted in the belief that there is more than enough for everyone. It trusts in a never-ending flow of prosperity and joy, so it can take its time and enjoy every moment. An abundance consciousness feels light, expansive, freeing, peaceful, joyful, and harmonious. An abundance consciousness sees the glass not just as half-full, but full to the brim and overflowing from a constant stream of abundance, love, well-being, and all good things.

Sales people with an abundance mindset are always confident that there will be plenty of leads to go around, they’ll kill it with conversions, and that they’re fully capable of not simply meeting their quotas, but exceeding them.

A sales professional with an abundance mindset thinks like this:

  • 'This market is well defined. I know we’re going to dominate it.'
  • 'There are plenty of prospects, leads, and sales to go around!'
  • 'I want to help the people I call this week. There are twenty people on my list. Each time I can make a huge impact in his or her life.'
  • 'I’m going to trust these prospects, respect their decision, and give them my best advice, regardless of the outcome of the call.'

Here are some of the contrasts between the abundance mindset and the scarcity mindset for leaders of sales teams:
 

scarcity mindset

These contrasts can be traced out in all areas of life. Here’s another set of contrasts.
 

scarcity thinking
 

The Negative Impact Of A Scarcity Mindset

Over the years, I’ve seen salespeople with great potential fail, but not because they didn’t have the chops or were inept. It was simply because they allowed themselves to be crippled by a scarcity mindset. Falling into this trap ultimately diminishes their confidence. Their limiting beliefs cause them to plateau.

Even if they have an arsenal of strengths and unique talents, their self-defeating mentality is going to marginalize their sales impact. Every time there’s a choice, people with a scarcity mindset, oppressed by all the things that might go wrong and the feeling that they can’t afford any failures, will play it safe. And how can you win out as a salesperson and play it safe?

I get it. Sales is tough. It can be extremely challenging to overcome the onslaught of objections. When you’re hearing a lot of ‘no,’ as Walter Rogers writes for Salesforce: 'It is not unusual for some sales professionals to lower their aspirations, and begin to doubt their abilities at times like this.'

When that happens, there’s the beginning of a scarcity mindset; with apparently limited resources, attention switches to conservation, short-term goals and a reactive approach.

Some salespeople I’ve known also experience the 'upper limit problem' which is another symptom of a scarcity mindset.

What is the upper limit problem?

An ‘upper limit’ is a self-created idea about what the most we can achieve looks like. Often formed by early experience, upper limits can even stand in the way of people who appear confident and seem to expect success.

We hit our 'upper limit' of happiness, financial success, joy in a relationship, or any of a number of other things, and this upper limit causes us to unconsciously sabotage ourselves or even make ourselves ill.

When you reach your upper limit in sales or happiness, you begin to draw back. Even if the prospect seems close, you start to close down.

  • You retreat from your sales pitch.
  • You backpedal from your eagerness to make a sale.
  • You end the call quickly.
  • You provide reasons why he/she may not want to make a purchase.

The way to break through upper limits is by rejecting the scarcity mindset and embracing the abundance mindset.

The scarcity mindset is a symptom of a negative outlook.

Any sales leader will tell you that such a negative outlook will destroy your sales efforts. Gerhard Gschwandtner is the founder of Selling Power Magazine and Sales 2.0. His comments perfectly summarize the scarcity vs. abundance mindset as it applies to sales:

Sales professionals [must] ditch negativity and cultivate a winning mindset.  The right mindset will not just help your sales grow. It will also help you succeed in all areas of life.

How to Adopt an Abundance Mindset

It would be great if you could simply snap your fingers and instantly shift from a mindset of scarcity to abundance. Of course, it’s not that easy.

In spite of the Ra-Ra-Go-Get-’Em seminars and sales conferences you’ve been to, it’s hard to sustain a long-term commitment to abundance and success. It’s not about optimism, or faking it 'til you make it, or anything that you can offer people from a podium.

Like most things in life that are worth doing, this is a process that takes time and effort. You essentially need to retrain your brain and develop the habit of thinking abundantly.

I’ve found that the first step is to simply become aware of self-defeating thought patterns.

Maybe you’re thinking that you’ll never close a major deal or that a competitor with a sleeker, sexier product is going to swoop in and steal the lion’s share of your demographic.

Not to sound annoyingly zen-like, but it’s important to become mindful of these thought patterns.

After all, how can you fix a problem if you don’t first admit that there is one?
 

Focus on the Positives

Instead of focusing on what isn’t going right and what you don’t have, pay attention to what IS going right and be grateful for those achievements.

Gratitude isn’t just a nice emotion to have. Gratitude has a host of scientifically-proven benefits.

For example, a salesperson with an abundance mindset could congratulate themselves for the deal they closed last week and let go of any failed opportunities. They would be grateful for the 80 percent of good things that happened and not fixate on the 20 percent of situations that were less than ideal.

They would also make it a point to learn from their mistakes and use it as fuel to do better in the future.
 

There’s No Such Thing As A Lost Sale

More effective yet would be stopping thinking about ‘failed’ or ‘lost’ opportunities. Thinking about it that way makes it seem like if you’d just grasped a little harder, tried a little more, you might have saved that opportunity from being lost.

See where I’m going with this? It’s that ‘prevent loss, save everything you already have’ scarcity mindset again.

Instead, look at deals that didn’t get closed as information. Why did the deal not close? Was the lead unqualified? Is it a process issue? Were you sick or stressed that day?

Looking at ‘where you went wrong to lose the sale’ and ‘what you can improve about your process to get a better result’ means looking at the exact same set of facts. But the mindset is totally different. It’s not ‘how can I lose less?’ That’s scarcity. It’s ‘how can I win more?’
 

Stop With the Comparisons

As the old saying goes, 'comparison is the thief of joy.' Unfortunately, we humans have a knack for comparing ourselves to everyone else.

But this approach can be demoralizing and is quite futile when you really think about it. No matter how much of an ace you are, there’s always bound to be someone who’s better. The comparison habit is a leading contributor to scarcity thinking, as the article 'Sales Mastery' explains.

To develop an abundance mentality, it’s important to remember that one salesperson’s success doesn’t diminish your own. Don’t worry how well (or poorly) your colleagues are performing, and focus your attention on optimizing your own efforts.

If anything, try to learn from the success and failures of others and implement that knowledge into your sales career.
 

A Caveat

It’s important to note that developing an abundance mentality doesn’t mean that there will be 100% smooth sailing from here on out.

Of course you’ll still make mistakes and run into roadblocks. But with the right mindset, you’ll experience these as feedback about your planning and execution - lessons to be learned and applied for success, not yet more trouble and difficulty.
 

Conclusion

With enough practice, you can ditch the unfruitfulness of a scarcity mindset, and an abundance mindset will become like second nature.

Your sales experience will look something like this...

You wake up on Monday morning, your calendar is bristling with ultra-primed and buy-ready prospects. You’re 100% convinced that you’re going to improve people’s lives, sell something meaningful, and make a positive difference in someone’s day. You’re going to encourage your colleagues, close like crazy, and accept the abundance that’s coming your way. You’re going to get on the phone, and make it rain.

About the Author

Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall is an Internet entrepreneur, content strategist, and a seven-year veteran of remote work. As a writer and marketing strategist, Daniel has helped brands including Merck, Fiji Water, Little Tikes, and MGA. Daniel and his wife Keren have four children, and occasionally enjoy adventures in remote corners of the globe (kids included).

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