Mastering the B2B sales mindset

Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you are reading this blog, you are likely a B2B sales professional with an individual contribution target (or a quota). Or, you are a sales leader managing sales professionals who carry a quota.

B2B sales can serve to be an extremely well-paid profession. You can fast track your career significantly if you perform well. A successful B2B sales career can transform a salesperson’s professional and personal life. 

However, it is not an easy profession to win at. The highs are high, and the lows are low. You can experience great success after a few great quarters and FYs. Equally, you can be out of a job owing to two bad quarters. Sales can be a rewarding and crushing profession. 

Mastering B2B sales takes much more than reading a few books or having a good manager. It is a profession full of mediocre players and few stars. Most salespeople never realise their full potential due to a lack of discipline, drive, and an incorrect mindset. Tapping into the potential of your sales career is a significant but very worthwhile investment. 

Regardless of the industry vertical you represent, the markets you sell in, the geographies you operate in, the personas you sell to, your age, experience level, and tenure, you can always improve your sales game.

I am writing this blog for individual contribution sales professionals, such as those who carry a sales target or a quota. I am also writing this blog for sales leaders and managers who manage target-carrying sales professionals. Whether you are a Sales Development Representative (SDR), Account Manager, Business Development Manager (BDM) or a Sales Manager, “the sales mindset” is one of the most crucial elements you will need to manage if you are to taste success in the profession of B2B sales.

In this blog, I have outlined some steps you can take to develop your sales mindset.

Start with why

Great sales professionals have internally driven motivations. They don’t need constant external endorsement. They don’t seek validation from others. They have a very strong WHY. They have a hunger to be better, achieve more, and grow in their professional career and as a human.

How do they find that drive? Sometimes, it is about the money and rewards of being a star sales professional. Sometimes it is about being celebrated and seen as the best at their game. However, the absolute best that I have come across see beyond the obvious benefits (money, title, promotions, recognition). They have made the connection between excellence in sales and their professional purpose. They love the profession of B2B sales because it is what they want to do. It is their ‘why’. It is who they see themselves as. It is what they are proud of. Their attitudes, values and beliefs see B2B sales as a great profession. Their thinking towards B2B selling is positive. Their behaviour aligns with someone who sees B2B sales as a great way to spend their professional life.

If you are a sales professional, you have a very clear reason for why you are in the role and pursuing a career in B2B sales. If you are a sales leader or manager, have a clear WHY for yourself and spend time helping build the WHY for each team member you lead. 

Passion and purpose

Passion and purpose will be prerequisites in the profession of B2B sales. It is a tough gig. You will need to be passionate about your product, service, organisation, and competitive advantage if you are to sell successfully. 

You will need to have a clear core purpose. Great salespeople find true fulfilment in the profession. They are sincerely passionate about B2B selling and see it as their professional purpose. The required sales mindset arrives when you operate from a place of pure passion and purpose. You share your energy with those around you. Your colleagues see you have a winning mindset. Your leadership and management see that a bad quarter does not put you in a bad headspace. Your mindset is robust and solid regardless of the losses. You are not just “selling”. It is a way of professional life for you. This is what you do. There is something very spartan about it. Your pure passion and clear purpose will draw people to you and allow you to build a stellar reputation – and in sales, as in life, reputation is everything.

Awareness that mindset matters

Great salespeople, just like great sportspeople, are very aware of the importance of mindset. Long-distance runner and triple gold medallist Emil Zatopek brilliantly said: “An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.” 

Mindset significantly impacts how a salesperson comes across to customers, colleagues, and leadership. Mindset impacts a salesperson’s choice of language, actions, determination levels and resilience. There will always be difficult moments in sales. Mindset matters. Great salespeople have excellent levels of awareness of where their mindset is at. They make a continual effort to remain balanced and realistic regardless of their challenges. 

Build a wide and robust network

To succeed in Sales, you will need a wide and robust network. This network, subject to your role, must comprise investment level execs, senior leaders, managers, customers, ex-colleagues, ex-leaders, and managers. I could go on and on about the value of a wide and robust network. 

I don’t subscribe to the saying “Always be closing”. That is old news. It is counterproductive today. Closing happens. It results from a job well done and a sales cycle well managed. You can’t do a poor job of selling and then close hard to get an outcome. That is a sure-shot way of burning your brand and reputation rapidly. 

“Always be opening” is a better motto to follow. Open new relationships. Open new conversation pathways. Open new ways of approaching people. Open new narrative and positioning techniques. Your mindset will be better if you have a large network you can count on. A great sales mindset is always looking at “openings” – to opportunities, positioning, introductions, and building a robust network.

Focus on the problem

Great sales professionals are problem solvers. They don’t shy away from the problem at hand. They realise that a great part of a salesperson’s purpose is to remove problems for clients and take away their pain. They are in the business of problem-solving. 

Great sales professionals go beyond problem-solving merely for the client. They solve internal problems or problems associated with supply chain partners. They even help leadership and management solve organisational problems. 

Great salespeople are great problem solvers. They don’t view problems through a negative lens. They see problems as soldiers see an obstacle course or an athlete sees hurdles. They see problems merely as a challenge in the journey of sales. They also don’t rush through problems. They work through them with patience and in a disciplined manner.

Focus on the solution

Just as great sales professionals are comfortable with problem-solving, they realise that they must work through problems to get to the desired solution. So even though they are great problem solvers and comfortable dealing with the problem for the duration required, they know when to reorient to a solution focus. They are not sellers of products or services. Great sales professionals are solvers of problems, and they serve to be a route to the solution. They appreciate that customers don’t need more products or services – they need the outcomes that the products or services deliver to the business, the solution! Determine how your offering is the solution to the business’ problems, and your mindset is where it should be.

Be Real

The right sales mindset is a mindset grounded in reality. Great salespeople work from facts. They are highly objective and driven by the facts of the situation. Do not succumb to the temptation to talk up opportunities that are not solid to your sales manager or yourself. Be 100% real, 100% of the time. Learn to assess each opportunity through the lens of reality rather than wishful thinking. Listen to what prospects are saying rather than what you want to hear. Reality is an essential ingredient of a great sales mindset.

Build physical strength

To be successful at professional B2B selling, one requires the right mindset. What is equally important is the aspect of physical well-being. 

B2B sales is not usually a physically strenuous profession anymore. There used to be a time when salespeople had to be road warriors, and they visited clients from one corporate location to another. That era required the salesperson to be physically fit just to keep up with the role’s demands.

As technology-enabled salespeople do the job at a distance by leveraging phone, email, social media etc., the physical aspect of B2B sales has somewhat diminished. However, today’s salespeople must build physical strength and resilience. The job requires long hours of focus and commitment. Physical training, be it through the gym, running, pilates, swimming, team sport etc., will have a substantial positive impact not only on your health and body composition but also on your mindset. 

Consistently getting physical exercise before commencing your work day will set you up with a winning mindset before making your first outbound call of the day.

Building mental strength

Even with an incredible mentality and all the right skills, you won’t be successful 100% of the time in B2B selling. Failure is part and parcel of a B2B sales career. You will lose more pieces of business than you will win. You will face more challenging quarters than easy ones. You will need to strive hard to close opportunities. Things don’t come easy in B2B sales. It is a tough gig. It needs resolve, patience, and resilience, and all of this needs mental strength. The B2B sales reps who turn obstacles into opportunities and keep getting back up, even after major failures, are the ones who become successful. That inner strength comes from cultivating a deep belief in yourself and letting nothing hold you back. To arrive at the right sales mindset, you must build mental strength.

Find a mentor

Salespeople must invest in their growth and development. B2B sales is a tough profession, and it has many obstacles, challenges and steep climbs. Investing in a mentor is a wise move. Whether you find someone willing to mentor you at no cost or a mentor who charges you a professional fee, please invest in a mentor. 

A credible mentor has already walked the path you are walking on now. They have made mistakes and learnt valuable lessons along the way. A mentor provides priceless value by imparting knowledge and perspective on the challenges you face. Do your research and find a mentor who will be the right fit for you. A remote mentor can be a great option if you cannot find a suitable mentor locally. The right mentor can help you with developing the right sales mindset.

Pursue an MBA

I highly recommend pursuing an MBA. The learning and qualification are very relevant to the profession of B2B sales. You will gain substantial knowledge from the core subjects you do and the electives you choose.

I remember completing subjects such as ‘Strategic Thinking’, ‘Foundations of Management Thought’, ‘Strategies for Solving Complex Problems’, ‘Mastering Negotiations’ etc. These subjects allowed me to build the professional mindset to sell to the C-Suite. 

Additionally, completing an MBA will give you the business knowledge and know-how to engage with business executives at all levels within an organisation and across a wide spectrum of functions. You will be able to make recommendations confidently to your customers, particularly when you are selling to the C-Suite.

A sound and formalised understanding of business will position you as a trusted advisor to your customers. Completing an MBA will help build the required mindset for selling at the highest levels.

Read a lot

Reading is the one habit that is common amongst successful people from different walks of life. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah Winfrey all talk about the value of reading. 

Reading about a wide variety of topics and reading with discipline will help build your mindset and put you ahead of your competition. Becoming a subject matter expert in the product or service you represent, the industry verticals you sell to, and the pains of the buyer personas will aid your mindset. Additionally, the more you read about economics, business, philosophy, psychology, etc., the better it will build your mental aptitude to engage in high-quality dialogue. 

The more you read, the more you will shape your mind to be a cut above the average salesperson in every dimension. 

Don’t subscribe to a negative mindset

Just as negativity has no place in a sales mindset, toxic positivity can also derail a career in sales. Understanding the difference between a positive outlook and being ‘positively unrealistic’ is vital. Sales leaders and the C-Suite require reality from their salespeople as it is essential to forecasting and making informed business decisions.

Don’t subscribe to a positive mindset

Just as negativity has no place in a sales mindset, toxic positivity can also derail a career in sales. Understanding the difference between a positive outlook and being ‘positively unrealistic’ is vital. Sales leaders and the C-Suite require reality from their salespeople as it is essential to forecasting and making informed business decisions.

Grow the mindset

A commitment to growing your mindset will involve undertaking many of the actions identified in this blog and assessing and accepting your shortcomings, flaws, and weaknesses. To truly grow, you must understand who you are and how you are. As difficult as this exercise may be, it will be the starting point of growth that can transform your sales career (and your life).

Meditate

A career in sales is not without its emotional challenges. Learning to maintain balance outwardly and inwardly is crucial to avoiding burnout. A winning long-term career trajectory in sales will require a stable and balanced emotional state that you can maintain through meditation. A 10-15 minute meditation block in the morning and the afternoon will have a substantial effect on your well-being and your ability to maintain professional momentum. 

Conduct robust win-loss reviews

Before celebrating your victories, slow down to analyse why you won each deal. Similarly, conduct the same assessment on lost deals. The insights gained from win-loss reviews can inform where you need to make changes and improve the sales process in future. Using a stop, start, continue framework will simplify findings and make your insights actionable. 

Commit to Kaizen

In the end, what sets apart the mindset of a successful salesperson from those who are just mediocre is the commitment to Kaizen or continuous improvement. The best salespeople know that they are never done learning and growing. They take every opportunity to feed their minds, learn from others and gain new skills. When you do that, you’ll be unstoppable.

Know your unique value proposition

You don’t just need to know every fact, statistic and possible objection to your product. You need to know what makes your product notably different. You must find what your product does better than anyone else. That’s your X factor. It’s the reason customers will choose you over your competitors, and it’s essential to work into your sales pitch.

In conclusion

Sales is a challenging career, and investing in the above areas of your career and yourself can seem too daunting a challenge. However, the benefit of the above investment is that your professional and personal life becomes easier to handle. The challenges will not be lesser, but the salesperson facing them will be a better version of themselves – more robust, educated, insightful, balanced, magnetic and capable. Salespeople must ask themselves whether they want to be in the sales game as an average or a top player? Those seeking the heights will inevitably need to commit to the investment in themselves.

RK is the CEO & Co-Founder of Resonate.

RK is Resonate’s chief strategist, thought leader, and IT industry veteran. Our clients depend on RK to advise on their business strategy, channel strategy, and sales strategy. 

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