Materials from the toolbox
Cognitive beliefs are relatively persistent judgments about “how things are”. We formulate beliefs and stereotypes throughout our lives. In fact, we need them. They are formed based on our experiences, our observations, the opinions of others (authorities), and knowledge - at least the knowledge we have access to. Beliefs are subjective and often have nothing to do with how things really are.
Since our beliefs are an inherent part of us, there are no good or bad beliefs, just as there are no ‘bad’ personalities or emotions. We commonly define certain beliefs as ‘wrong’1 (inconsistent with the scientifically verifiable truth) or limiting. What does the latter mean? Because beliefs influence behaviour, they enable certain actions and restrict others. Sometimes the restricted behaviours are or could be beneficial for an individual, but the individual is inhibited by their beliefs and cannot perform such behaviours. In a practical example: if someone firmly believes that “if God wanted man to swim, he would have given him gills”, they may never try water sports. All of us hold certain beliefs, including sales leaders.
“Dysfunctional emotions and behaviours (as stated in cognitive therapy theory) are largely the result of certain patterns responsible for consistently distorted judgments and the accompanying tendency to commit cognitive errors in certain situations.”2
If you are a sales team manager - as I was before I became a trainer and consultant - then you probably face challenges arising either from market opportunities, your company’s needs, or problems that negatively affect results and morale. I assume that you are at least somewhat open to trying something new and unusual - perhaps something that doesn’t exactly fit your beliefs - in order to address your challenges. If so, I hope you’re able to use this article as an inspiration to identify the beliefs that stand in the way of your search for new ways to act. The belief you uncover may not be discussed in this article, but I’m talking about reflection, about controlling your stereotypes, prejudices, and limiting beliefs.
Types of beliefs
I divide my beliefs into personal beliefs, i.e. who/what I am, beliefs about the organisation, i.e. well-established ideas about “how we do things there”, and finally , beliefs about the market (clients, competition, etc.). No matter what level of sales management you are at, limiting beliefs affect you in one form or another, directly or indirectly.
One final thought in the introduction: we salespeople are both the hunter and prey. We are sales professionals, that is, we influence others’ beliefs in order to make them change their behaviours - to buy our products. We do this using the ‘central channel’ (simplified by rational persuasion, that is, benefits) or through the ‘peripheral channel’ (using such as the seven Cialdini rules). At the same time, we are also influenced by others who, either directly or through the media, cause us to do something - for example, they make us believe that we shouldn’t eat gluten or that emotional intelligence is more important to professional success than conventional intelligence.