Effect of Optimism and Commitment on the Sales Force

I’m reading Sarah Miller Caldicott‘s book, Innovate Like Edison.

There are some noteworthy quotes which, although written in the context of innovation, apply equally, if not even more to selling and sales management.

“Psychologist Karen Horney (1885-1952) undertook groundbreaking work on optimism early in the twentieth century.  She discovered that most people actually succeed when they decide, with full commitment, to accomplish something.  Most of what people label as ‘failure’ according to her research, is a function of their doubts acting as traitors, causing them to withhold full commitment and give up too soon.”

Ain’t that the truth!  I couldn’t have said that better…here’s another.

“As Edison phrased it, ‘Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged.’  He adds, ‘Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.'”

Ditto for that quote.  One more…

Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, and author of Learned Optimism, has researched optimism for more than thirty years. His work offers further confirmation of the validity of Edison’s approach.  According to Seligman, optimists get better results than pessimists in most areas of life.  His research shows that optimists perform better at school, in relationships, on the athletic field, and at work….And optimists make significantly more money.  All this is true despite the fact that pessimists are more skilled, according to Sligman, in their ability to analyze current problems accurately.  For the pessimist, the optimist is someone who simply doesn’t yet see the facts as they are.  But despite the tendency to view the world through rose-colored glasses, numerous long-term studies confirm that better results emerge when we err on the side of optimism.”

I’m not an optimist or a pessimist. I tend to be a be a realist.  Relating the aforementioned quotes to selling, I believe that optimists find it difficult to challenge people.  I can easily slide over to the pessimistic side when necessary, like when it’s time to debrief a salesperson on a recent call.  It’s difficult to punch holes or question a salesperson’s account of a call if you are an optimist.  Optimists often become overexcited and set unrealistic expectations about the likely outcome of an opportunity. I believe you must be able to slide back and forth between optimism and pessimism.  Get yourself motivated and excited, be realistic about what’s happening, and challenge people when what you hear doesn’t sound right.  What are your thoughts?