How to Turn Your Sales Team's Victim Mentality into a Growth Mindset

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Do you have a sales executive on your team that is always complaining about something? The sales quota is too high. The bonus is too low. The marketing strategy and positioning is not right. The economy is bad. The exchange rate is killing the margins. This list never ends. 

Despite the fact that these challenges occur, sales leaders need to be mindful of whether their sales team is facing challenges and issues with a “victim mentality” or “growth mindset.” Let’s explore how to recognize both behaviors in your team. 

Victim Mentality 

See no choices or power. Sales executive with victim mentality act as if they have no choices or power to change their poor sales outcome. They operate on external lock of control, in which they give up the pilot seat of their sales territory, clients, and results to occupy the spectators’ seat. By doing so, they avoid responsibility and accountability. Their behavior can be summed up by Richard Back: “If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.” 

Unable to deal with rejection. Sales reps with a victim mindset become very upset when clients say, "I don't see any need to change” or “I am very happy with your competitor’s products.” They take these interactions personally and can get emotional when things veer away from the direction they envisioned. Consequently, they avoid new challenges and become more likely to give up easily. In the world of sales, this generally means the difference between failure and success. 

Indulge in self-pity and negativity. John W. Gardner says that “self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” Sales people who think like victims can be very detrimental to team engagement and organizational performance. They create a negative environment—full of complaints and stress. They are known for their ability to persuade other team members to sympathize with their negativity and helpless approach. 

Growth Mindset 

Focus on efforts. Sales executive with a growth mindset, look to challenges as an opportunity and focus on effort. Sure, sometimes external factors that are not within their control will determine whether they succeed or fail. But they know that the do control the effort they put in executing and developing their overall performance. According to Jeff Raikes, CEO of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a growth mindset is “a key to closing the achievement gap." 


Encourage self-discipline. The sales executive with a growth mindset choses to be disciplined, look at the data as a tool for taking fast actions, and break down their challenges to make them more manageable. As a result, they learn from difficulties and outstretch their capabilities. 

Exhibit a positive attitude and resilience. Growth-minded sales people are strong-minded and resilient. They are always enthusiastic to learn new things and work an extra mile to overcome their sales quotas.  Their typical internal dialogue is: “What are the customers’ hot buttons? What can I do to conquer my key strategic customers? Where can I add real value? Where should I spend time, resources and energy to leverage my sales performance? Who are the key network brokers in this territory?” 

Embrace an entrepreneurial attitude. The sales executive with an attitude focused on growth takes care of their sales territory as if the company was their own. They are constantly looking for ways to add value to their team, organization and clients. These execs act as protagonists: focus on the real facts, ask hard questions that go to the core of the performance issue, and use their network to underline the root cause of problems. 

How to Foster a Growth Mindset 

Carol Dweck, a psychologist researcher from Stanford University, coined the term “growth mindset” and has spent the last three decades studying its impact on individuals’ performance. Not surprisingly, Dweck says that fostering a growth mindset “takes dedication and hard work” in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Fortunately, Dweck and her colleagues, Mary Murphy, Jennifer Chatman, and Laura Kray, offer some valuable lessons for sales leaders. 

  • Management support. Top management must drive the growth mindset agenda on their organizations.

  • Culture. Build a sales organization culture, in which a growth mindset is the way of thinking—that offers benefits for individuals and the organization as a whole.

  • Hiring. Recruit people who love big challenges, who want to grow, and who want to collaborate.

  • Feedback. The language sales leaders adopt is crucial to developing a growth mindset. As a sales leader, praise effort not ability.

  • Learning. Provide “growth mindset workshops” and encourage discussion groups. Growth mindset can be learned and developed. Researchers Laura Kray and Michael Haselhuhn study shows that “88 percent of people who learned a growth mindset wanted to dig in the talk that would improve their negotiation skills.” Their research concluded that people who learned a growth mindset had significant better negotiation outcomes than their counterparts. 
About the Author

Tatiany Melecchi, CPLP, is a proven global sales leader with more than 10 years of experience and extensive exposure to cross-cultural dynamics in North & South America and the Pacific Rim.  Prior to co-founding TRANSFORMA People & Performance, a Brazilian boutique sales consulting firm focused on providing sales and leadership effectiveness solutions to global pharmaceutical enterprises and emerging growth companies, Tatiany spent 12 years working and studying in New Zealand and the United States. She was an active board member of ASTD Saint-Louis, Missouri, and co-lead for the LEARN Saint Louis 2013 Annual Conference. 

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