Some thoughts on attitude…

Attitudes, particularly the unproductive sort, can easily become excuses. Once we start to use an attitude as an excuse, it can easily become a firmly held belief, which for most of us is a pretty good substitute for truth. In fact, for many of us, it’s such a good substitute that we may very well persuade ourselves that our various attitudes and the perceptions that they create are in fact absolute, immutable truths. Such attitudes become mindsets, and dangerous ones at that, because they can direct us to make unproductive or even destructive decisions. The results of those decisions will then have a tendency to persuade us even further of the ‘truth’ which was, in fact, only a bad attitude in disguise.
Now, while most of us are familiar with the idea of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ attitude, what we usually don’t realize is that positive or negative is really only relevant when a goal is affected. The fact that I hate McDonald’s coffee doesn’t mean a thing when I’m cooking paella. It has no bearing on how I’ll brown the chicken, or when I’ll saut√© the garlic and onions, or any other part of the process. Thus, at least in regard to my paella recipe, my attitude concerning McDonald’s horrible-tasting coffee is neither good nor bad.
On the other hand, if take on the attitude that none of my current prospects wants to talk to me, then there’s a good chance that I won’t put in a 100% effort when I pick up the phone, or that I may even avoid contacting them altogether. In my first ‘Wall Street’ job, the managers would fire someone for displaying a bad attitude, and even if someone did manage to not get fired, there were other consequences. For example, sometimes a broker would get discouraged or frustrated and would say something to the effect of ‘they’re just not buying,’ and then leave the room for a while. In other cases, they’d avoid saying anything like that, but their ‘breaks’ would become more and more frequent, and soon enough, when they returned to their desk, they’d find a sign taped to the back of their chair. The sign displayed three letters: CPA. being new to the game, my curiosity overtook me, and I asked what this meant.
‘CPA’ stood for ‘Certified Phone Avoider,’ and while some might find what we did silly, no one wanted to be that guy with the sign on his chair. More to the point, the brokers who kept avoiding the phone didn’t open new accounts. Thus their frustrated attitude had a clear effect on whether they achieved their sales goals. This wasn’t because they lacked skill. They just weren’t getting on the phone. Quite a a few of them were, in my opinion, far better salesmen than I was at the time. However, I opened more accounts and did more business than they did, because I had an attitude that was the opposite of theirs. I convinced myself that if I had to come in earlier and stay later, or make twice the phone calls that others were making, I was going to do it. I would repeatedly say to myself throughout the day, “Somebody’s got to say ‘yes.’” Some days I worked from just past 6 AM to 10 PM, and sometimes made as many as 800 phone calls a day, or more.
However, while so many people in sales will say that it’s a ‘numbers game,’ that’s only partly true. I soon found out that there was much more to it than simply ‘pounding the phone.’ Good effort had to be put into each call, since we never knew if that next call was going to be that life-changing whale of a client, and at this particular firm, the senior brokers had some creative methods for attitude adjustment.
One of these would come into play when a new broker would start to get discouraged and their voice would drop in volume and their posture would slump a bit as the weight or rejection began to bear down on them. At this point a senior broker would take their chair away, usually saying something like, “You’re not getting your chair back until I can hear you on the phone,” along with a number of choice expletives. While this may seem a bit extreme, I decided to experiment with this myself and pushed my own chair away. How did this affect the outcome of my efforts? My lead generation skyrocketed, and I started opening more accounts. However, this wasn’t my turning point, and before I share that turning point, I should make a bit of a confession in my next post.

Have an awesome week!

-Sam