Self-worth, optimism and high margins

September 10, 2018 -  By
Psychology of Sales diagram; Graphic: Jeffrey Scott

Graphic: Jeffrey Scott

Have you ever noticed how some salespeople are quick to give a discount?

I experienced this personally when shopping for a Mother’s Day gift for my wife. She hinted that she wanted a Le Creuset cast-iron cooking pot. I knew I’d better not buy it without her, so we went together to pick it out. When the owner told us the price, my wife simply asked if he could do any better, and the salesperson immediately defaulted to giving us a nice discount. I sort of felt sorry for the guy because I knew he gave away all of his net profit margin.

And yet, a better negotiator would have pushed back and tried to sell us on the value of this French blue enamel pot.

What is the underlying difference between these two types of salespeople?

Weak negotiators lack confidence and have lower self-esteem. Deep down, they don’t feel quite worthy enough, and they fear losing the sale. The crockery salesperson even told us he was afraid of losing our business, which was crazy since we were already in the checkout line lugging this 20-pound pot.

Strong negotiators, however, would have been better prepared to make the sale at list price. They would have first sold themselves on the value of their own product and brand.

They would know that if they don’t make this particular sale to us, they would make the sale to someone else. Strong negotiators are not desperate; they believe that life is bountiful and that there’s always another opportunity right around the corner. These great salespeople are highly optimistic about life.

A great book on this topic, which I’m having all my peer group members read, is “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life” by Martin Seligman. I heard the author speak a few years back about the positive impact optimism has on the lives of soldiers with PTSD and anyone who needs resilience to thrive in his or her job. Seligman worked with the Army to help improve recovery from PTSD by showing people how to increase their optimism. God bless him.

Why is all this important? To run a profitable and thriving business, you need your salespeople to make sales that allow your company to win. If you underprice the work, you already have lost. No matter how hard your production people work, they likely will not be able to catch up and turn the job into a financial win.

You have to aim high to hit high

To sum it up, the best chance of achieving a financial win is to have a strong negotiator making the sale.

This requires salespeople to have an optimistic worldview, believe deeply in their own self-worth, regardless of what kind of day they are having, and be sold on your product before they set foot out of your office. (See the figure titled “The Psychology of Sales Success.”)

Back to the crockery salesperson, when we asked if he could do better, he should have looked at us with a big warm smile and reassured us that we were getting a great deal, that we would fall in love with this pot and cherish all the memories we would create cooking and eating great food. (Which we did—and do!)

If you think you can sell at a high margin—or if you think you can’t—you are probably right.

This article is tagged with and posted in September 2018
Jeffrey Scott

About the Author:

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit

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