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Empowering Beliefs – The Pillars of Success

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”  David Lloyd George

“If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”  Michelangelo

A)   What Are Beliefs?

B)   Why Are Beliefs Important?

C)   The Effect of Beliefs on Your Selling

D)    Beliefs of Top Performers

E)    Supporting and Limiting Beliefs

F)     How To Make Your Beliefs Supporting

G)    A Belief Change Exercise

H)    Your Turn To Change Your Beliefs

I)      Group Belief Change

A) What Are Beliefs?

Here are some different ways I define beliefs. Take a few minutes considering the meaning and significance of each to selling.

•           A belief is not about reality, but it is effectively reality for you.

•           Beliefs once established become self-fulfilling.

•           Belief systems are software for the mind.

•           Whether you believe you can or cannot, you are right.

•           A belief is a feeling of certainty about something.

A belief is an inner view or conviction, which transcends reason and may not easily be changed by information alone, however contrary to the belief itself. The placebo effect in medicine is due entirely to the creation of a belief, which belies the facts, and has important implications for professional selling.

The thing to realise about beliefs is that your actual behaviour will automatically adapt to meet them. In a conflict between a behaviour and a belief, the latter will usually win. Because of this, beliefs have a powerful self-fulfilling effect.

Within the sales context, there are three particularly important types of belief:

1. A generalisation about a limit.

‘£10,000 per month is the highest achievable sales performance’.

‘Four sales visits a day is the maximum possible.’


2. A generalisation about the cause of something.

‘Being an Entrepreneur means that Banks wont like me.

‘High quality training leads to high quality results’.


3. A generalisation about the meaning.

‘Average results means that I am average’.

“Having a bad credit record means that I will not be able to raise much finance.”

‘Not having a good knowledge of selling means that my potential is limited’.

B) Why Are Beliefs Important?

People with beliefs like those above are unlikely to succeed. These beliefs need to be changed so that your behaviours will change in order to live up to the new regime. Behaviour is a function of the values, beliefs, needs and habits a person has. If you understand a person’s values, beliefs, needs and habits you will start seeing patterns. When you understand the patterns you are in the inner workings of their behavioural impulse.

We often create our beliefs with insufficient information, as our mind automatically fills in the gaps. Once accepted, our beliefs become unquestioned commands to our nervous system, and they have the power to expand or destroy the possibilities of our present and future. Beliefs can be supportive in their effects or hold you back. Limiting beliefs usually have their root in strong negative experiences, often a single one in which the belief was formed.  It is not the events themselves of our experiences that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.

A friend of mine, John set himself up as a freelance consultant in his area of expertise. He believed strongly that he could not sell on the telephone.  He would not even pick up the handset, always focusing on something else to do, which he knew in his heart was lower priority.

His wife tried to convince him that he was actually quite good, and that as he could present and sell with confidence face to face, selling on the telephone was easier. They had many arguments back and forth. Some past experience must have had a very profound effect on him to convince him that he was no good on the phone. His wife became assertive and insisted that he call 20 people each day. He did so with her pressuring him, although he believed that he did not perform very well. Finally, she had an idea and said, ‘Do all prospective customers tell lies about how they were influenced by a cold call from someone?’ He thought about it and said, ‘No, occasionally some might when it is in their interest to do so, but certainly not all.’ So the wife said, ‘Okay let us try an experiment. I will ring the twenty people I made you call this morning and record their comments. That way we can pick up with their tone what there real impression was’.

John thought that he had given a bad impression to all twenty so was not particularly keen on this proposal, but he felt it would prove him right, so he agreed. The wife made the calls, in front of John, and recorded the conversations. Every reference was excellent, commending the caller on good manners, clarity of communication and professionalism.  Feeling satisfied, the wife told her husband that here was prove that he in fact was a lot better at selling himself over the telephone than he thought.

John, listened to the tapes in total disbelief. He put his pen down and said, ‘I’ll be damned, everybody does tell lies!’

The point of the story is that when you have a limiting belief, that belief will distort all new evidence, logic and argument until it fits with the belief. This is why belief is such an important area to peak performance. John does not need telephone technique training, he only needs to change his belief in his ability. It can have this effect positively or negatively. Positively is when you believe so strongly in the inevitability of your success that no amount of evidence to the contrary or setback will affect your commitment. Imagine that you had a belief so strong as to be a conviction that you could double your sales over the next six months. What do you think would happen?

C) The Effect of Beliefs on Your Selling

All of my commercial experience supports the following belief: ‘One person with the right beliefs will do far better than any of a thousand with better abilities and a keen interest, trying their best.’ If you believe in your own success you will be empowered to achieve it.

If we make ten unsuccessful calls in a row, what will be the result of call eleven? If we make ten successful calls in a row, what will be the result of call eleven? Now according to the ‘numbers game’ theory and mathematical logic, it should be like a roulette wheel. In other words, the outcome of each throw has no bearing on any other throw. In practice our previous experience sets us up with a belief that will strongly influence our subsequent performance.

Many of our beliefs are generalisations about our past, based on our interpretations of painful and pleasurable experiences. Often these beliefs are created by misinterpretation of past experiences. Once adopted, these beliefs, however incorrectly founded, become a part of your inner reality and assume a direct influence on your behaviour.

Whenever something happens to you whilst building your business, your mind will automatically ask: ‘Is this good or bad news for me, and what must I do to encourage good news and avoid bad news in the future?’ You will then automatically form generalisations that determine your future behaviour. This is why so many people in their business avoid cold calling. We make cold calls and experience failure and possibly unpleasantness from the recipient. This is bad news for us and we are then conditioned before the next call we make to expect failure and unpleasantness. How do you think we could break this cycle? Really think about this, as a solution that is produced by you will stand far more chance of success than my saying what works for me.

One person I know follows every call that goes well by writing the company name on a card in big letters, together with notes of what transpired, and sticking the card on the wall. The more calls he makes, the more cards go up on the wall. The more cards on the wall the more he is reminded of his successes and his positive progress through the day. That breaks the bad-news cycle for him, what did you come up with?

If you find yourself saying, ‘I cannot….’, ask yourself, ‘What specifically stops me?’ Sometimes people are able to produce outstanding results in difficult circumstances simply because they don’t know the task in question is considered to be difficult. I once employed a trainee called Richard and he asked me how many telephone canvass calls I expected him to make each day in addition to his other work. I jokingly said a 100, but he took me seriously. At the end of the month I looked at his records and he had in fact made a 100 calls per day average. I had not thought that possible previously, and had never attempted it personally, nor expected staff to achieve this level. Imagine how popular Richard was from then on amongst his colleagues!

People may already have a lot of capabilities to influence their results, but if they don’t believe they have those capabilities they will probably fail to use them. Another point to consider is that the beliefs that others have about us will affect us. Telling the managers of two different yet comparable sales teams that their team is well above and well below average respectively has tested this. That belief of the manager is transmitted. Have you ever had a teacher, manager, parent who believed that you would have difficulty at something? I have observed in a large sales team that the top performer starts attracting a certain awe and respect. The others start believing that his figures are the highest achievable and aim towards them without really expecting to reach them. That is because 100% efficiency at anything is near impossible, (or is that perhaps just my limiting belief?).  His figures certainly became their limiting belief.

People who have similar experiences may respond very differently. Many sales managers deal with the symptoms (average sales results, aversion to client visits, avoidance of cold calling). The cause in all of these cases could well be a limiting belief that is holding the representatives back.  Alternatively it could simply be a lack of training and experience. Knowing which, is the challenge that separates average managers from the superb.

Here are some limiting beliefs that I have personally changed for clients.

Symptom                                                                     Possible Limiting Belief

Average Sales Results.                                             I am an average sales person.

I cannot do better because                                        I don’t have very good clients.

I have always performed at this level                        So I always will.

Aversion To Client Visits.                                           I am not very good at meeting people.

My gender is against me when I visit clients….

I need all the information at hand to give a good account of myself….

Clients on their home ground will be in a stronger position than me….

Avoidance of Cold Calling.                                       I will be rejected on nearly every call.

Cold calling is always boring.                                   People hate being called by someone they don’t know trying to sell them something.

If they wanted our products, they would ring.

D.   Beliefs Of Top Performers

The following questions are taken from a seminar I gave recently to a group of entrepreneurs.

• ‘Who here believes that they cannot consistently be the top salesperson in their company?  Hands up.’

• ‘Who here believes that they cannot double their last six months’ sales in the next six months?  Hands up.’

The majority put their hands up. I then explained: ‘If you put your hand up all you have to do is replace those limiting beliefs with empowering ones, and your performance will significantly increase. Many salespeople are trapped in their own past; it sets the limits for them.’ A key belief for top performers is:

“The past does not equal the future.”

Progress Now:

What is the one belief you could change right now that would make the biggest difference in your career? Write it below:

Sales superstars are distinguished by their beliefs. Here are a few examples:

Failure is feedback, which leads to learning and thus improvement. I know of a man who started a small business, worked all hours, despite advice from family and friends to get a regular job, and eventually, despite initial successes, went bankrupt. How did that affect him? What do you think his family and friends were telling him? What encouragement do you think he got from them to start another business? What financial support do you think he got from anyone? What do you think he did? He started another small business. What do you think happened to it? It went bust, that’s what happened. Now, would you lend this guy money for a new venture? How do you think the banks reacted to him? Would you say that he was a gifted entrepreneur with a Midas touch?  Shortly after his second bankruptcy he got into the motor trade in a small way. His name, Henry Ford!  He used failure to learn, the more failure, the more learning. The more learning, the more success. Success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. How do we know if we have succeeded or failed? Do we wait for someone to tell us or do we go and find out for ourselves? The answer perhaps is both, we examine our achievements ourselves, and we actively seek the views of others. Finding the right balance is the key.

If I look at my mistakes with reference to my objective and my other successes then they are valuable feedback. As such I can learn and improve my future performance. Eventually I am going to get all the results that I want, anything that gets in the way is feedback pointing me back on the right track.

•           Setting clear objectives with an equally clear timetable is essential.

•           Planning long-term produces better results long-term.

•           In every adversity is a hidden opportunity.

•           Losing a deal means you are a loser like eating carrots means you are a rabbit.

•           I make it happen by taking action.

Positive thinking alone is not enough, you need to take action. Things don’t get better by themselves; they get better when somebody takes action. In a recession, or even during a boom in some instances, I have heard business people say, ‘I can’t wait until things get better’, or ‘I hope my current problems go away or I’m not going to make any deals’. High achievers take the necessary appropriate actions to make them go away. Problems that go away by themselves have a habit of coming back by themselves. If the situation is not working for you almost anything else you do is more appropriate.

•           Commitment is the key to excellence.

•           Before my results change I have to change.

•           Knowledge is only power when it is acted upon.

•           Always give more than you expect to receive and you will receive more.

•           I can go with flow of life or determine it.

Successful people control their outstanding results because they make their own luck.  Then average performers accuse them of being lucky.

•           Anything is possible.

•           I alone am responsible for my results.

•           Whatever someone else can achieve I am capable of doing much better.

•           Limited beliefs create limited people.

•           Your beliefs will expand or limit the beliefs of your client.  If you believe that you are benefiting him, so will he.

•           Belief in success is essential, techniques only help.

Adopt these beliefs; paste them on the wall; constantly be reminded of them.  You will adopt the beliefs of top sales superstars.

E.   Supporting and Limiting Beliefs

Empowering beliefs examples:

•           I am capable of achieving everything that I want.

•           I constantly seek to improve.

•           Nobody has any advantages over me.

•           I don’t know it all. I can learn from everyone I meet.

An attitude of constant and never-ending improvement will produce excellence. Think of a time recently that you made a sales presentation and it did not go as well as you would have wished. What could you have done differently? What did you learn from the experience? If you were in that situation tomorrow, what would you do differently?

Limiting beliefs examples.

•           I know it all.

•           I am too old to learn new techniques.

•           I can’t….

•           I don’t….

•           I’m no good at….

In my first position as a recruitment consultant, before I set up on my own, I asked the company’s top performer the following question. Annual figures were just out and he was personally responsible for £205,000 worth of invoices for permanent placements. ‘What do you think is the highest possible placement figure you could achieve?’ He responded, ‘Well, looking at it logically, taking into account all the various factors, the highest possible is about £135,000.’ He was then off talking to someone before I had a chance to ask him what he meant. Top achievers are not interested in what’s ‘possible’, they are interested in what they want to achieve. What is ‘possible’ is a limiting belief as far as they are concerned and they do not waste valuable time with it. After Henry Ford was declared bankrupt for the second time, did those around him consider it possible that he would build one of the world’s biggest companies. What’s ‘possible’ is an extremely limiting belief!

Empowering beliefs    +

Listening   +

Knowing what to do   +

Taking action  +

Feedback + Flexibility

= Achievement of your goals


Think of something that you want to do, but are holding back from because of past failure or concern.  You are afraid that you might fail.  If you knew that ultimately you would succeed, what would you not attempt?








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F.   How To Make Your Beliefs Supporting

Changing a limiting belief is like scoring a major deal. First you have to find a major customer, or in this case, find the limiting belief. In other words, establishing the limiting beliefs that are holding you back is easier said than done. This is because they can be buried deep in your subconscious and when they were being created you were not consciously aware of it. Sometimes if we are lucky we may know our limiting beliefs.

Roger Bannister is famous for breaking the four-minute mile barrier. What is less known is that soon afterwards hundreds of people went on to achieve the same thing. Why do you think that was? When we believe something, by definition we stop questioning it. So how do you think we can start to change it? We question the validity of the belief. And if you question anything enough you will begin to doubt it, as contrary evidence mounts.  What you are really doing is creating an alternative belief, which has a cancelling-out affect.

Ask these questions both to yourself and to colleagues and friends:

•           What advantages do others have?

•           What is my weakest attribute?

•           What stops me from being the fastest growing company in my sector?

•           What am I not the best at?

Among the answers to these questions you will find your limiting beliefs. It is usually easier to do this exercise in pairs; and remember that when we are talking about limiting and supporting beliefs, it is of no interest whether they are true or not. If you believe them they are true for you.

Most major improvements in sales performance, in my experience, begin with a change in beliefs. The easiest way to change a belief is to associate substantial ‘bad news’ with the old belief.

•           Create doubt by questioning.

•           Think of exceptions to the old belief.

•           Apply Verbal Aikido to look at the belief from a different perspective.

What we want to do now is collect as much evidence as possible to contradict the limiting belief and to support a new empowering one. So make these challenges to your limiting beliefs.

•           How is this belief ridiculous or absurd?

•           Do the leaders in my sector hold this belief?

•           What will it cost me to keep this belief?

•           Can I think of any clear exceptions to the belief?

•           What caused me to have this belief in the first place? Do the assumptions still hold?

Now we replace the old belief with a new empowering belief, by finding as many reasons with as much evidence as possible to support the new belief. To help create and develop your empowering beliefs, ask yourself.

•           What evidence supports this belief?

•           When have I known it to be true?

•           Who do I know who has this belief?

•           Why do they believe it?

•           Do the top sales people I know hold this belief?

•           What would happen if I firmly held this belief?

G.   A Belief Change Exercise.

The following is the abridged transcript of a coaching exercise I performed recently for a client who wanted more empowering beliefs. It provides a good example of the way that you can go about changing your own beliefs. (See below, to apply the process to your own beliefs)

Alex: List three beliefs you have, first limiting and second supporting your performance.


Limiting beliefs

1. £10,000 is the maximum sales I could possible achieve in a month.

2. I am below average at cold calling and hate it.

3. The competition has clear advantages over us.

Supporting beliefs

1.         I can maintain enthusiasm and drive after a setback.

2.         People like me.

3.         I sincerely care about my customer’s best interests.

Alex: Now look at the three limiting beliefs listed, and list three beliefs that you would prefer to have.


1.         Whatever result I can achieve, I can do 10% better the following month.

2.         I am exceptionally talented at cold calling and love it.

3.         Whatever resources the competition has it is no match for my determination, dedication and enthusiasm.

Alex: (referring to the first limiting belief, ‘£10,000 is the maximum sales I could possible do in a month.’): Tell me in your own words everything that is ridiculous or absurd about this belief?

Client: Uh, well, nothing, that’s why I believe it. (Eyes move up and to the left, indicating that he is accessing visual memories, explained more in later chapter.)

Alex: If you could see something absurd about it, what would that be?

Client: Well, I suppose that so many things could change making it easier to achieve…  and therefore it is ridiculous in a way.

Alex: What kind of things?

Client:  You know, inflation could make it easier.

Alex: What else?

Client: Lots of things.

Alex: Go on.

Client: A major competitor goes bust, if we had better marketing, a better corporate web page would help. (Eyes now going to the right side indicating to me he was constructing ideas.)

Alex: What else could change?

Client: If I changed my belief. Ha, Ha.

Alex: So you are happy to accept that if you can change your belief, then you already have the requisite abilities to exceed £10,000 per month.

Client: I suppose so.

Alex: What else could change?

Client: Well, if I had more confidence in my own abilities.

Alex: How could your confidence be improved?

Client: Well, if I exceeded £10,000 per month it would automatically go up.

Alex: Okay. To get around that catch 22, let us pretend. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that last month you did £12,000 worth of personal sales into the business. Imagine your staff talking to you, what would they be saying? What would you be saying? What would it feel like?……

Now, bearing in mind that our brain’s circuits are the same for imagining fiction as for imagining reality, using imagination in this way can be a very powerful tool. As long as I can persuade the client to make the experience as vivid as possible the effect will be as though it were true. I continue to do this by talking him through all the internal sensory experience, i.e. using visual, auditory and feeling languages, and we return to the interview a little later…

Alex: Now, how do you feel now about doing £12,000 next month? Do you think you can do it?

Client: Well, I’ll give it my best shot.

Alex: (Now, we are clearly not there yet, but we are in a better position than when we started). What else can be done to increase your confidence?

Client: Praise. I’d like my boss and my peers to tell me how well I did sometimes, this may sound stupid but it builds me up.

Alex: Okay, so what could you do to get them to do that?

Client: I never thought that I could influence it. Ask them I suppose, after all, we have a team commission structure. But I think they will laugh.

Alex: What else could change?

Client: I don’t know.

Alex: Who do you think might know?

Client: My wife always has good ideas with this sort of thing.

Alex: Okay. If she were here now sitting over there, what do you think she would say?

Client: That if I didn’t keep avoiding cold calling with feeble excuses, I would have a bigger database to pitch to.

Alex: Okay. How exactly do you avoid cold calling?

Client: Well, I just avoid it.

Alex: No, I mean exactly. If I had to step in for you tomorrow, how would I go about avoiding cold calling.

Client: Well, I imagine the people getting angry and not responding to what I say. (His face drops, his tone lowers and his voice slows to a drawl.)

Alex: Okay. What do you think you could do to change that?

Client: Go on a training course I suppose.

Alex: Okay, why don’t you pursue that idea…Now, let us sum up where we have got to, so far. You think your limiting belief is absurd because:

•  Many things could change.

•  Inflation could erode the value.

•  A competitor could go bust.

•  You could gain more confidence.

•  You received training in cold calling.

That limiting belief is looking pretty silly isn’t it?

Client: Yes, I see what you mean…

In the transcript above, I have only gone through the first challenging question, in order to demonstrate the idea. Clearly, by the time the other questions are exhausted, the belief is all but gone. Note that if you are working in pairs it is important that the person being worked on comes up with their own solutions. Try not to make solutions and suggestions for them. The solutions have got to be produced and accepted by their unconscious mind in order for change to occur at a deep level. Now let us turn to helping the client create the first empowering belief that he would like to create: ‘Whatever result I can achieve I can do 10% better the following month….’

Alex: Do you know of anyone with that belief?

Client: Let me think….  Ah yes, Peter seems to take that attitude.

Alex: Okay. What did you think led him to that belief?

Client: Well, Peter thinks that there is no substitute for experience and that every day of every month there are lessons to be learnt. Therefore at the start of each following month he believes he is older and wiser and therefore works that little bit better. And in sales a marginal deal can mean a lot on the sales figures.

Alex: What else do you think has led him to this belief?

Client: I don’t really know, but the more I think about it the more I am convinced that he does have this belief that I would like. But I still believe that there is a limit to the number of calls you can make, the number of clients you can visit. etc, and at the end of the day everybody reaches their own plateau.

Alex: Have you asked Peter himself about the belief?

Client: No, but I am certainly going to now that I have thought of it.

Alex: What determines your plateau level?

Client: The sales target, I guess.

Alex: And has there ever been a time when you exceeded it?

H. Your Turn To Change Your Beliefs

Write on the following pages your limiting and supporting beliefs and also the beliefs you would like to replace the limiting beliefs with. Then answer the following questions challenging each limiting belief and supporting the empowering belief that you want to change it with.  I have also included questions on your present empowering beliefs, although these are not worked on specifically.  Their purpose is to help establish your strengths, to help your thinking about beliefs process, to provide a basis for comparison between your current limiting and supporting beliefs. To provide you with a final list of six empowering beliefs, which should be stuck up on the wall in your office for reinforcement.

Progress Now:

Defining Current And Desired Beliefs

List 3 beliefs you have both supporting and limiting.











Now list 3 empowering beliefs you would like to acquire.





To challenge a limiting belief, ask the following questions.


•           What examples can I think of when this belief was not true or did not apply?

•           In what way is this belief ridiculous or absurd?

•           Do the top sales people in my company hold this belief?

•           What will it cost me to keep this belief?

•           What exceptions are there to the belief?

•           What caused me to have the belief in the first place? And do the assumptions still hold?

Creating and developing the empowering belief

Ask the following questions of the belief you want to create.

•           What evidence supports this belief?

•           When have I known it to be true?

•           Who do I know who has this belief?

•           Do the top sales people I know hold this belief?

•           What will happen when I hold this belief?

I.  Group Belief Change

A company I visited recently with six sales staff had just spent the last two weeks agreeing targets with their Sales Director. The total target was £600,000, comprising individual targets between £60,000 and £135,000. Initially the individuals had come up with their own figures totalling £420,000. The Sales Director got this figure up while maintaining agreement that they could do it. He knew that cooperation was essential for a target to be meaningful.

Having been invited to make a presentation, I asked about their new annual targets. I wrote the individual and total figures on a board. I then said, ‘I want you to imagine that I have planted a miniature explosive device in your and your loved ones’ heads. If these figures are not at least doubled by this time next year I will pull the switch and you and your loved ones will all die painfully. Believing this without any doubts, who thinks that they will do it?’ Six hands shot up. You just need to access those resources you have without the need for negative motivation.

I continued: ‘What exactly can you do, that you are not doing now, that will enable you to accomplish this? What changes would have to be made?  What changes would you risk trying?’

I then said, ‘Imagine it is a year from now. I have returned and we are all drinking champagne celebrating this marvelous achievement. From this perspective looking back, what was it that you did that empowered you to produce these results?’ During the course of the afternoon the Sales Director could not believe the excited conversations, ideas and creativity that was coming forth from his staff. He was delighted with the result.

If you are determined, the belief change system outlined in this chapter will work and will lead to significant improvements in your results.

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