Don’t Focus on Things You Can’t Control

 “Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #16”

It is common sense to know that none of us has control over all of the elements and folks around us. There are those who, regardless of how futile it is, try to rope the wind and control all within their realm. Old school sales representatives used to believe that if they took a certain set of “closing steps”, they could control the sales process. It was decades later in the information age when we realized that asking questions was the answer. Sheer force of will and bravado, adjoined with a lack of listening and fulfilling wishes, was pretty common and worked in a day gone by, but rarely does the job today. The truth is, figuring out the things that you can indeed be in control of takes some thought and deliberation.  

I’m going to get clinical for just a moment before we tie it back to selling; In the field of psychology, there is a thing called a person’s “locus of control.” People with an internal locus of control operate under the belief that they have an inordinate amount of control over the things around them and their future. On the other end of the spectrum are those with an “external locus of control” have more of a “whatever will be, or whatever is supposed to be will be” world view. These extremes are very prevalent in the psyche of our society. The third category, the most desired category, is the bi-locus of control crowd. These are those with enough discernment to control what they can and should but realize they have limitations and that external factors, out of their control, can affect the outcome of some things.  

Those with an internal locus of control are not as “devil-may-care”, and many times are the sales managers and CEOs. Many artistic folks, or bread-winners without entrepreneurial aspirations, like to do their thing and let the chips fall where they may. The rare superstar sales professional or entrepreneur is typically that “bi-locus of control” person, who does everything they can to achieve their goals like the first group but also accepts the results with good sportsmanship like those with “external locus of control.” Arriving at a balance in attitude is that place where the bi-locus of control sales person gets to, which allows them to avoid burning out or becoming apathetic… neither of which sound fun.

Focusing on things you have no control over creates anxiety, drains your energy, causes you to judge others too severely, and tries to get you to own blame that doesn’t even belong to you! It is not good for relationships, and excelling at relationships is what sales is all about! Helping fit people with things they want and/or need is the purest definition of good selling. I can think of nothing positive about spending time trying to control things not under (or meant to be under) your control. 

When I was young, an old mentor of mine once said,” try to remember, you can control nobody; the best you can do is influence them.” My bet is that if he had ever been evaluated, he would have been categorized as a bi-locus of control person.   

Give it all you’ve got and let the chips fall where they may. Do your personal very best, but realize that you don’t ever have complete control over the end results. This attitude and approach will allow you an exciting, productive, never boring and stable sales life. 

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou          

Jack Klinefelter
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