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Small Compass Sound Sales: Denial Can Short Circuit Your Sales Efforts

By Mark McGlinchey - Written by Compass Group Solutions Founder Mark McGlinchey, this article first appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal

There is always room for improvement. Even the most gifted athlete should be able to objectively examine their performance and determine areas where they could have done better. The same is true in sales. The top salesperson within a company or an industry has opportunities every day to improve their performance. There are always new deals lurking out there… waiting to be discovered, and even great salespeople lose deals as a result of their own lack of effort or poor performance.

What kinds of changes can you make to become more successful as a sales professional?


Denial is part of human nature. There probably isn’t a human being on Earth who hasn’t practiced denial in some capacity of their everyday life. We all witness denial on a daily basis. We see it in the people we love. We see it in the people we work with. People in the media spotlight – athletes, entertainers, politicians. Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet or miracle cure to eliminate denial.

Denial can manifest itself in many ways for the selling professional. The most dangerous or hampering form of denial is career ‘sales denial’ – not recognizing the changes you need to make in order to be better. Denial hampers a person’s desire.

Let me give you my definition of desire as it pertains to sales. Desire is a passion for success. I have yet to meet a very good or great salesperson that did not have an extremely high level of desire. It is the one common denominator I see in all great salespeople, which often translates into their money motivation. Attitude, commitment, work ethic, bravery, industry knowledge, product knowledge, a good rolodex and good selling skills can be important elements in a successful sales career. However, you can be weak or lacking in some of these areas and still be successful ... if you have a high level of desire.

Therefore, the first issue we should address is denial and how it can and will undermine your desire.

A Denial Story

In 1995, I began training a sales force for a high tech network equipment manufacturer. This company had gotten off to a very hot start a few years before when there was virtually no competition in their marketplace. Within two years, they had four other companies in their market space and sales were starting to flat line.

Prior to training, I interviewed the salespeople and sales managers to get a handle on their situation. I discovered my new client had ‘middle of the pack’ syndrome. This occurs when a company operates in a certain market space and is not the latest and greatest or the cheapest product or solution out there. They’re caught in the middle – they’re not the best or the cheapest.

Salespeople who work for either the best or the cheapest within an industry, usually experience success because buyers will typically buy one or the other. When you are in the  middle of the pack, your company must have a good sales force that can rely on themselves more than price or reputation to make sales.

In my client company, the entire sales force and management team were deep in denial. This was manifesting itself in the form of excuse making and finger pointing - the sales team was blaming the company, its pricing structure and the competition. The real problem was denial. The sales team did not have good sales skills, a systematic method of selling or good strategy or tactics. While they were losing some sales due to middle of the pack syndrome, they were losing most deals as a result of their own lack of skills.

They eventually realized what they had been denying: they could still win many deals in the marketplace even though they weren’t the latest, the greatest or the cheapest by improving their skills, strategies and tactics. When denial is on its way out the door, desire is on its way in.


As I mentioned earlier, there is no miracle cure for ‘sales denial’ and it’s in all of us. The only way I know how to deal with it is just that – you have to deal with it on a daily basis. You then must determine where you are exercising denial by asking yourself hard questions like: “What aspects of the deal I’m working on am I in denial over? Or do I not fully understand?”

Understanding and recognition is 90% of the battle. Dealing with it, correcting it and making the changes necessary to eliminate denial is the last 10%.


Keywords: Sales & Denial, Sales Tips, Sales Professional Development, Sales Leadership Development, Sales Management Tips, Sound Sales, Sales Consulting, Compass Group Solutions, Mark McGlinchey

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