Signs that you are a Sales Perfectionist (and how to fix it)

by Shannon F.

Sales is a field that requires a rapid response-rate, quick decision-making, and the ability to let the small stuff go. If you’re a perfectionist, you may struggle to generate the sheer volume of activity necessary to make your sales goal this year. The problem is, perfectionists can be deceptively imperfect, making them hard to recognize. They don’t all sort their paperclips by color or own a personal label-making machine. If you are like me (an admitted perfectionist) you might not ever bother to wash your tea cup, assuming the germs will be microwaved out on each subsequent use. That sure doesn’t sound like perfectionist behavior! So here are some signs to look for, and some ways to save yourself before you get bogged down by perfectionist tendencies.

Perfectionists are highly self-critical. In sales, like in anything, you’ll have ups and downs in your personal performance. Having a bad day is something that rarely matters in the long run, but perfectionists tend to beat themselves up about their perceived shortcomings. This turns into time wasted on worrying.

The fix: Strive for excellence, but be forgiving of your mistakes. Don’t take it to heart if you are having a “bad phone day” or you stumble during a demo. The more you hone your selling skills, the more consistent your performance will be.

Perfectionists take rejection personally. Their feelings are hurt if someone is curt on the phone, and worse, they blame themselves for not achieving a more positive interaction. An unsuccessful phone call becomes a painful ordeal instead of an event to shrug off.

The fix: Keep trying to turn objections into yeses by consistently following up, but don’t allow yourself to be personally affected by rejection.

Perfectionists work slowly. They may document unnecessary details, triple-check their work, and otherwise waste a lot of time striving for precision where it isn’t needed. Sales success requires the ability to jump quickly from one task to the next. Small mistakes often don’t matter. What does matter is that you are keeping your activity levels up and talking to as many prospects as possible over the course of a workday.

The fix: Know when attention to detail matters and when it does not. Getting a prospect’s email address right: high on the list of importance. Finding and correcting that comma splice in your call notes: not so much.

Perfectionists don’t trust others’ work. They could pass off some of their tasks to a support person, but they don’t because they want everything done a certain way: painstakingly. This attitude wastes time, since perfectionists tend to get hung up on clerical work instead of doing what they are supposed to be good at: selling.

The fix: Realize that you can’t do everything yourself. Learning to trust others’ work is a habit that must be formed. Rely on your team members, and you’ll free up your schedule considerably. That means more time for finding new leads and following up on prospects.

Keep in mind that there’s a big difference between perfectionists and high achievers: perfectionists use negative self-talk, whereas high-achievers remain positive. That means perfectionists tell themselves, “You better not fail or this, this, and this terrible thing will happen.” High-achievers have big goals, but they achieve more by having the self-confidence to carry on after they make a mistake.

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