Improve sales with attitude

By Matt Sellhorst

Let me tell you one of my favorite stories to illustrate the impact of attitude and expectations.

A man who was traveling came upon a farmer working in his field. The man asked him what the people in the next village were like.

The man responded, “They were kind, friendly, generous, great people.” “You’ll find the people in the next village are the same,” replied the farmer.

Another man who was traveling to the same village came up to the same farmer somewhat later and asked him what the people in the next village were like.

The second man responded, “They were rude, unfriendly, dishonest people.” “You’ll find the people in the next village are the same,” said the farmer.

I find the same is true for many sales teams. I ask them about their prospects or the leads they are receiving. Many of the top producers will answer, “Everyone is a buyer until they prove otherwise.”

Underperformers on the other hand, answer with things like, “Everyone that comes in are price shoppers. All they want is the cheapest price or can’t afford our boats.”

What’s the end result? Just like Henry Ford would say, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

Those thoughts or attitudes will translate almost directly to the results of your sales team. A negative attitude can bring down the entire team and even dealership over time.

So, how do you address attitude to ensure your team has a positive one?

1. Have a compassionate conversation.

If you notice a negative attitude pop up in your dealership, the first step is to address it with compassion. Often times there’s an underlying issue that won’t come out if you are too direct or confrontational.

Take a caring approach then have an honest and open conversation.

I recently spoke with a client that was going through this exact situation. I encouraged them to sit down and have an honest and open conversation to talk about the real issues that were the core of the negative attitude. The result was a stronger connection between owner and top sales person. Not to mention, a record performance at their boat show.

2. Be proactive in your coaching and sales training. 

Often, a poor attitude can be prevented altogether with continuous success. So, help your sales people be more successful by focusing on their skills and taking the right actions. Invest in sales training for your team, lead a weekly sales meeting or invest in a coaching program for the entire dealership.

Nothing will improve someone’s attitude like having confidence in their abilities, making a sale and receiving a huge commission check.

3. Get your sales team involved in the overall sales and marketing focus of the dealership.

I’ve been working with hundreds of dealers over the years. I’ve seen entire organizations that have a poor attitude that’s festered into something major over time. It often stems from employees not being included in the decisions or direction of the organization. It’s especially common on sales teams with long tenure.

This involvement helps improve attitudes, because employees feel heard and valued. As an added bonus, because they are on the front lines with prospects and clients, their insights and ideas will have a major impact on your sales and marketing plans.

4. Focus on right actions.

A poor attitude will usually come after a slump in sales. If that’s the case, focus that sales person on taking the right actions that will lead to a sale. Get them on the phone making 25 to 50 calls a day with the right script to re-activate old leads and past clients.

This flurry of right action will certainly result in an excellent sales opportunity that will result in a win.  And sometimes, that alone will get them back on the positive track.

5. Make a change.

After having an empathetic conversation, taking the right actions, getting them involved, coaching and training with no lasting results, sometimes it may be time to just make a change. In the long run, the change will benefit both the employee and your dealership.

So, next time you sense a negative attitude showing its ugly head, take action to keep it in check.

This month’s challenge: If you have an employee with a negative attitude, start a conversation immediately in private with the goal of understanding what is truly going on. Then add at least one idea from above to proactively build a positive attitude in your dealership. 

Matt Sellhorst is the founder of Boat Dealer Profits Marketing Agency and author of the only business-building book for the retail boating industry, “Boat Dealer Profits; How the SPLASH System can help you sell more boats, make more money and have more fun.” Claim your free copy at

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