I’m a big fan of mantras and affirmations. The right mantra can help you push through when things get tough or when your internal saboteur is speaking a little too loud. On the flip side, the wrong mantra or, more importantly, the wrong mantra for you can have inadvertent catastrophic consequences.

Many people adopt someone else’s mantra as their own because it’s catchy and memorable, but you must take the time to both understand the context and internalize the meaning behind the message for it to have true impact.

There is no greater source of mantras and affirmations than in the sales community. We pride ourselves on these pithy, yet catchy phrases and wear them like badges of honor. Some of my favorites (in the worst advice category of course) include:

“Always be closing”

Who can forget the Alec Baldwin profanity laced explanation of the ABCs of selling in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

Always Be Closing has roots in a good sales 101 tenant. Everything you say and do in the sales process should have one ultimate goal: Close the sale. Unfortunately, this is where the context gets a little lost for most people. Always be closing does not mean you put your needs above the needs of your customer.

How long do you think it would take you to alienate your prospects if you take the concept of Always Be Closing literally? Many new sales people do exactly that.

“Everyone’s a customer”

Another mantra that also has strong roots in sales 101 is “Everyone is a Customer”. The context is that you never know where or when a customer might turn up and if you aren’t paying attention, you could miss an opportunity. But if you take the mantra literally, you could waste a lot of time on the wrong people.

What happens if your product isn’t a good fit for that customer? What happens when a customer isn’t a good or profitable customer? TIP: Having standard automated questionnaires used to qualify customers can ensure the prospect is a good fit for your product.

Sometimes you need to walk away and say…”this is not my customer”. Most of us can remember a time when we should have realized that a customer was not a good fit for our product or service, but we sold them anyway. Afterward, we were plagued with constant complaints and service issues and most importantly, a disappointed customer.

“Never give up”

This mantra has shown up in inspiring speeches throughout history. Many attribute it to a very short graduation speech Winston Churchill gave in 1941 “Never give up, Never give up, Never, Never, Never give up” and then he sat down.

In reality, Churchill never gave that speech, it is part of internet folklore. He did, however, give a speech in 1941 to the Harrow School, but it was a little longer and started this way:

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…” – Winston Churchill

That speech is still very inspiring and speaks to perseverance and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Perseverance is a must for anyone in the sales profession, but sometimes you DO need to give up. Not in your convictions, but when an opportunity is just not the right match.

Why spend your time on a prospect that isn’t a good fit? What’s the cost of spending your time with the wrong people?

Move from advice to motivation

To be fair, these sayings are rooted in solid sales philosophy and aren’t meant to be taken out of context. They were developed with a narrative that everyone conveniently forgets. We really need to move beyond simple, one size fits all, advice and move to define our motivation instead. Here are some ideas:

Focus on Service First

Replace “Always be closing” with “Focus on Service First”. You can enjoy both incredible short term sales success as well as long term sales sustainability if you will only focus on selling from a position of service, not dominance. Selling isn’t about manipulation or competition, it’s about the customer. By putting them at the center of your focus, the pitfalls associated with an “Always be closing” mindset disappear.

Know your Ideal Customer

Replace “Everyone is your customer” with “Know your ideal customer”. When you know who your ideal customer is, it’s a lot easier to focus your attention, learning, and time in the right place. It’s also a lot easier for others to determine how they can help you find that ideal customer.

Be Tenacious

Replace “Never Give Up” with “Be Tenacious”. Tenacity, properly placed, is a wonderful character trait for the ultimate sales professional. Apply tenacity your process, your follow-up, your learning, and to servicing your customer.

Focus on Service First, Know your Ideal Customer, and Be Tenacious is our best sales advice. Share yours in the comments below!

Christie Walters, iCore Strategy in conjunction with Tracy Larson & Katie Curtin, WeSuite