Where does your control lie in sales?

by Susannah Mathieson

When it comes to success in sales, many factors come into play. However, one of the most important is your mindset: If you do not believe in yourself it is going to be tough to convince others to believe in you.

If you do not have a clear vision for what you want to achieve, it will be difficult to make progress.

The good news is that all these things are within your control. It is a well-known psychological concept that our sense of control over our lives affects our happiness, motivation, and success (Psychology Today 2022). The question is, where do we find that control? Becoming self-aware of your ideas of control and where the root of this lies can have a great impact on your sales development and career journey

What is the locus of control?

The locus of control is the belief that a person has about the amount of influence they have over the events in their life.

The locus of control relates to a person’s belief systems, both positive (or “internal”) and negative (“external”) (Rotter 1966). It is believed to be a major factor in how people deal with stress and adversity. The locus of control is just one of many elements that influences a person’s psychological well-being. But it is an important one to keep in mind especially when it comes to sales.

The external locus of control

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Do you ever feel like you’re not in control of your life? Like you’re just along for the ride, and whatever happens, happens? If so, you may have a stronger external locus of control. This means that you tend to believe that factors beyond your control are responsible for what happens in your life.

While it’s healthy to acknowledge that we can’t control everything, an external locus of control can lead to a feeling of powerlessness. And when we feel powerless, we’re less likely to take action to improve our lives. You see, having an external locus of control is very much like having the “victim” mentality (Mills et al 2018). The person who possesses the victim mentality believes everything is simply happening to them instead of for them.

An indication of having an external locus of control is the belief or feeling as if the world is out to get you.

Of course, it is important to be aware of the role that external factors can play in our lives. However, it is also vital to remember that we always have some degree of control. That feeling of being powerless is one of the worst emotions to experience. Every person wants to feel a sense of control, and when it comes to something as important as your career, that feeling is what fills us with the confidence and drive to succeed and keep striving for more.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes in your career you may put too much stress onto yourself to perform at a high standard. Looking for external reasons as to why you have not lived up to your own expectations, may bring you a feeling of comfort and a reduction of self-blame. Just always try to be self-aware of your thought patterns. Blaming others for your short comings is never the answer!

So how can we recognise those negative or external thoughts?

Below or some examples…

  • “There’s nothing I can do about my future.”
  • “Why is it always me.”
  • “Why bother.”
  • “It’s their fault.”

Can you remember a time when you had similar thoughts to the ones above?

The internal locus of control

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Have you had periods of time where you feel like you are in complete control of the outcomes in your life? This is the internal locus!

An internal locus of control is the belief that you and only you, are in control of your life and your future.

This means that you believe you have the power to change your life for the better, and that you are not at the mercy of outside forces. This empowering belief can give you the motivation and confidence to make positive changes in your life, and to take control of your own future.

When you have an internal locus of control you are more likely to take responsibility for your actions. And you are more likely to believe that you can make a difference and impact in the world. This is so important in a competitive industry like sales. With an internal locus of control, you are more likely to persevere in the face of adversity, because you know that you have the power to overcome any obstacles in your path.

This internal strength can help you achieve your goals and live a life and have a career that is fulfilling and satisfying. The internal locus of control is like having the hero’s mentality (Mills et al 2018). When you go through life with the hero’s mentality anything is possible and only you are responsible for your actions. With an internal locus of control comes an ability to take accountability and reflect. In a field like sales, being able to have the skill of self-reflection is so important. As a salesperson, you are going to have setbacks, especially whilst you are still learning your craft. Yet always remember, the best salespeople know that you never stop learning. You will always face adversity. So developing an internal locus of control should be the foundation of your sales journey.

Below are some thoughts that come along with an internal locus of control…

  • “What is the worst thing that can happen.”
  • “I determine my future.”
  • “How can I do things differently next time.”
  • “I am in control.”
  • Can you remember the last time you were filled with positive thoughts like the ones above?

Why is the locus of control so important for your sales development?

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There are so many elements to sales, that it can be overwhelming for even the most experienced salespeople. That is why it is important to have a strong and balanced locus of control.

Think back to prospecting situations, sales conversations, or business meetings. What mindset did you have going into these interactions? Where did your control lie? Really think about this. You will most likely be able to make the connections between your mental state and mindset at the time, and the outcome of these interactions. Reflect on these moments; did you have an external or internal locus of control? Having a strong internal locus of control, will help you to close more sales and develop more genuine and beneficial relationships, when it comes to networking in your industry. Believe me when I say, you will be more equipped to handle challenges that comes your way with a strong internal locus of control. The power is in your hands in all sales situations. Always remember, that resilience is a skill developed out of adversity. So always embrace the challenges along your sales journey.

Now that you know why your locus of control is so important when it comes to your sales success, let us explore some techniques and tips to develop a strong internal locus of control:

  • Be present: Presence is such a valuable attribute. The past is gone, and the future is yet to come. You cannot have a strong internal locus of control worrying about things you have no power over.
  • Say bye to perfectionism: Once you let go of perfectionism, you can focus on what is achievable. This will make you feel more in control.
  • Set goals: Each time you achieve a new goal your sense of accomplishment and self-confidence increases, this improves your internal locus of control.
  • Pay attention to your language: Where can you say, “I can”, rather than “I can’t”? Do you have to go to work, or do you choose to?

Try implementing the tips above for the next 30 days and pay attention to what changes you see.

What positive practices do you enjoy implementing into your routine to maintain a strong internal locus of control? Let’s start a discussion in the comments below! Are you curious to test your locus of control?

more informationen

Mills, I., Ridley, M., Laker, B., and Chapman, T. (2018). The Salesperson’s Secret Code. LID Publishing Limited. Severn, Gloucester.

Psychology Today (2022) Locus of Control.

Rotter, J.B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, (1), 1-28.

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