How to Have a Positive Attitude—in Sales and in Life

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Sales Bible" by Jeffrey Gitomer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How much does attitude matter in sales? How much can you outperform the competition by cultivating positivity?

Jeffrey Gitomer, in the bestseller The Sales Bible, discusses the importance of attitude when it comes to success in sales. He outlines three traits that positive people have, and he shares three ways to foster a positive attitude.

Continue reading to learn how to have a positive attitude in sales and in life.

A Positive Attitude

Gitomer writes that to become successful in sales, you should first cultivate a positive attitude. According to him, salespeople fail due to a number of reasons such as improper training or poor communication skills, but 50 percent fail due to something entirely within their control: a negative attitude. Learning how to have a positive attitude in sales is vital, as it can set you apart from the competition. (Shortform note: Gitomer doesn’t cite research to support his claims about the reasons salespeople fail. However, some research does suggest that salespeople with an optimistic attitude perform 57 percent better than their pessimistic peers.)

What Having a Positive Attitude Means

Gitomer writes that you become what you think about, so having a positive attitude and believing that you will succeed leads to success. Conversely, focusing on negative thoughts like failure inevitably leads to failure. (Shortform note: Many others have written about the power of believing in something to make it come true—some call it the law of attraction, while others brand it as “manifesting” or “scripting.” However, psychologists warn that putting too much stock in this method can make you more complacent and keep you from taking action.)

Gitomer says that having a positive attitude means having three specific traits: 

1) Accountability

Being accountable means you believe that no one is born to be a salesperson—you learn to be one, and it’s up to you to acquire the necessary skills to succeed in the field. You also take responsibility for your failures instead of blaming other people or outside forces like the economy. (Shortform note: You can become more accountable by practicing the four steps to accountability from The Oz Principle: Face facts, admit your role, take responsibility for solving the problem, and take action.)

2) Problem-solving

While being accountable means accepting responsibility, being solution-oriented means analyzing your errors, learning from your mistakes, and applying what you learned as you move forward. You focus on action instead of complaining or wallowing. (Shortform note: Focusing on action necessarily means reflecting on the root cause of your failure, but there’s a difference between reflecting on your situation and dwelling on negative thoughts. To remain solution-oriented and avoid veering into rumination, replace “why” questions (“Why did this happen to me?”) with “what” questions (“What can I do?”). That way, you focus on your potential instead of your limitations.)

3) Discipline 

Gitomer says that deciding to have a positive attitude isn’t a one-time occurrence. You’re bound to face challenges, so commit to focusing on the positive every day, no matter what happens. (Shortform note: Motivational speaker Norman Vincent Peale offers tips for how to turn positive thinking into a habit by sticking to some happiness principles, such as giving more and expecting less, thinking of others, and not dwelling on worrisome thoughts.)

How to Cultivate a Positive Attitude

Gitomer gives three tips to help you become more positive.

1) Tune Out Negative Voices

Don’t listen to negative talk, whether it comes from your own inner critic telling you that you can’t do something or other people telling you you’re not good enough. (Shortform note: Jack Canfield says that one way to determine who among your circle are negative is to write down all the people you regularly spend time with, then sort them into those who are positive and supportive, and those who are not. Then, avoid those in the second category.)

2) Don’t Complain

Whenever you feel the urge to say what you don’t like about your job or other people, say something positive instead. (Shortform note: Gitomer writes that you shouldn’t complain, but others contend that some complaining can actually be good for you, because it allows you to acknowledge your feelings and put things in perspective. Journaling may be a good outlet when you need to vent.)

3) Don’t Dwell

If you catch yourself thinking that you’re having a bad day, it means that you’ve let the events of the day affect your attitude. Gitomer says you should make a conscious effort to snap out of a bad mood within five minutes. (Shortform note: Experts say that one easy way to quickly change your mood is to distract yourself—go for a walk, read a magazine, or call a friend to stop you from brooding.)

How to Have a Positive Attitude—in Sales and in Life

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  • How to become a non-salesperson salesperson
  • How to make the best impression within the first 30 seconds
  • Methods for closing the sale without being pushy

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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