Years ago, I heard Zig Ziglar say, “It is your attitude … more than your aptitude … that will determine your altitude.” When he said it, a lot of people saw it as a bit of fluff from a mere "motivational speaker." After all, Zig was a salesman. What did he know?

Apparently quite a bit. The latest research proves he was right. In fact, attitude is a better predictor of success in life (and sales) than IQ, grade point average, family background, or almost any other factor. Dr. Martin Seligman proved that in his monumental, ground-breaking book, Learned Optimism. He found that negative people get sick more often, are divorced more frequently, and raise kids who get in more trouble. He even found that negative people make less money … a lot less money.

I see it in the sales profession all the time. The biggest prizes seldom go to the salesperson with the most product knowledge or even the most experience. The top salespeople seem to have an indomitable positive attitude … in good times … and especially in bad times.

That being the case, how can you build and maintain an unshakeable, positive, sales attitude? I’ve found three things that work.

=> 1. Refuse to blame anyone or anything for your sales problems.

That's not easy. And it's not natural. After all, the economy, the government, your company, your sales manager, your customers, your parents, your friends, and your spouse might even deserve some blame.

The problem is … it doesn't work. It doesn't change anything, and it doesn't make anything better. All blame can do is keep you stuck or make you spiteful, neither of which will turn you into a winner.

Take your job, for example. Maybe you feel stuck in a sales job that is going nowhere, or maybe you think your company is doing nothing to invest in your career development. A loser could spend hours talking to other losers about those issues, blaming the boss or the company.

Oh sure, blaming someone or something for your problems might make you feel better ... temporarily. After all, it takes the weight off your back. But the price you pay for blaming, for shrugging off responsibility, for giving up control … is a life of mediocrity and sales failure.

You may have wondered why one salesperson prospers while another suffers in the same situation. It’s the age-old question. But the answer is simple. The suffering salesperson is wasting his time on blame … while the prospering salesperson is investing her time, learning how to get better at what she does.

Marketing guru Dan Kennedy offers two contrasting examples. He talks about two people he knows who own similar businesses in similar town. And they’re both equally skilled. However, Peter has struggled for seven years just to stay in business while Robert has grown his business by double digits every year.

As Kennedy notes, "When I talk with Peter, I hear a lengthy discourse on all the outside influences that negatively affect his business. I hear the same list over and over again."

"I acknowledge, by the way, that these factors do exist. I am frustrated by some of them myself. But the issue is not the existence of these factors. The issue is how much control Peter lets them have over his business. Every time Peter recites his list, he shuffles off responsibility for his situation, and that temporarily helps him feel better. But with the responsibility goes the control."

"When I talk with Robert, these matters only occasionally come up. Instead, he talks excitedly about the innovative strategies he has discovered and developed to keep his business growing regardless of external influences. Often, he'll say something like, 'I really screwed up on this situation. Let me tell you about the base I missed and what I'm doing about it.' Robert accepts all the responsibility for his success or failure, his errors and his achievements, and because he does, he retains control."

So the question comes back to you. Are you more like Peter, stuck in a rut, going nowhere, trying to survive, but ready to give a dozen excuses for your sales problems? Or are you more like Robert, acknowledging your sales problems but taking responsibility to find a way through them?

The first step in positive attitude development is refusing to blame. Even though you may feel like blaming someone or something, don’t do it!

=> 2. Refuse to use a loser’s language.

The most successful … and, I might add … the happiest salespeople … refuse to use a loser’s language. They know that words precede results. They know if they talk like a loser, they'll end up losing. George Schultz, the former U.S. Secretary of State said, "The minute you start talking about what you're going to do if you lose, you have lost."

The salesperson who will not acknowledge defeat cannot be defeated. That person is guaranteed to win in the long run. It's a given.

It's like the little boy who walked onto the baseball field saying, "I'm the greatest hitter in the world." He threw up the ball, swung, missed, and said, "Strike one." He threw up the ball again, and once more he swung and missed, and said, "Strike two." He did that for three strikes in a row.

At that point he picked up his bat and ball. With a smile on his face, he walked off the field and said, "I'm the greatest pitcher in the world." He refused to use the language of a loser. He only talked about winning, and so should you.

The research is quite clear. The more you talk about failing to meet your sales goals, the more negative your attitude will become. And the more negative your attitude becomes, the poorer results will be. It’s a vicious downward cycle that you must refuse to enter.

=> 3. Choose to believe in yourself.

That's right, choose! Even though you may have some doubts about your sales abilities, even though the balance sheet of your life may show more liabilities than assets, you’ve got to believe in yourself. Sugar Ray Robinson, the boxing champ, said, "To be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will."

If that sounds easier said than done, all you have to do is start affirming it. Tell yourself twenty times a day, a hundred times a day, "I like myself. I believe in myself. And I am a great salesperson." Eventually your subconscious mind will start to accept your affirmation, and you will believe in yourself.

And continue to believe in yourself when it’s difficult to believe. Take on the motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible may take a little longer."

Motivational coach Ray Pelletier says, "If you refuse to believe it's the end of the road for you, then you'll instinctively and automatically find ways to go around the obstacles and resume your journey on the other side."

Concluding Thought

It’s obvious that you want to be a successful salesperson. But nothing, absolutely nothing, will make you successful if you have a bad sales attitude.

So I encourage you to take a good honest look at your attitude. How would you rate it on a ten-point scale?

If you give yourself anything less than a nine, you need to apply the three strategies I just discussed. It will change your sales career for the better.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Alan Zimmerman is the CEO of Zimmerman Communi-Care Network, Inc. and the author of "The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets for Getting What You Want out of Life and Work." As a member of the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, he is ranked among the top 1% of all speakers worldwide and is a recognized authority in the fields of attitude, communication, and leadership. For a free subscription to his weekly internet newsletter, go