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    Golf Is a Mind Game: And So Is Sales

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    It’s no secret that I love golf. I’ve been watching the documentary Full Swing. In the second season, there’s an episode about a player named Wyndham Clark. He’s a PGA golfer who won the Wells Fargo Championship in 2023.

    In the documentary episode, Clark is having a rough time, in a slump. So he hires a coach, but not just any coach: He hires a mental coach. They call them sports psychologists. Instead of focusing on his swing and stance and so on, the psychologist focuses on his mindset. And it turns his game around entirely.

    Golf is a mental game. If you get your head in the wrong space, your golfing goes to a dark place. And if you get your head in the right place, your golfing gets better.

    Of course, I can’t watch that episode and not think about how sales is a mind game too. Very often, when we want to see improvement in our sales game, we focus on activities, methodologies, skills, and behaviors.

    But just as often, we’d do well to start with mindset.

    How Your Mindset Causes Sales Slumps

    Like Clark’s golfing slump, sales slumps can easily be caused by shifts in the mental game. Maybe you’ve been selling well for a while, and things look good, but then you hit a rough patch, and nothing seems to work.

    To turn your mind game around, first understand the mindsets that are getting in your way.

    If you get “in your head” about it–that is, if it eats away at your confidence and makes you think you just can’t cut it–that’s going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get stressed. If a high percentage of your salary is on commissions, you start to feel that you have to close deals, worry about your bills, and start doing the wrong things and turning people away instead of attracting them.

    They smell your sales breath.

    This can become a downward spiral that can cause long-term slumps and even become career ending. But it doesn’t have to be.

    How to Turn The Mind Game Around

    You have to remember that selling is about helping others. If you’re stuck in trying to make sales because you need sales, then you are putting your self-interest first, and buyers will feel that. 
    But all kinds of mindsets and mental blocks can cause poor sales performance. Our partner, Objective Management Group (OMG), offers an assessment that helps sellers identify their mental blocks and the problems they may be causing. For example, if sellers have a high need to be liked, this can lead to offering unnecessary discounts and other things that sabotage deals. Or you may be unwilling to discuss money, which causes problems in selling.

    So the first step in turning your mind game around is to understand the mindsets that are getting in your way, so you can begin to address them.

    What Coaches Need to Know About the Mental Game

    It’s really important for coaches to understand that sales performance isn’t always only about skills, activities, behaviors, and methodology. Sometimes, there are underlying problems to address.
    The Logical Levels of Change from the NLP toolkit is a helpful tool for this. They conceptualize the different layers of a person’s thinking that can impact their ability to make changes:


    At the top, you have things like “identity.” It is very hard to change your identity. If you identify as a stellar salesperson, you probably are one, and it would be hard to shake your confidence in that, even during a slump. On the other hand, if you identify as a nice, likable person who doesn’t like to trouble anyone, you may struggle to have difficult conversations, because it goes against your sense of identity, and that can impact your ability to make sales.

    Identity is hard to change, but if you do change it, it can have massive implications for you.

    At lower levels, the Logical Levels of Change include things like environment. Environment is relatively easy to change: Work from home, work in a cubicle, work in a private office, work in your car. These are easy changes to make. And they can have an impact on your behavior, but it’s going to be a smaller impact than if you make a change in your identity or your beliefs, near the top.

    Great sales coaches understand that part of their job is to understand the logical level at which the salesperson needs to experience change and then help them make that change.

    Because if you can get the mental game right, the rest of it gets easier and better. Then, you can focus on things like actions to take, behaviors to choose, and skills to gain. And then you can become a better salesperson.

    George Brontén
    Published May 15, 2024
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn

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