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How the Psychology of Self-Deception Can Bring Out the Worst in Sales Professionals.

Sales professionals find it difficult to sustain their livelihoods and attain their targets due to deteriorated market conditions and low customer confidence. While experiencing sales myself, I have observed that under the stressful operating work conditions, sales professionals tend to become aggressive and miserable, implementing the “end justifies the means” kind of approaches to achieve their targets and maximize their deals, securing their jobs rather than considering the customer interest. Such hectic situations develop vicious gaps between the customers and the sales professionals, which is then filled with negativities associated with lack of trust, concealed agendas and stereotyping reflected through sayings such as: do not trust your sales person ever, sales people are pleasant but are intended towards selling me something, all the customers are fabricators, etc.

Taking an inspiration from a provocative book by Dr. Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, this paper will replicate how the thinking of sales professionals is impacted by self-deception, causing them to have disrupted beliefs which reflect through their actions and cause suppression of their career growth, driving their potential customers away. The article aims to study self-deception in a commercial perspective to be able to refurbish how the brains perceive information, observe things with objectivity and to activate a change in the thinking patterns. The intended change would unfold the Jedi powers of sales to create loyal customers and advocates, both.

How and Why Self-Deception Happens

Our brain seeks to minimize the physical, psychological and emotional pain at any cost. The brain tends to have filters at conscious and subconscious stages of mind that act as self-defence mechanisms while processing information. Given a situation is too painful or stressful for the person, the mind averts the thought processes elsewhere to bypass the unpleasant situation and the negative feelings associated with the situation. The thought diversion will then develop an illusion of distorted reality.

This process affects everyone. I discover myself being caught in such mind traps as well, exhibiting while procrastination at the time of writing this paper, sceptical of my ability to write the article. Such mind traps are certainly not limited to a specific profession.

Let’s proceed accessing the five ways in which our minds use self-deception and the means by which it is applicable to the sales profession.

1.Denial and reversal

The denial and reversal are easiest to identify among all. An example situation is where a sales manager asks the sales consultant to attend a training session the next day. The sales consultant refuses to attend, claiming that he is perhaps better experienced than the trainer himself. This implies that the sales consultant is ignorant of his need for training and reversing the truth and rejecting the idea of training as he does not want to believe himself as incompetent. This feeling of denial can restrain the progress of the person, prioritizing ego over personal betterment or consumer’s interest.

2. Projection

Projection is characterizing a personal trait onto others, which we find offensive in ourselves. For example, a sales person would say claim that he is sure of his customer lying. In the subconscious mind, the sales consultant is unable to accept that he lies to his customers and hence, finds comfort in accusing his buyer of lying. Similarly, a racist would believe others to be racists too.

3. Selective Inattention

Selective attention is the most frequently used in the daily lives for spiteful tasks where our brains distract us from unpleasant tasks and remove them from our short-term memory. For example, a sales consultant tends to forget tasks such as making a call, sending sales information and data entry. We do not pay attention to tasks that we do not prefer.

4. Automatism

It occurs when actions are done on autopilot mode but we experience uneasiness when thinking about the real causes behind those actions. The mind recognizes the actions but suppress the emotions. For example: we judge customers on their appearances, analysing their ability to buy and then greeting or responding to them accordingly. The smiles of sales consultants are found to disappear once they realize that the customer might not buy their product.

5. Rationalization

This one is my personal favourite and a smart tactic used by clever sales people. For example: a sales professional would blame the external circumstances saying that the market was not performing well and that his boss hated him. The brain tries to avoid guilt and embarrassment by creating excuses and providing logic for the incompetence. It might also involve twisting of truth or generalization such as the dispersion of my staff does not reflect disorganization but shows that I am a creative person.

Suggested Solution

We may involve usage of the sophisticated part of our minds to avoid self-deception. The part of our brains that is responsible for examination, language and ideas is the prefrontal cortex. Questioning ourselves with strong interrogations activates it. It involves questions that provoke deep thinking and develops a motivation to change.

Example of such questions would be:

· While offering my customers a product or service, do I help them make an informed purchase decision? Or am I simply forcing them for the in-stock products?

· Do I offer the finest available products to my customers? Or do I act by the incentives that I receive on particular products to make an offer to the customers?

· Am I providing customers with the correct information even if they do not make a purchase decision now? Or my motivation is to close the deal only?

· Do I operate in my comfort zone? Or would I rather make efforts to develop my skills, knowledge and attitude?


The initial step towards an improved mind-set, leading to a higher customer loyalty and much more, is to identify self-deception and to be able to confront with and face the truth.

Sales professionals who continually strive and learn are capable of thriving in almost all situations and can attain monetary gains and contribute towards society positively.

According to Plato, “The worst of all deceptions is self-deception”

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