Wikipedia defines a self-fulfilling prophecy as “a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.”
A related concept is the Pygmalion effect, in which people perform better as greater expectations are placed upon them.
A corollary of the Pygmalion effect is the golem effect, in which low expectations lead to a decrease in performance.
Both effects are forms of a self-fulfilling prophecy. By the Pygmalion effect, people internalize their positive perceptions, and those with positive affirmations are successful.
How do these concepts apply to sales management skills? Using the Pygmalion effect, increasing the sales manager’s expectation of the salesperson’s performance will result in better selling by that salesperson.
During a recent sales management skills training I facilitated, one manager said, “My people don’t understand that prospecting is a critical role of their job function. They keep resisting me when I tell them this. We have to get them to change.”
I wasn’t exactly thinking about Pygmalion at the time, but I was aligned with this phenomenon when I said, “Actually, I believe that you are the one that needs to change, first. By continuing to declare that ‘they don’t understand,’ they continue to live up to that result.”
Back in the day, I learned from one of my mentors that as a manager I should speak to my people’s “bigness,” not to their “smallness.” That’s pretty much word for word what I told my participant in our workshop.
One piece of advice that I have learned over the years in managing salespeople and in developing my own sales management skills is the importance of holding subordinates to a higher standard than they would normally hold themselves to, thus speaking to their “bigness.”
It’s easy to justify why you’re frustrated, but it’s also easy to use your frustration as a self-fulfilling prophecy!