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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Selling


Do You Have Your Black Belt in Selling?

Rate Your Sales Skills and Reach More of Your Potential

Bill Cole, MS, MA

A master martial artist moves fluently, effortlessly, automatically. He responds without thinking, his coordinated moves perfectly conditioned after endless years of disciplined, focused practice. He's in the flow.

A superstar sales professional performs deftly, smoothly, seemingly with no obvious selling techniques. But he completely knows his sales methods, is highly aware of himself and his surroundings and makes things happen. He's in the zone.

How would you rate your selling skills? Amateur? Professional? All-Star? Hall Of Fame?

No matter what the performance arena, there are four levels of skill attainment. Let's learn how each level works and how this knowledge can make you into a top sales professional.

Unconscious Incompetence

At this most basic selling skill level you think you're hot, but you don't make many sales. Your skills are lousy, but you don't know they're lousy. You may be an egomaniac in major denial, with a blind spot about your poor selling skills. You're often a know-it-all, but a know-nothing -- sadly, just a sales wannabee.

This is a terrible mind-set for learning -- you DON'T KNOW that you don't know. You think things are just fine. This is a very dangerous place in which to find yourself.

You pretend to talk the walk. But you can't talk the walk OR walk the talk.

Conscious Incompetence

At this level, you're aware that your selling methods and techniques are not stellar. In fact, your selling skills are lousy, and you KNOW they're lousy. It doesn't mean you consciously set out to be incompetent. You're quite aware that you lack solid selling skills, but you have insufficient awareness of how to improve them.

This is an excellent mind-set for learning -- you KNOW that you don't know, and you are motivated to do something about it.

You may talk the walk -- but you can't walk the talk.

Conscious Competence

At this level you realize you have solid sales skills. You are confident using various approaches and techniques, but you still often must think your way through them.

You can perform "on-command" under pressure at times, but not all the time.

This can be an excellent mind-set for learning -- you KNOW that you know, and you are confident. But this is also a less-than-optimal mind-set for performance, since you are stuck having to be mindful and deliberate in your execution. An example? Maybe you are an excellent presenter, but you don't fully trust yourself to be spontaneous, and instead write out and memorize your speech word for word. Your performance would be good, but stiff and without passion.

You can talk the walk, but can't walk the talk WITHOUT thinking.

Unconscious Competence

Here at the highest level you can perform effortlessly, with confidence, virtually on command, under pressure, and on a regular basis. No thought whatsoever is required to perform well. You worked endlessly to achieve a high polish on your repertoire of sales methods to get to this level. You're a sales virtuoso, a peerless performer. You outsell the competition by miles.

Sales stars are not only able to talk a good game of selling--they can back it up with outstanding sales skills -- they can talk the walk AND walk the talk.

The "Natural Born Salesperson" would also be in this skill level, but since they're rarely able to articulate what it is that makes them so good, they often have trouble duplicating top performances. They also don't make effective sales coaches or managers, and even they had to traverse each learning skill level.

How badly do you want to be in the Selling Hall Of Fame?

Diligently practice your selling skills, methods and approaches. Your new excellence will catapult you closer to your potential. Then enjoy your black belt in selling.

You can discover your own sales skills strengths and weaknesses by taking the William B. Cole Consultants Sales Skills Assessment. To learn more about how sales coaching can help you become a better, more confident sales professional, visit Bill Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game Coach™ at

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA 2005, 2008 All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take 66-item sales skills assessment tool you can score right on the spot, visit This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game of selling.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

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