Are you an open minded person sales professional? Most of you reading this will say “Yes, I am open minded” without really thinking through the question.  Now more than ever we live in a world that is constantly changing. Keeping an open mind with your customers, prospects and other stakeholders is critical to your ability to survive and even thrive in this evolving and dynamic business environment. Unfortunately there’s no proven test to determine whether you are truly open-minded but the benefits are indisputable.

Here are just a few benefits of being open-minded:

  • Greater credibility as a fair-minded expert: Keeping an open mind allows an opportunity for you to change with the constantly evolving selling landscape. It doesn’t mean you HAVE to change your beliefs but it means you are at least open to evaluating new ideas and views. You may end up believing even more strongly in your existing ideas but being open means you’ve evaluated all sides of an idea or belief which lends to your credibility with customers and stakeholders.
  • Makes yourself vulnerable which opens the door to more authentic relationships: Having an open mind means you have to admit that you don’t know everything. It means being honest when you don’t know something. This can be uncomfortable as many sales people believe they are expected to be the expert and have all the answers. Many sales people unfortunately divert to the tactic of “overselling” where they sell based on what they hope to be true without verifying instead of simply admitting they don’t know. But seeing the world through an open mind is what makes you vulnerable and being vulnerable is the key to more enriching relationships. This vulnerability can be both terrifying and exhilarating but is required for true authenticity.
  • Strengthens your character: Open-mindedness provides a springboard for new ideas and a baseline that you can build upon, piling one idea on top of another. Being open-minded typically allows for new experiences which collectively make you the person you are and strengthen the beliefs that you hold. It’s very hard to build on experiences without an open mind.
  • Helps you to gain confidence. When you live with an open mind, you are continually learning and experiencing which contributes to a strong sense of self. You are not confined by your own beliefs, or the beliefs of others. You are open to evaluating new ideas without judgement. Imagine going into a new prospect’s environment and truly being open to the experience.  Take the time to learn as much as possible about what is going on there without jumping to a quick solution. Then, and only then, can you really understand what is needed and propose an optimal solution. Over time, your confidence will soar because you will no longer be fearful of the unknown. You will welcome it because it will add to your experience as a seasoned sales and business professional.

For most people, being open minded takes practice and requires time, energy, and patience. But for some people, generally the most successful people, being open minded comes as second nature. These people have some common tactics they perform differently than the general population.

Follow these tactics to achieve optimal success:

  1. Be present. Stop texting. Stop typing. Stop all the multitasking and really be present in whatever you are doing. It’s amazing how many people don’t fully invest themselves in their activities. Their mind and focus are elsewhere and they miss at least half of what is going on in the moment. Put ALL your focus on the people you are with. Others will notice the difference immediately.
  2. Listen more than you talk. Make the effort to understand others first and only then attempt to be understood. This seems rather obvious but is often ignored by spouses, team leaders and co-workers as well. Our first instinct is to speak quickly to assert our ideas but we really don’t learn anything when our mouth is moving. We learn when we listen intently and fully absorb what is being communicated. Each individual you relate with is different in their thinking and their motivation. You miss these subtle differences when you speak too soon and may make snap decisions that you’ll regret later.
  3. Recognize others for their contributions and ideas. One of the most important elements of a successful business or team is the generation of new ideas. Innovation is key to survival in today’s fast moving market. Employees who offer up ideas tend to be the most invested in the outcome. But it’s critical to recognize and thank employees for their ideas or you risk suppressing future creativity.
  4. Encourage honesty and transparency. Create a safe space for co-workers, customers and other stakeholders to give you frank and open feedback. Be open to hearing these comments without judgement and listen with the intent of improving the situation if necessary. Creating this type of open dialog encourages all stakeholders to step-up and take greater ownership.
  5. Always be on the look-out for new ideas and never give up. One of the traits of an open minded person is the perpetual pursuit of new ideas to solve challenges and create new opportunities. This means examining a situation or problem from every angle. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And then try and try again until you get the answer or solution you need.

One way to learn about new ideas is by completing training and enablement courses. Cisco Partner Plus will be introducing new Monthly Soft Skills Webinars starting in FY16 (October). These free webinars are designed to help our Partner Plus partners enhance their selling and marketing skills to help promote sustainable growth. Look for invitations coming soon in your part of the world.

Resolve to become a more open-minded sales professional, business owner or employee. Challenge yourself in this area and experience the change in your relationships, outlook on life and success in business. If you feel you are there, congratulations. If, like the rest of us, you have room to improve, I encourage you to embrace these tactics and see where they take you.


Karin Surber

Sr. Global Business Development Manager

Global Partner Strategy and Planning