Bad Contracts, Good Medicine

jack carroll by Jack Carroll

I don't remember when I first heard the phrase "bad contract." It was sometime during the heyday of the human potential movement. Notwithstanding its origin, an understanding of your own bad contracts is critical to continuing growth and success in life and in sales. So let's take a closer look at bad contracts.

I'll start by listing three ways that bad contracts manifest in personal behavior:

  1. A self-imposed limitation about yourself that you accept as true: "I'm just not a morning person."
  2. Negative subconscious programming that you are consciously unaware of: "I'll never be able to make sales quota this quarter."
  3. Conscious justification or programming in order to avoid or mitigate responsibility: "If it wasn't for my awful manager and the way she treats me, I would be a top sales performer in my company."
Sidebar: related resources
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Check your ego at the classroom door
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It is important to understand the difference between a bad contract and a bad habit. Smoking is a bad habit. Saying that you can't quit smoking is a bad contract.

Bad contracts are sometimes innocent and innocuous: "I can never remember people's names," and sometimes malicious and fatal: "I can't fully relax and be myself with others unless I unwind with a couple of drinks."

We all have bad contracts. One of the toughest things about them is understanding and acknowledging the ones that affect us the most. Once we know what bad contracts are, it's easy to see them in others, but tough to identify in our own makeup or behavior.

One of the most negative bad contracts that I see among salespeople and sales managers, is the need to act like they already know everything about selling and their sales situation: "Of course. I've listened to Tom Hopkins and Zig Ziglar. I don't need any more basic sales training. I've already got that down cold."

As an interesting exercise, explain what a bad contract is to your spouse or a good friend. Ask them to help you identify one or two of your bad contracts. They are easy to get rid of through the use of affirmations and behavior modification techniques, once you know what they are: "I am completely responsible for my own actions and outcomes. I am responsible for my own success."

Until you identify and deal with them, bad contracts are like silent stalkers, undermining your every move.


Reader Response

Posted anonymously:

One of the bad contracts that I have identified in myself:

Because of past experiences I don't believe that I have the ability to make lots of money in sales. I've managed to get past my last "bad contract" which was" I'm not very good at sales." I now believe I'm good at certain parts of sales, such as making "cold calls" by phone and setting up appointments. I've become fantastic in that area; however, now I'm struggling with making huge sales. I'm making sales, but at this point, they're not amounting to much in the way of profits. So, when my husband tries to encourage me by saying, "Oh, that would be a great client, you could make a lot of money if they started using your product", I find myself thinking, "Oh, they're probably already happy with their supplier, and I might be able to get them to try one product, but I doubt that I would make huge money."

But, now that I've identified my thinking, I can change it to: Yes, I will be able to provide solutions for their business with my product and therefore, I will land a huge on-going sale with them.

Posted anonymously:

I personally have found that my bad contract was "I hate it here". I recently relocated from my home state of 40 years. I was allowing the "I hate it here" to help me hate it! About 1 month ago, I realized that one of the reasons that I hate it here is because I've programmed myself to hate it here. I am consciously working on not saying I hate it here, cause if I think I do, or if I think I don't, I'm right!

Thanks. Say it and it will be so. Say it otherwise and it will be so. Amazing thing the mind.

-Jack Carroll

Posted by Brad Fox:

This really hits home with me. Two years ago I took a position with a new sales organization. About six months in everything was going fine, but I wasn't at the top like I wanted to be. My manager told me to read a book called SPIN Selling be Neil Rackham. I told my boss that I have been in sales for a long time and have been successful using my current approach. A month or so later he finally convinced me to read the book and implement the SPIN model in my sales calls. I went from being in the top 20% of the company to the top 3 within one quarter. We sometimes think we have all the answers and shut out new ideas. I learned my lesson!

Posted anonymously:

In response to the subject of bad contracts, one is by making the mistake of getting too lax in nurturing relationships with long-standing customers. Someone is always waiting in the wings to take these customers away. The work is not over at the time of the sale—the work is just beginning.

As for a personal bad contract, I think the one we are all guilty of would be "I am really out of shape. But, I just don't have time to exercise!" If a person's health is important to them, they will make the time to get more physically fit." I tend to procrastinate, but am trying to improve in that area.

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