The Power of Optimism

Published On: July 17, 2023By Categories: Business Management, Unbound Sales Growth Columns

Having this approach is critical to sales success.

By Carole Mahoney

Why me? I can’t seem to catch a break!”

“Of course, it fell apart; I knew that would happen.”

If you or your team are struggling with sales, and you find yourself saying something like you would say from time to time, then it might be time to change your outlook and reframe how you see the future.

Why? What does your outlook, how you think and feel about yourself, your work, your environment, and the people around you have to do with your sales success?

Let me tell you the story of Michael Douglas. And no, not the actor.

Small Wins Add Up to More

Michael was the only salesperson in his small startup company when he came to me for sales coaching because he wanted to make two or three more sales a year, numbers he felt were doable.

After two months of coaching, he started to see small, quick wins. The nature of his conversations changed, and he began meeting with higher-level executives.

After six months, Michael had sold more than he had in the previous three years.

How did he do it?

While I was coaching Michael, I pointed out each small positive change he was making because I knew that with that small win and celebrating, his confidence in his abilities would grow.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that his optimism would also increase.

Almost a year later when he and I spoke again, Michael told me how he blew past his goal. And when he said, “If you had told me then that this was possible, I would have laughed in your face. Now I know that anything is possible.”

This stuck with me.

The Power of Optimism

So much so that it sent me down a research rabbit hole. What impact does optimism have on our behaviors and sales success? How do we increase our optimism when everything around us feels bleak?

Everything can certainly seem bleak right now. Economic uncertainty, climate change, violent crime, political turmoil both here and globally—it’s all enough to turn even the most positive person into a cynic.

It is easy to be optimistic when things are going well. It’s when you know what hits the fan and you must maintain optimism that is the true test.

When people would tell me I was a pessimist, I argued that I just didn’t like being disappointed and would rather be prepared for the worst when it inevitably happened. I felt that is how I would improve my current situation.

But according to Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, “A decade of research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.”

Data from our partners at Objective Management Group also showed that top performing sellers have a greater positive outlook and learned faster, were more likely to have personally meaningful goals, and a plan that they are held accountable to due to increased motivation, desire, and commitment to success.

If you are in sales, regular rejection can make it difficult to have a positive outlook. But a positive outlook is crucial for your sales success.


The Science of Optimism

Neuroimaging at University College London shows that optimism activates both the amygdala and a part of our brain called the rostral anterior cingulated cortex. This helps us downplay negative emotional responses and drives us to go after higher-stakes goals.

The study also showed that an optimistic outlook enables us to learn and understand more easily and helps us stay focused on near-term events and successes.

This means that a negative outlook is kryptonite to almost anything we are trying to accomplish. In addition to its impact on our level of motivation, desire, and commitment, it has a dampening effect on bravery, grit, curiosity, and empathy—meaning you may be bailing out in tough situations or becoming more emotional than normal.

Get a Daily Ritual

Here are three things I do regularly to improve my outlook and my sales results.

  1. Exercise outside: Everyday yoga and a dog walk outside keeps my mind clear and out of the swamp of stress. The endorphins that are released during movement will naturally calm you and help you to think positively.
  2. Fun with friends: Whether it is a dance night out (or in), trying something new, card games with the family, watching a standup comic, or sharing funny videos with the kids, there is fun everywhere you look if you are open to it.Take your team out for a meal or a fun activity together. Lift their heads up from the daily grind to find some enjoyment.
  3. Morning gratitude ritual: Every day starts with a few cups of coffee, the sunrise on my face, and the dog next to me. I do my best to stay off email and social media and spend the first hour of the day reflecting on what is good before I dive into what I must do.You could help your team do this with a morning huddle that starts with them sharing what they are grateful for or what they are looking forward to.All this is further evidence that sales are not just a numbers game, it is a mental game. With small daily habits, you can master your mental game, put your buyers first, and grow your sales and business.

Find your own optimism practice, try some of mine, and share this with your team.

Mahoney Offers Tips on YouTube for Sales Leaders and Sellers
Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney provides tips for sales leaders and sellers on YouTube. Past topics have included how to get over fears and have better conversations, how to become a top salesperson, and cognitive behavioral tips to sell on value. To watch these videos and future ones, visit Mahoney’s Linktree webpage and click “YouTube” in the drop-down menu.
Have a Sales or Marketing Question for Mahoney? Let Us Know!
Is there a sales or marketing issue that you have wondered about for a long time? Do you wish you or your team had a technique for better closing sales or promoting your business and its products and services? Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney can help. Email WWJ Editor Thad Plumley at and he will arrange for Mahoney to answer your question in a video at

Carole Mahoney, as the founder of Unbound Growth, has coached Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial MBA students on sales and been featured as a top sales coach by Ambition and Sales Hacker. You can contact her directly at

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