“We see things not as they are, but as we are ourselves.” –H.M. Tomlinson

We had a conversation with a group of trainees last week about psychological projection. This is the tactic of expecting others to feel what you would feel in their situation. It’s an unconscious way of maintaining a belief pattern that we are committed to.

We discussed asking new members to refer friends at the point of sale. We proposed some offers, and some of the trainees mentioned that they would not be comfortable asking new members for any contact information for their friends. When we asked them about their concerns, several of them shared that they themselves would not give out their friends’ contact details in the same situation. 

We listened to their concerns, attitudes, beliefs and hesitations. We queried them about whether or not they ever had someone give them contact information of a friend at the point of sale. Some had, but most had not asked, either out of fear or out of ignorance.

Related: Karen Joy: Salesperson Psychology 101

We then discussed the idea of projection with the trainees who were resistant to making the request. We asked them if it was possible that they would provoke the response they were expecting by the way they made the request. Could it be possible that the members they were talking to may have a different perspective than theirs? What if their new members did not have the same concerns that the trainees expressed? How would the trainees know whether their clients did or did not have the same concerns before they made the offer?

If they made the request in anticipation that the person would say yes, might they ask it any differently than if they made it in anticipation of the person saying no?

Would it be possible that the trainees, unknowingly, were projecting their reluctances onto the new members, and that the new members were actually being invited to say no instead or yes because the trainees were making the request from a place of “speaking into a no” instead of “speaking into a yes”?

The body language of the trainees shifted noticeably when we asked these questions, and their countenances changed from resigned to excited. It looked like a light bulb went on in the room. 

Over the following week, we got communications from several of the trainees. One had already sold three new members by making one of the requests that we suggested. Another had new members thanking her for making a generous offer to their friends. And others mentioned that they were excited about selling and about trying out what they learned at the presentation.


Karen Joy is a strategic growth consultant to companies in the fitness, health and wellness sector. Her team provides cutting-edge, mindful sales and marketing strategies and training programs to growing companies, both virtual and physical. Email her at karen@fit4mom.com or call 858-248-1553.