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Mastering Your Mind in Sales

Mastering Your MindPerforming at your best in sales requires that you take control of your mind.  We all know that a confident, optimistic mind-set is a key ingredient to us reaching our top performance. Yet many salespeople, aided by a fast-paced, high-pressure business environment undermind themselves with negative talk and pessimistic thinking.

With a new week in front of us, here are a few habits to use so that you master your mind:

  1. Tune in to your mind-set throughout the day.  It’s easy to get “caught-up” in everything around us.  Observe your state of mind four or five times during the day.  How’s your energy? What state are your in?  In-control, relaxed and focused or anxious, uneasy and distracted?
  2. Focus on your breathing.  Take slower, deeper breaths to instill a sense of calmness and confidence.
  3. Check your posture.  Straighten out the crook in your back and assume the bearing of a fearless warrior.  Turn your walk into a stride.
  4. Pay more attention to what you eat.  There is certainly a food-mood connection. Various foods and drinks affect your mind-set. How does your thinking change 30 minutes after drinking a large soft drink?
  5. Set a cue in the environment.  Choose a picture, the arrival of the mail, something on your desk that can prompt you to refocus yourself. Dan Robertson of the Printing Industries of America has a screen saver that reminds him to adopt a more mindful attitude.
  6. Monitor your internal dialog. When you hear yourself blaming or criticizing yourself, the company, your clients, the economy or co-workers, STOP!  As Paul Viaolassi of Softtech Solutions said, “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
  7. Visualize.  Recall past moments of brilliance and grace; envision yourself flourishing in difficult situations.

In the coming days, become more aware of your mind-set and the habits you practice that either lead you closer to or futher away from your sales goals.

Have a great week selling!

Being Creative With Prospecting

Choice Hotels (named by Forbes as the “Most Innovative Hotel Group in the Nation”) recently participated in a Winning Sales Habits workshop with some interesting results when it comes to approaching prospective clients.

pizza-257x300-150x150In the course of the morning, the sales professionals were asked to speak in small groups about any creative/innovative methods that they have used to get in front of a decision-maker.  After a spirited discussion, the clear winner was a person who had tried (and repeatedly failed) to land an account.  He wasn’t even initially able to get a meeting with the potential client.


The salesperson decided to keep pursuing his goal of a first meeting with the prospect, but not to stress out about it.  He just relaxed, had fun – and let the ideas flow (key components to creativity).

So, he created an award (he just made it up) for all of the employees of the targeted company.  The prize was for everyone!  No one knew what the contest had been, but the all knew that they had won, and were getting pizza … roughly $250 worth of pizza, as the award.

The salesperson was there when the pizza guy came to the prospective client’s office and asked the delivery guy if he, himself, could carry the pizza in.  And, by the way, could he borrow his apron and hat as an appropriate costume.

He paid the guy, donned the outfit, and began handing out pizzas. He knocked on the office door of his intended target and ushered himself in with the final pizza.  There were cheers and laughs all around when he announced that, in fact, this had all been a ruse to get a meeting with the prospective buyer.

He landed an appointment for the next day, and it ultimately concluded with him selling a million plus dollars’ worth of business


If you’re not getting anywhere by using the “appropriate channels,” you won’t lose anything by using “inappropriate ones.” Our guy knew there was no chance to get business using the professional channels, so he took the risk of spending $250 and becoming a (highly paid, it turns out,) pizza guy.

He told that borrowing the pizza outfit was a spur of the moment idea, but the whole episode was carefully planned. Once you get creative, it spawns itself…you see more ways to be creative and life becomes fun again.

Congrats to the “Pizza Man,” and maybe Choice Hotels should institute a sales creativity award with the goal of becoming #1 on the Forbes list again.

Peter Rock (2)Note:  Choice Hotels was the final Winning Sales Habits program conducted by our fantastic friend and colleague Peter McLaughlin before he passed away this fall.  In his memory, think of (and share) one creative or innovative prospecting idea that could help you get in front of that hard to crack client – he would like that.

Get Your Swagger Back

You could call it a sales rut or just a plateau.  Complacency or even “stuckness.”  We all get into these traps of thoughts, habits and actions. Times when we know that our results are falling far shy of our potential.  Well, it’s time to breakthrough those barriers.  It’s time to get on a “winning streak.”  And, there’s no better time to start than NOW!

Our work with sales professionals plus our experience with sports teams at the high-school, university and professional levels has indicated that there are common traits for all people who get on a “winning streak.”  The idea is to incorporate these traits into yourself and your team to quickly achieve the performance levels you need.

Here Are Five Characteristics of Winning Streaks

Swagger1)      Get Your Swagger Back!: We’re talking about reality-based confidence and optimism, not Pollyanna thinking.  Recent research indicates that there is a “tipping point” for changing mediocre results into a winning streak of top performance.  According to Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., a 3-to-1 positive to negative ratio in your thoughts and actions builds your ability to flourish and develop confidence.  There are behaviors you can repeat until they become habits which help you become more optimistic such as becoming aware of your “explanatory style.”  What do you say to yourself when things are going wrong?  Do you grimace and curse silently or smile and say “now there’s something I can learn from.”  If you notice that your explanations when things go wrong are negative, by changing your self-talk to positive, you begin to look at work and life from a consistently more affirmative point of view.  By seeing what athletes say to the TV reporters after a losing effort, you can get a very good idea of their level of optimism and whether they are consistent winners.

2)      Ignite Your Energy:  The brain and body work together.  In the book CatchFire, it’s shown that there’s a direct link between physical movement and mental toughness in business and in life.  (When asked about the tools needed for today’s top performers, Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE answered, “Energy, always number one.”)  Becoming physically active automatically gives you the energy necessary to get “unstuck.”

3)      Get Creative:  Will yesterday’s answers solve today’s problems?  Don’t think so.  The new tough landscape gives us freedom to become “explorers” and really stand out in our industry.  The old ways don’t work and we have to come up with the new.  Creativity turns “breakdowns into breakthroughs.”  We must access the tools to develop “beginner’s mind” as a way to look at any situation from a different point of view.  Teflon was designed as a potential nose coating for rockets.  When that didn’t work, one of the scientists joked that “you could fry an egg on that stuff.”  So they did, and thus the Teflon industry was born (and a new way to joke about slick politicians.)

4)      Communicate More, Not Less:  In tough times, winning performers communicate more, not less, and with a heightened sense of fun, for better results.  Studies in neuroscience teach us how to communicate to people’s strengths, give actionable feedback and create an environment for new ideas and solutions.  Open communication … to your customers, your co-workers, management and your friends is key to starting and maintaining a winning streak.

5)      Take Action:  Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear … not the absence of fear.”  Stuckness and fear stop us from taking action.  Research at Harvard by Rosabeth Moss Cantor, Ph.D. shows that you have to first have a “win” to start a winning streak.  Strategically placed small victories help push us past fear and into action.  Small victories that you create for yourself give you a confidence level which helps you overcome the fear of taking action.  For example, making “warm-up” calls to colleagues or friends gets you ready for the tougher calls or unpleasant feedback.

Winning teams are aggressive and flexible at the same time.  Every time you get tentative, you lose.  Your brain chemistry and psychology pulls you back into the mire of “stuckness,” and you can’t compete at a winning level.

By concentrating on the traits of a winning streak, you’ll increase your productivity and have a lot more fun along the way.

Turning Sales Knowledge Into Sales Results

Can you think of one action, if you took it more consistently, that would make a huge difference in your sales results?

Wait, don’t answer that quite yet.

Here’s another question.  Is there one detrimental behavior that, if you eliminated, would increase the effectiveness of your sales day?

Do you have something in mind for both of these questions?  It’s not uncommon when sales groups are asked these questions that we get the response, “What, you only want one for each?”  Most of us can stand back, look at our sales activities from beginning to end, and find numerous behaviors and actions that need a tweak.

Results by Winning Sales HabitsAs the saying goes, we know what to do but we don’t do what we know.  While I’m a big proponent of vigorously improving sales knowledge, I’ve always found that the largest impact in increasing sales results is turning existing knowledge into habits – taking what we already know that we should do, and turning it into action.  You see, when push comes to shove, habits trump knowledge every time … especially when the pressure is on.

Think about this research finding:  As much as 95% of everything we do on a daily basis is controlled by our habits.* Does that statistic take your breath away?  It did mine when I first heard it.  From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, our habits drive us. (And, for that matter, if you sleep on the same side of the bed every night, your habits are in the driver’s seat for your dreams as well.)

We don’t need things like brushing our teeth, looking both ways before crossing the street or tying our shoes on a “to-do list” because they’re habits.  Likewise, many of our sales processes are on cruise-control as well.  Even without scripts, we all find a rhythm in our sales presentations and activities – sometimes not to our advantage.

Does that make us robots – preprogrammed to go through the motions of our sales careers and our lives with little choice – or voice – in the matter?  Far from it.  The fact that we are controlled by habit is a good thing.  It’s habit that lets us to deal with much of the necessary discipline and minutia of daily life without giving up a portion of our conscious thought.  It’s habit that allows us to get into the “zone” and act with confidence, calmness and control in our sales calls – to be effortless in our execution.  It’s habit that frees up our mind to focus on the most important aspects of the sales process (like listening to our client).

If you’ve identified one good sales habit and one bad sales habit from the above questions, it’s time to take control.

But before that, there are some things we must all understand about changing habits:

  • Changing habits is hard! If it was just about “knowing” what to do, you’d already be doing it, right?
  • Changing habits takes time! You’ll have to invest discipline and repetitionup front to get long-term success.
  • Replacing bad habits with good ones is the most worthwhile challenge you can set for yourself!

Let’s look at a variety of steps that, together, form the foundation for the construction of your good habits and the assault on your bad habits.  We’ll start with one of the toughest challenges – but one that is absolutely fundamental to the task:

#1: Face The Truth

Even the most highly professional sales people occasionally indulge the ability to tell stories to themselves, to adjust their sense of reality toward what they want to believe, and away from their honest, objective perception of things as they are.  In other words – sales people are sometimes delusional!

In testing, sales professionals invariably rate their performance much higher than how others see them and how they stack up compared to their peers.  They also tend to reframe sales experiences in order to justify client delays or objections.

Why the disconnect?  You probably already know the answer to that one.  Even the most successful among us deals with consistent rejection.  Telling ourselves stories is a defense mechanism, pure and simple.

Or, not so simple.  Unless we face the truth about where we are in our sales careers, how we spend our time, and where we can improve, we’ll never move forward toward establishing habits that stick.

You may have heard the statement “An undisturbed prospect will not buy.”  Well, for us to make changes to our habits “An undisturbed sales person will not change.”

#2: Focus On What YOU Do Best

While there are numerous worthwhile lessons to be learned from the examples of others who are successful, establishing your most effective habits will not be accomplished through imitation.  Learn the lessons of their examples, but adapt and apply your own unique strengths and abilities, not by trying to “become” them.

This honest assessment and inventory of the things that you do best is crucial to replacing bad, counter-productive sales habits with good, effective ones.  The key operative here is YOU.

#3: Have A Clear Vision – And Equally Clear Plan Of Action

When establishing new habits, the WHY is just as important as the HOW.  Why is this new habit important to you?  What will it mean to you when it’s fully implemented?  Why will eliminating this bad sales habit improve your sales career?  By attaching your habit to your vision and purpose, you give it energy, direction and power.

Once that direction is secure, you can build upon that with a specific, honest, precise and targeted plan of action.  Sales training guru Brian Tracy likes to say that fuzzy thinking leads to fuzzy results, and he’s right.

#4: Seek The Skills And Tools You Need

What’s the one skill you would need to improve in order to put this habit into place?  What tools, support and accountability is available to you to make sure that the habit endures?  What about your negative habit?  Is there a skill or tool that will help eliminate your bad habit?

#5: Find Your Rituals

Rituals can create control in the midst of chaos – and isn’t a sales career a highly chaotic place?  We know the power and benefits of ritual during the holiday season, military operations, historical celebrations, weddings and graduations.  Rituals protect what’s important to us and remind us of our purpose.

Think about a professional athlete preparing for an activity …. a golfer preparing to putt, a basketball player getting ready to shoot a free throw, a baseball player in the on-deck circle, a tennis player preparing to serve.  Rituals are used by athletes to mentally, emotionally and physically get ready for a performance.

What rituals can you find – or create- that will put you in the most effective sales professional mood and mode to enact your new habit? It could be a physical movement or gesture to pump you up, a visualization that prepares you for the sales process ahead, or the release of emotional juices that center you on what’s important … or all three.  Rituals should be unique to you and your habit.  Just like the athlete, this is your on-deck circle.

#6: Create The Right Environment

To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, “we first create our environments, thereafter our environments recreate us.”  Successful habits endure when our environment supports our mission.

Your desk, your briefcase, your automobile, your presentation materials, your overall approach to organization and demeanor to the sales process should be supportive of your habits.  Your environment even includes the team around you, the way that you dress and your home.  A great question to ask is, “Is this the office (car, material, team, etc.) that represents my new successful sales habits?”

#7: Find Your Feedback

No matter how independent we feel ourselves to be – and independence/self-starting is one of the qualities a lot of successful sales professionals possess; it also is one of the stories we tell ourselves. Nobody does it alone.  And, nobody can do it alone.

We all need feedback, and if we find the right sources for accurate and effective, honest feedback, and open ourselves to it, we become better.  Just ask any successful athlete, Special Forces member, doctor or performer how effective he or she would be without a coach, mentor or guide giving targeted, specific feedback.

When trying to change habits, we need to invite feedback in.

#8: Have Fun!

We all know that we perform better if we’re having fun.  Putting your “nose to the grindstone” and “gutting it out” may be popular motivational catchphrases, but they have little to do with performing at your best.  In order to establish your new habits, you have to find ways to make it enjoyable … that way, you’ll keep repeating the behavior.

If you keep these eight foundational points and practices in mind, creating your new habits and destroying your old bad habits may not be easy, but your chances of making them permanent goes up dramatically.  And, what could be better than that?  You’ll now be doing what you know … and reaping the rewards.

*The Unbearable Automaticity of Being, American Psychologist, July 1999, John A. Bargh and Tanya Chartrand.

Sales Master MagazineOriginally published in Sales Mastery Magazine (March 2014)  To get more great articles on your phone or tablet, download the app today.

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