Here is the next in my series on salesperson fitness.
Emotional fitness is important for anyone, but is crucially important for a salesperson. Something like 90 to 95 percent of the interactions a salesperson has are negative. Phone calls and emails are ignored. Gatekeepers furiously protect decision makers. Many have a 5 to 10 percent closing ratio. There is even constant resistance to prospecting.
How does a salesperson deal with what we could call the “dark side of selling”?
We Are Not All the Same
All the headlines right now are talking about the lawsuit filed against Google by ex-employee James Damore. The lawsuit contends that Google “discriminated against employees for their perceived conservative political views,” among other things. From what I can see, Google’s efforts in this matter have been to try and force everyone into the same mold–in this case a left-leaning mold–and discipline those that didn’t fit.
It’s a similar action to that being taken by today’s sales artificial intelligence: an attempt to blend together and perhaps even eliminate gender, racial, cultural and age differences. There’s a reason for programming AI algorithms to do this–if they don’t, it becomes impossible to predict human behavior. The thinkers of the Austrian School of Economics, such as Ludwig von Mises and Joseph Schumpeter, have been making the case for over 100 years that human behavior, by its very nature, cannot be predicted. The statistical methods being used by Google and others are being used in an attempt to predict how people will react.
Another angle on this “sameness” is one you’ve probably had experience with. You run into someone you haven’t seen for many years and they say, “You haven’t changed a bit!” The truth of the matter is that you have probably changed a great deal, and not just physically. What if you’ve changed for the better? What is meant as a compliment actually comes off like a curse.
Emotional fitness of a salesperson speaks to culture, language, gender, age, many other individual aspects of that person, and those of all the people they deal with. Our industry today seems to be trying to eliminate all these differences, just for the sake of easy analysis.
4 Tips for Overcoming Obstacles
Emotional fitness also means the ability to overcome the many obstacles and barriers that occur in sales; dealing with the “dark side of sales.” It’s interesting that this side of sales is often ignored in texts and promotion about sales. Instead they discuss making a lot of money, having an easy life, the travel–the beautiful side of it all. The only famous work that references how dark it can all be is Arthur Miller’s famous play Death of a Salesman.
Salespeople come across obstacles not found in other professions. Here are 4 tips for overcoming them.
1. Negative emotions are powerful, and can be used in positive ways. An example given in my ebook Emotions in Sales told the story of how Muhammad Ali turned the fear he felt before his first major heavyweight fight against Sonny Liston (for which the stated odds against Ali were 7-1) into the cocky confidence for which he would become famous. In the days leading up to the fight, he publicly taunted Liston with lines such as his now-legendary “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.” He called Liston “a big ugly bear” and said that “After I beat him I’m going to donate him to the zoo.” Ali, as history shows, went on to win that fight in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. The lesson we can learn from Muhammad Ali is a very profound one: It isn’t the fear that you feel, it’s what you do with it that matters.
Another example given in the book is the use of anger to determine something you need to actually have empathy for–because anger completely cuts off empathy and can can lose you a sale. “Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” and forcing yourself to be empathetic is one way you can utilize anger in a positive way.
2. When confronted with an attitude from someone else, you can realize that what’s happening isn’t inside of you, but outside of you. For that reason you can decide to deal with it objectively.
3. Every emotion has polarity, positive and negative. As a salesperson if you run with a negative attitude–for example you’re desperate for money and make a bad deal for your customer–it can have negative ramifications on your career, especially in today’s connected world. Bad actions on your part can follow you for the rest of your life.
We all experience extreme emotions. The question becomes, do we choose to engage in negative extremes of such emotional states? You might have heard or read the recent story about the actor who shot his wife, and has now been convicted of murder and will spend the next 40 years in prison. The anger he felt at the time of his crime might have been correct for the circumstances, but the action he took was obviously horribly wrong. Not only is his wife gone, but now he’ll be imprisoned for decades. If he had just stopped and questioned his actions at that moment, perhaps his wife would still be alive and he’d still be a free man.
The key to such emotions is not so much to push them away, but to integrate them into a higher purpose. How can you overcome the tendency to take to the wrong polarity? Simply by stopping and examining the situation, by realizing it doesn’t make sense. Take a good hard look, and wonder if that negative reaction is something that will truly benefit you in the long run.
Utilizing a tool like this is even more important in sales than it is in other professions, simply because a salesperson is hit with so much negativity. A doctor or an airplane pilot, as two examples, aren’t confronted with nearly this many negative attitudes.
4. Every day you should perform a cleansing of your thought process, just as you cleanse your body on a daily basis. For example, if you sleep on a problem you’ve been having or a decision you’ve been pondering, the next morning it will often look different. Take a look at the issues you were pondering yesterday, and ask yourself if you would make the same decisions today as you did yesterday. If the answer is “no” you probably have some more evaluation to perform about those issues and should probably sleep on them some more.
You Are the Driver
The bottom line of emotional fitness is that you are the driver–life or circumstances don’t drive you. There are numerous practical exercises that you can use to put yourself in the driver’s seat. One is given above–to stop and give it some rational thought.
Another is what I call the anchor. When you experience something emotionally beautiful, you consciously create an anchor to that experience–one that includes all of its emotions, visions and feelings. At a later time, in a bad situation, you can tap into that anchor and once again release that wonderful feeling you had then. It can save a bad situation, or even make it seem not so bad anymore.
In all cases, you need to drive on the positive side of emotions. If you don’t, you will never be successful in sales–and you will never be fit.
Fortunately, emotional fitness can be learned!
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