Sales is not a career for the faint of heart. Throughout the course of my time selling I’ve found myself in more anxious and stressful situations than I can even begin to count. That’s a big part of the reason for the high turnover rate in sales related positions. Most newcomers fall in love with the uncapped earning potential associated with a successful track record in the business. But they tend to overlook the obstacles that they will undoubtedly encounter on the road to prosperity. Then at the moment adversity hits, their fight or flight response kicks in and they go running back to their desk job, pleading for comfort. We’ll never know what they had been able to accomplish if they had just learned to take control of their emotions and calm their minds.
Whether or not we want to admit to it, we all have fears. According to several different studies, people rank public speaking as their number one fear. Number one! That’s pretty hard to believe, but true. And as salespeople, we do a lot of public speaking. That’s probably one of the most challenging aspects of the job. Facing the stress and pressure to convert a deal we sit down in front of a team of scrutinizing decision makers and try to win their trust and confidence and earn a shot at their business. It can be very intimidating, especially when our next paycheck is on the line.
Many of you who know me also know a bit about my background and story beyond my life in sales. If you’ve followed my blog over the course of the last several years, you know that I’ve suffered with some pretty debilitating anxiety at different times in my life. At one point just over three years ago, I was nearly agoraphobic. My walls were closing in quickly. Life became about nothing more than survival to me. I was a prisoner of my mind. Thankfully, God intervened. And as I grew in my faith, I began taking baby steps beyond the walls that had confined me. And with nothing more than sheer determination and divine inspiration and guidance, I was able to escape and begin living a more fulfilling life again.
During that period of time in my life when I first began confronting the demons that had been haunting me, I used several techniques that I had developed to calm my mind in moments of panic. I began leading everything that I did with faith…even simple tasks like taking out the trash. I put my trust in God to return me home safely and I slowly began letting go of my need to control the outcomes. I also utilized a lot of positive self-talk. I had a statement “Let Go-Trust-Believe-Faith” that I would recite quietly to myself during all trips beyond my comfort zone. I’d allow the words to follow the steps of my feet as I walked with uncertain, trembling legs to my destination. I also practiced visualization and breathing skills to restore my calm. I would envision that I was lying on a beach and that the anxiety approaching was simply a wave that would wash over me and pass. I stopped running from the fear, and instead began allowing it to pass over me quietly as I closed my eyes and exhaled long, deep, deliberate breaths that slowed my heart rate and brought me peace.
Now you’re probably wondering, why on earth would an individual with a history of severe anxiety want to work in a profession like sales? And that answer is pretty simple. I choose to work in sales because it pushes me. It forces me out of my comfort zone and it creates anxieties and stressors in my working life that I am forced to confront and manage effectively. And that’s how I remain healthy. If I am not challenging my fears, then in all likelihood, I am succumbing to them.
My sales career has given me the opportunity to put to good use many of the arousal control skills that I developed during earlier periods of my personal life. The key to successful emotional and physiological management is one’s ability to calm the mind. What I found with anxiety was that when I participated in the aggravation of my symptoms, things would only spin further out of control. I think that we can all relate to this in one way or another. If we engage our fears while on a call with a prospective client, those negative emotions will only cause us to lose further control of our presentation, and we will wind up walking away from our meeting feeling like we blew it. But if we practice strategies to remain balanced: faith, self-talk, visualization, breathing, etc we can calm the mind, focus on our objectives, and start winning new business.
A couple of months ago I watched the film Lone Survivor which documents the heroic, gritty efforts of Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell. I was so amazed by the mental toughness of the Navy SEAL team in the film that I began researching the SEALs methods of training and preparation. And over the course of the past few months, I’ve uncovered some excellent documentaries and interviews that have offered a peak into the lives of the most amazing military personnel on the planet. I found that the SEALs spend a great deal of time training their men on mental toughness. Within that training they focus on four primary objectives: goal setting, mental rehearsal, self-talk, and arousal control. I was shocked by how similar their objectives were to mine during times of crisis. It’s really not that complicated, but even our nation’s most elite warriors must practice these techniques tirelessly in order to perfect them.
I encourage you to begin developing these skills within yourself immediately. If you learn to calm your mind, you will overcome every fear and obstacle that you encounter in life. Learn to sell like a SEAL. Win the battle in your mind before you enter the board room, and opportunities will always await you on the other side of the door.
May God Bless!