How to get up when you’re down

This is a best practice for sales people by Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

I’ve been pondering an email I recently received.  In it, the young sales person described his most pressing challenge:  The sales roller coaster.  When things go well, he’s up, emotionally, and when things don’t go well, he’s down.  The swings from up to down were wearing on him.  His real question is one every sales person must confront and successfully resolve:  How do I manage myself to keep my emotions up and my energy high?

I’ve often thought that this is one of those fundamental challenges for a sales person.  It’s one thing to focus on closing the sale, and presenting to a sufficient number of prospects and other such tasks, but the real heart of the issue is managing yourself so that you can do these things.

Stressed Businessman by pat138241 ID-100107344
If you are depressed and listless, it doesn’t matter how good you are at your selling skills.  You won’t have the energy to apply yourself.  Managing yourself is the first challenge.

The depth of this challenge is unique to the profession of sales.  In most ‘other jobs, you know what to do, where to go, and when to do it.  Not so in sales where all these decisions are yours to make.  Thus, you have the option of not being at your first call at 8:00 if you choose not to be there.  And you have the option of taking a two-hour lunch and being done at 3 PM, at least for awhile, until someone catches up with you.

If you have a positive attitude, an optimistic mindset, and are “up” emotionally, all these decisions are a lot easier to make than if you are dragging around in a state of depression.

I know about this, because I am given to depression.  I’m a type A, high energy guy.  But, I have the tendency, when things aren’t going my way, to become depressed.  Let me illustrate.

In one of my sales jobs, I encountered a slow-down in the amount of projects I had going — just a lull in the usual feverish level of activity to which was accustomed.  I became depressed.

You know, there is a cycle to depression.  For me, it went like this.  Since I didn’t have as much to do, I became depressed.  Since I was depressed, I wasn’t nearly as active as I had been.  Since I wasn’t as active, I didn’t create much new activity.  Which meant I had even less to do.  Which meant I became more depressed.  Which lead me to even less activity.  See the cycle?

It doesn’t take long to become almost paralyzed.  That’s what happened to me.  I became so depressed that I couldn’t leave the house.

In my case, it took the intervention of a wise sales manager to lift me out of my depression and get me back to work.

But not everyone has that option.  And not everyone becomes that depressed.  But, on a day-to-day basis, the impact of being “down” can be lethal to your success.  So, every sales person has to formulate an effective answer to the question, “How do you get yourself back up when you are down?”

Let me propose two options.

1.  Change your thinking.

Our thoughts lead to our attitudes.  Our attitudes lead to our actions.  Our actions lead to our results.  It sounds so simple, and in one sense, it is.  To manage ourselves effectively, all we have to do is control our thoughts.  Probably the greatest principle of self-improvement is this:  You can choose your thoughts.

There certainly is nothing new about that observation.  Solomon, writing centuries before Christ, said “As a man thinks in heart, so is he.”  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  The relationship between thoughts, actions and results has been recognized probably since the dawn of mankind.

The problem is, of course, actually doing it.

One of the best business books of the 20th century was called “Learned Optimism” by Dr. Martin Seligman.  In it, he describes his lifework.  As a research psychologist, Dr. Seligman began by studying helplessness in dogs.  In an early experiment, he put dogs into a cage from which they could not escape, and subjected them to mild shocks.  After some effort at escape, the dogs would give up trying and lay down.  Later, he put them into a cage from which they could easily escape, and subjected them to the same mild shocks.  The dogs would just lie down and give up.  Surprisingly, they did not attempt to remove themselves from the irritant.  They had learned helplessness and hopelessness.

In subsequent experiments, Dr. Seligman found a similar behavior in human beings.  Put into a room and subjected to irritating noises from which they could not escape, they soon learned to give up.  When put into a room with a mechanism that would turn off the noise, they still didn’t try.  They had learned helplessness and hopelessness.

From this beginning, Dr. Seligman continued to formulate a thesis he calls “learned optimism.”  It says, basically, that human beings learn to have either a pessimistic or an optimistic outlook.  Dr. Seligman’s book contains a self-assessment to measure the degree of pessimism or optimism of the reader.

Dr. Seligman’s thesis arises from the way people explain negative events to themselves.  When something negative happens, as it eventually will, the way you explain it to yourself determines your pessimistic/optimistic attitude.  There are three components of this “explanatory style.”

The first component is the degree to which you believe the event will be permanent.  Pessimists believe negative events will be permanent, while optimists believe that they will be temporary.

The second component is pervasiveness.  Pessimists believe the causes of negative events are universal, affecting everything they do.  Optimists believe them to be specific, and limited to the individual circumstances.

The third component is personal.  Pessimists believe that negative events are caused by themselves.  Optimists believe that the world is at fault.

Here’s how this behavioral perspective works in the everyday life of a sales person.

Let’s say you visit one of your large accounts, and your main contact announces that the vice-president for operations has signed a prime vendor agreement with your largest competitor, and that all of your business will be moved to that competitor within the next 30 days.  That’s a negative event.

As you drive away from the account, you think to yourself, “I blew it here.  I should have seen it coming.  I’m never going to learn this job.  I’ll blow the next one too.  I mismanage them all.””

Now, that’s a pessimistic explanation of the event.  Notice that you have explained it in a way that is personal, “I blew it.”  Your explanation is also permanent, “I’m never going to learn to do this job,” and pervasive, “I mismanage them all.”

Now stop a minute, and analyze how you feel as a result of this explanation.  Probably defeated, dejected, depressed, and passive.  These are not the kinds of feelings you need to energize you to make your next sales call.

Let’s revisit the situation, this time offering optimistic explanations.  The same event occurs — you receive bad news from your best account.  As you drive away, you think to yourself, “They really made a bad mistake this time.  It’s a good thing the contract is only for a year.  That gives me time to work to get it back.  I’m glad it was only this account and no others.”

That’s an optimistic explanation because your explanations were not personal, permanent, or pervasive.  How do you feel about your future as a result of this explanation?  Probably energized and hopeful.

See the difference?  The event was the same.  The only difference was the way you explained it to yourself.  One set of explanations was optimistic, leading to energy and hope, while the other was pessimistic, leading to dejection and passivity.

Dr. Seligman has isolated optimistic behavior as one of the characteristics of successful people.  Using various techniques he’s developed, he predicted elections by analyzing each candidate’s explanatory style.  The most optimistic candidates often win elections.

The implications for you are awesome.  If you can improve your explanatory style, and make it more optimistic, you’ll create more positive energy and hope for yourself, no matter how difficult or negative the circumstances with which you must deal.

Learned optimism can be one of your most powerful self-management techniques.  It’s based on this powerful principle: Your thoughts influence your feelings and your actions, and you can choose your thoughts.

Learning to control and choose your thoughts is a learned skill, just like listening and closing.  Every sales person needs to gain some mastery over this essential competency.

2.  By all means, ACT!

Not only do our thoughts lead to our actions, but our actions can create emotions, and those emotions can lead to our thoughts.  Try this.  Start laughing.  No particular reason, just start laughing.  Force yourself to laugh.  Force yourself to laugh uproariously.  Force yourself to laugh for a few minutes.  When you’re finally done, note how you feel.  If you’re typical, you’ll feel pretty good.  The laughter generated the feeling.  And, since you feel good, you’re more likely to generate positive thoughts.

We can create feelings by acting, whether or not we feel like it.  I’m told that marriage counselors will sometimes advise their clients to act like you are madly in love with your spouse for a few weeks.  More often than not, they come back and report a deeper bond with their spouse.  The action led to the feeling.

When it comes to sales, the same principle will work for us.  By all means, act.  Do something, anything, but get yourself out of your lethargy by acting.  As you begin to do something, that action will stimulate you to feel better, which will stimulate you to think more positively, which will stimulate you to more positive action, which will stimulate you to more positive thoughts, etc.  It’s a cycle. Exactly the opposite of the depression cycle.  Use this cycle to your benefit.

Learning to manage yourself is one of the core competencies of an effective, professional sales person.  And, I suppose, of a mature human being in any realm.  The sooner you gain this competency, the more successful you will be.

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Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Photo Credit: pat138241 at freedigitalphotos.net

Handling an “Entitlement” Mentality

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Q.   My question is about the now generation of kids that are potential candidates for sales positions, or already on your sales staff. They think they deserve it all now, and are not willing to work hard for their pay. How do you deal with this type of person when you are interviewing them or if they are already on your sales staff?

A.  I have some conflicting thoughts on this one. On one hand, I’ve noticed that every generation thinks the younger generation is less responsible, less level-headed, and lazier than they were. So, it could be that you are just reflecting what is an age-old tendency.

On the other hand, it certainly seems like many of the younger people just now entering the work force are bringing with them an “entitlement” mentality. It’s easy enough to understand. We have witnessed the degradation of cultural ‘work ethic’ in our media, and in our educational and political systems over the past 40 years. We have changed from a society that emphasized personal responsibility and individual opportunity, to one that emphasizes rights and entitlements.

But this is a sales Ezine, not a political blog, so I’ll forswear my opinions on the current class of journalists, politicians and educators and focus on your question.

While the cultural establishment in this country promotes an entitlement attitude, that doesn’t mean that every one has bought into it. The impact of the family on a young person is often far deeper than that of the culture. That means that there are out there somewhere a number of young candidates for your openings who, in spite of the preponderance of messages from the culture, have a sense of responsibility, an ethic of hard work and integrity, and an understanding of the need to pay your own way and prove your value to your employer.

And, we can still hire who we choose to, at least for the time being. So, for those who you are interviewing, the answer is easy: Don’t hire them. Don’t make the classic employer’s mistake – thinking that you can change their attitude or their character after they come to work for you. While you can give them skills, train them in the best practices, and help them develop effective strategy and disciplines, you cannot change their character. And character will eventually evidence itself in that person’s results. Hire character. Not education, not skills, not experience, not knowledge. You can give them all those things. Hire character.

Those who currently work for you are a different and larger problem. While their attitude and mindset may be an irritant and personally offensive to you, it probably is not the biggest business problem. The business problem is that their results are not up to expectations. You know, and I know, that the reason for the mediocre results is a lack of substantial character. But, you can’t manage character, you must manage the results.

So, set aside your personal distaste for the attitude, and focus on the results. Create clear, specific measurable expectations for performance with definite deadlines. Clearly communicate those expectations and make sure your employee understands the rewards of meeting them and consequences of not.

Make it a performance issue, not an attitude issue.

Some percentage of your questionable employees will do what you would like them to do. In so doing, they’ll probably take a deep breath, figure out that their results are their own responsibility, and buff off some of the burrs in their attitude. In other words, they’ll grow up.

But, alas, not all of them will. And for those who don’t meet your expectations, who don’t produce the results you want, help them find a more tolerant employer.

For those sales people who are reading this, recognize that this conversation may, to some degree, be about you. It may prompt a little introspection. This may be a good opportunity to assess where you are at on the “entitlement” to “personal responsibility” spectrum, and, if applicable, decide to work on improving your self.

Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Should Your Company Use a Cloud-Based CRM App?

Cloud computing is gaining acceptance in business, and CRM is no exception. Firms now operate in a mobile world where sales, customer service, and production teams may not be in the same geographic location. Individual employees often work from home or on the road, and it is common for many professionals to have a 24/7 workweek. Fortunately, a wealth of cloud-based apps to manage customer relationships have come on the market, providing new benefits to these companies on the move.
Businessman Running On Bar Chart by chanpipat ID-10077063

Cloud-based CRM for companies with employees on the move!

It’s a Tablet and Smartphone Generation

Sales and customer service teams are using more and more tablets such as iPads to instantly communicate customer information within a company. No longer do we have to wait for a customer visit to end in order to get the home office setting programs in action.

Today it’s all about giving customers immediate gratification. Right in a meeting, sales staff can log into CRM in the cloud from anywhere in the world to record information, get answers, and keep a sale moving forward. Most CRM apps work from a variety of mobile platforms, including smartphones, giving your company easy access to your system from on the road.

Sales work at the speed of the cloud is the new standard.

Efficiency Increases

Of course, up-to-the-minute information means that efficiency increases. No longer are companies working on incorrect or out-of-date data. Mistakes are less frequent when every member of the team has current information, and there is less cost associated with corrections. Customer service also makes a bigger impression when your CRM software keeps your staff on top of every customer’s needs.

Cloud CRM Apps Are Up and Running Immediately

By eliminating the need for new hardware, software, and the training or hiring of an IT specialist, you can have a complete CRM solution up and running immediately in the cloud. This can include sales, customer service, and marketing elements that are fully integrated to keep your company’s workers functioning at the highest level quickly.

Interfaces designed for cloud-based CRM apps tend to be very user friendly and easy to navigate. Although they tend to have fewer customization options than an enterprise-based onsite system, more and more vendors are providing rich CRM app experiences that want for little.

Virtual Cloud Network Concept by nokhoog_buchachon ID-10084575

CRM in the cloud also gives your company a modern image!

Fast, Easy App Changes

Once you are up and running, CRM in the cloud has the added advantage of being easy to upgrade or change. There is no need to install new software that requires larger amounts of memory or new hardware that takes additional space and personnel to install and run. Many companies hobble along with old software, not wanting to disrupt operations, but working in the cloud eliminates that problem. Adding features such as social media or email marketing integration capabilities are also quick and seamless.

Cloud-based CRM is coming into its own for the wide variety of benefits it provides, and none is more compelling than the ability to keep fast-charging teams moving their companies forward in sales, revenue, and market share.

About the author:

Sarah Boisvert has written on a wide range of topics including business management, marketing and sales, new technologies, social media, and travel. She has profiled Steve Wynn, 3D printing inventor Chuck Hull, and Steve Jobs.

Photo #1 Credit: “Businessman Running On Bar Chart” by chanpipat via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo #2 Credit: “Virtual Cloud Network Concept” by nokhoog_buchachon via FreeDigitalPhotos.net