The need to be resilient is arguably a more important personal attribute in a sales role than any other job of work. The ability to bounce back from adversity quickly and constantly is the hallmark of top sales performers. It also represents a key life skill.
So what can the ancient writings on stoic philosophy by Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca teach us in the modern sales profession?
It just so happens that stoic philosophy is based on developing a personal operating system to enhance resilience. This blog offers a view on the three stoic precepts of perception, will and action. This, to help us improve our resilience in the face of the inevitable setbacks and adversities that are the part of any sales role.
‘You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf’ as Jon Kabit-Zinn as eloquently put it.
NB: This has nothing to do the US Central Intelligence Agency!
Our clients from differing sectors including Cloud Services, Software and Telecommunications tell us that the sales-mind model of CIA has proved very impactful for their sales teams. This unifies a lot of the stoic writings. All of life’s challenges will have aspects that fall under something we can either control, something we can influence or something we need to accept. Easy to write but personally challenging when we are under pressure to deliver the sales numbers.
Adversity and setbacks, fair and unfair are a part and parcel of life. What matters most is not what these obstacles are, but how we see them, react or respond to them, and whether we keep our composure. Do we present a knee jerk reaction or a considered response determines how successful we will be in overcoming or possibly thriving because of it. This helps us build the ‘art of not panicking’. When people panic they make mistakes: They override systems. They deviate from plans, they become unresponsive and stop thinking clearly. They just react rather than offer a considered response. Knowing the difference requires will power defined by emotional intelligence and self-awareness, which is represented by quiet humility, resilience and flexibility versus will power as a weakness manifesting itself as bluster and belligerence.
There are far more failures in the world due to a collapse of will than there will ever be from external events. We might perceive things well, then act rightly, and fail anyway, however nothing can prevent us from trying-ever.
Evaluating any external event and adopting the CIA model allows us to hit an ‘emotional pause button’. To quote Marcus Aurelius ‘does what happened to you keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self –control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility and straightforwardness. We cant necessarily control what happens to us but we can control how we respond to what happens to us is another way of putting it. Aspects we can bring to any situation are:
- Coherent and deliberative process
- An eye for the opportunity in the adversity
You don’t have to like something to master it-or use it to some advantage as Ryan Holiday put it in his book The Obstacle is the Way. Do the best you can with what you’ve got is a good mantra to adopt.
Things will go wrong; the only thing we can use to mitigate this is anticipation for the only variable we control completely is ourselves. In sales a good way to use this concept is to evaluate all the things that would prevent us from winning any deal-a lost deal review before the decision has been made! This is a well-known management tool called a pre-mortem! Far too many people don’t have a back up plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish.
Obstacles offer a unique chance to grow and improve. Lessons come hard only if you are deaf to them and life’s lessons have a habit of repeating themselves until they are learnt! We have to learn to remove our ego and emotion from the situation and bring a ‘scientific method’ to bear as a way to add a sense of perspective. Setbacks from a scientific experiment gone wrong would not piss off scientists, it would help them. In the last regard if we can’t solve this for ourselves how can we at least use the experience to make it better for teammates?
All about mindset
Most martial arts practitioners focus as much on mental training as on physical training. Both require equally vigorous exercise and practice. sales-mind adopts this and the works of stoic philosophy, sports psychology, business psychology and neuroscience in helping sales teams by enhancing focus, resilience, motivation and empathy.
By Mark Williams, CEO of a sales development company sales-mind. The Sales-mind approach is very different from traditional types of process and methodology sales training in that it addresses the mental side of work. The content, has been drawn from evidence based thought leadership in Psychologies, Behavioural Economics and Neuroscience. It delivers tools, techniques and mental constructs enhancing Focus, Resilience, Motivation/Self Confidence and Empathy. The object is to afford business leaders the opportunity to invest in their teams in a different and thought provoking way leaving a legacy of self determination, clear thinking and enhanced effectiveness.