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Staying Motivated In Challenging Times

Copyright 2003, by Dave Kahle.

One of my Ezine subscribers recently sent me this question:
"I really struggle with the highs and lows of field sales. Most days I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. In this economy, especially, it's difficult to stay positive. Any suggestions?"

This is one of those rarely voiced issues that every sales person must confront sooner or later. Sales is an emotional roller coaster, and unless you figure out how to manage those emotions and keep yourself motivated, you'll have a difficult time succeeding.

This is particularly true right now. As I write this, in the middle of 2003, the economy continues to struggle, and unemployment is higher than it has been for years. Many companies are cutting back, there are fewer jobs available, and pressures to perform are greater than ever.

I can emphasize with the anxiety felt by the reader. It's easy to lose our motivation.

However, even though the world around us may be dreary and depressing, that in no way reduces our personal need to do the best we can. And that means that we all have a responsibility to stay motivated.

It is amazing what a difference a few degrees of attitude adjustment can make in our performance. Try this little exercise. Tell yourself these things: "Business is terrible. All of my customers are struggling. No body wants to see me, and when they do, it's just to complain." Now wallow in those thoughts for a moment, and note how much energy and enthusiasm you have.

Now, think the opposite: "I have great opportunities. My customers need me more today than ever. I have valuable solutions for them. It's a great time to have this job." Roll those around in your mind for a while. Note how much energy and enthusiasm you have.

As you reflect on this exercise, it's clear that your energy, enthusiasm and drive to succeed come as a result of your thoughts. And here is one of the most powerful truths known to mankind: You can control your thoughts.

Succeeding in difficult times depends a great deal on our motivation. Staying motivated requires us to take charge of our thoughts.

I've heard dozens of sales people say, "I've tried positive thinking. It just isn't me." I agree that it is difficult to patch a bunch of positive thoughts on top of an essentially negative personality. The issue is deeper than that. Let's, therefore, examine the deeper issues.

At the heart of motivation lies a pair of powerful beliefs which you must embrace if you are going to successfully motivate yourself. Without a wholehearted commitment to these foundational beliefs, all the techniques and tactics for self-motivation are like spreading wall paper over crumbling plaster. It may hold temporarily, but it is soon going to deteriorate into a mess.

Here's the first foundational principle: You must believe that you can do better than you are now doing. The second is this: You must accept that it is your responsibility to do so.

Sounds so simple and common sense. However, the more I observe people, and salespeople specifically, the more convinced I am that the majority of people do not share these core beliefs. Rather, they are in the habit of making excuses for their situation. Or, they believe that it's really fate that determines their success, not their actions. Or, they believe that success is for someone else, not them. They never really grab unto the first of these foundational principles.

Others believe that they can achieve greater degrees of success. They embrace the idea, intellectually. They accept the first principle, but they never internalize the second. They become content with their situation, no matter what it is, and remain in pre-established comfort zones. Or they look at their manager as the person who is responsible for their success, or lack thereof. Or, it's their parent's fault, or their spouse's, or... the list goes on.

Whether you are struggling with a lack of energy that accompanies a bad day, or you're depressed and frustrated with your lack of progress on a larger scale, the first thing to do is to examine your core beliefs. If you really accept these two principles, you have the keystone in place to become highly motivated.

Having said that, there are some specific techniques that you can use to keep yourself motivated day-to-day. Here are a couple proven techniques.

1.  Have something you are working to accomplish.
This can be an important and compelling goal like saving enough money for a down payment on a house. When you are working toward something like that, your emotions of the moment have a tendency to be lower priority than your drive to achieve. If you are trying to make money for a home for your family, so what if you're tired or depressed? Get out and do it.

The same thing is true of a compelling purpose. I believe that every salesperson should have a clear articulation of his/her purpose in life. I once began a ten-week sales training program with a requirement that everyone write a two-sentence "life purpose." Why is that? Because it gives power and focus to everything you do. In the job of the salesperson, there will lots of times when you find it to be difficult, when things don't go your way. You may lose a big deal, or be unable to get anyone to return your calls. At times like those, it sure helps to view them within the context of a larger perspective - a life purpose.


2.  Proactively put positive thoughts into your mind.
Make a point of taking charge of your mind and the kind of thoughts you choose to think. Wise and thoughtful people for ages have discovered an extremely powerful principle:

You actions arise from your thoughts, and you can choose your thoughts.

Controlling and managing your thoughts is one of the basic tenants of Zen Buddhism, for example. In the Christian context, the apostle Paul said, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Philosophers, educators, and thinkers of every generation conclude the same thing.

But the power of this truth is not reserved just for philosophers. Sales people can make use of it as well.

The reason you may feel depressed or anxious is because you are thinking depressing or anxious thoughts. Change your thoughts, and you can change your feelings. Change your emotions, and you can change your behavior. Change your behavior and you can change your results.

It's not as difficult as it may sound.

Do this -- invest in a couple of audio programs - good, positive stuff like my Smart Selling, or How to Become a Master of Distributor Sales. Or, find something at the local library. Then, as you drive between appointments, and on your way home after work, listen to those tapes or CDs. You'll find yourself thinking positive thoughts. Those positive thoughts will lead to a more positive attitude. That attitude will evidence itself in more focused actions. Those actions will lead to better results.

Read educational and inspiring books and periodicals. There are literally hundreds of good sales books published each year. Spend 30 minutes at your local Barnes & Noble, Borders or business book store and you'll find several works that will interest and stimulate you.

The World Wide Web is awash with resources. In addition to my own monthly ezine, I'm aware of at least five regular electronic publications for salespeople, and there are probably dozens more.

Then there are hardcopy publications. Check out Selling Power Magazine and Sales & Marketing Management Magazine - two classy professional publications. I'm on the editorial advisory panels of three paper publications - newsletters that will serve to stimulate and encourage you. There are, of course, dozens of others.

There is no realistic limit to the amount of positive, educational material available to you. If you are not regularly exposing yourself to some of this, it is because you are choosing to not be motivated. If nothing else, sign up for my monthly ezine at www.davekahle.com/mailinglist.html.

All of these sources will give you ideas, stimulate your mind and encourage you. The result will be more positive thoughts. And the result of that will be a motivated, successful person.

Succeeding in difficult times requires you to take charge of your motivation.

Now is the time to take this most important step to becoming a true professional.


Dave Kahle offers a variety of resources that can help your business stay competitive in changing times. To learn you can reach Dave by phone at 800-331-1287 or send him an email request.

Transforming Your Sales Force for the 21st Century
Transforming Your Sales Force for the 21st Century
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Distribution companies, by their nature, should be sales-oriented companies. But, most distributors don't do sales very well. That's the premise behind this new book.

The book, written for sales managers and executives in the distribution industry, provides a blue print for executives to transform their sales forces into highly directable, effective, focused performers.

The book begins with an analysis of current conditions that pressure the distributor to revise the way he/she thinks about his sales force. Kahle then paints a picture of the distributor sales force of the future. The sales force will be:
  1. more specialized
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  3. more flexible
  4. more professional
  5. more productive.
His advice begins with "See it as a system," a concept that is based on one of the key principles for the book, "When you change the structure, you change the behavior of the people who work within that structure."
 
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