I have long enjoyed your articles. I am in my second year of being a full commission salesman and wanted to get your advice. When I make an onsite visit or pick up the 500 pound phone and call the customer, I feel like I am begging for work… asking the headmaster for another cup of gruel. I know this isn’t healthy and I genuinely believe my product is of great quality and valuable to the customer.
I get very anxious and apprehensive to, first, pickup the phone, then, to call the customer and try to wade through my nervousness and then try to act confident to get the sale. I work out of a home office separated from the main office which is about two hours away. I can call down and talk to the owner or my production manager for a pep talk or product updates. My challenge, I guess, is self confidence and conviction.
Ah…call reluctance. We’ve all been there. There is not a sales person alive who hasn’t, at some time or another, felt the same things you are feeling.
Congratulations on taking the first step. You’ve recognized the problem and correctly diagnosed that the issue lies within yourself. I’m not so sure that conviction is an issue. You’ve indicated that you are convinced that your product is of great quality and valuable to the customer. So, I expect that conviction is not the problem.
The issue is your thoughts and feelings. If you can somehow gain control of those, you’ll control your reluctance, you’ll make more calls and you’ll make them more effectively. Your results will improve; you’ll make more money, enjoy life more, and maybe even retire early to a home in the Caribbean!
It does come down to working with yourself, managing your thoughts and emotions. Sooner or later, almost every sales problem comes down to this. You recognize, of course, that it is your responsibility to manage your thoughts and emotions. Accepting that responsibility is the next positive step to take.
So, you’ve diagnosed the problem, and it is you. You’ve accepted the responsibility to change you, and you’ve bought into the idea that you can, and should, do so.
Now, the question is how. There are a variety of specific techniques you can try to gain control. Keep experimenting with these different ideas until you find a combination that provides you the control that you want.
The first set of techniques is based on this premise: The reason you are so reluctant is because you are allowing negative thoughts to occupy your mind. The negative thoughts paralyze your actions. So, the key is to eliminate the negative thoughts. You do this, not by focusing on the negative, but rather by substituting positive thoughts. Here are several proven techniques.
1. Commit to a life’s purpose.
Create a specific, detailed statement of your purpose in life. Clarify that. Then post that in front of your work station. See each day’s work, and each set of phone calls, as a means to a much more important end. Focus on achieving your purpose, and the small things will fall into line.
2. Focus on a specific and powerful goal.
This is similar to the technique discussed above, only with a smaller focus. It’s not your life’s purpose that provides you emotional power and strength; it’s some annual or short term goal. Create a written statement of exactly what you want to achieve or acquire. Maybe a new car. Set a deadline.
3. Visualize that goal.
Picture it and put it in front of you in your work station. Now, consider your day’s activities to be minor steps in the process of achieving that goal. It’s not about this phone call; it’s about doing what you need to do to achieve your goal. Focus on the goal, and allow it to overpower any negative thoughts that may enter your mind.
4. Put in positive thoughts.
Somewhere along the line you have picked up a number of negative thoughts that occupy your mind. One way to get rid of them is to push them out of your mind by substituting positive thoughts. Search out a number of positive thoughts and write them down. I have used quotes from famous teachers – like Shakespeare, and positive quotes from the Bible. Here’s an example, “If God can be for you, who can be against you?” Now, read that group of thoughts to yourself before you start every day, at every break, at the end of the day, and every time you feel yourself getting negative. In a few weeks, you’ll find yourself thinking positive, not negative thoughts.
5. Picture success and what it brings.
This is a variation of number two, above. Picture yourself having a great day. Lots of sales, wonderful calls, positive things happening. Now, enjoy the feeling. Relish it. Explore it. Really, thoroughly, experience how it feels to have a successful day. Now, every day, in the morning before you begin, and several times throughout the course of the day, bring up those feelings. Work toward creating them every day. Focus on how it feels to be successful, not the negative thoughts that have occupied you.
The second set of practices is based on a more behavioral approach. This approach skips over the “thoughts and feelings” part of you, and focuses on your action. Here are a few specific techniques to implement these kinds of techniques:
6. Give yourself specific activity numbers and specific rewards.
Set a daily goal. Let’s say something like 20 successful conversations with customers. Then attach a short term, specific reward to the attainment of that goal. When you attain it, for example, you could give yourself one hole of golf to be played that weekend. So, you’re working to reward yourself with a round of golf. You do it by focusing on your behavior.
7. Line up your calls, and discipline yourself to make another call immediately after you hang up from the first one.
So, for example, you set up a list of 20 calls. As soon as you hang up from one, you dial the next with absolutely no time between. The time between is time to think, and that has not been positive for you. So you manage your behavior to focus on the things you need to do, and not allow the thoughts to intervene.
8. Make a warm call first.
Call your production manager, boss, or customer service person first, before you make any cold calls. That gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, makes you feel like someone really does want to talk to you. Then, immediately jump into the cold call list. Focus on the behavior.
Finally, there are a couple of techniques that fall somewhere between these two approaches.
9. Use positive affirmations.
Write a group of statements about yourself that are positive and specific, and relate to the task at hand. Things like “I have a warm and confident presence on the phone.” “I look forward to every contact I make.” These statements reflect who you would like to become, and are not necessarily reflections of reality. Then, read those affirmations to yourself repeatedly, every day, several times a day. Eventually, you come to believe them. And, eventually, you live up to your beliefs about yourself.
10. Learned optimism.
This is a specific set of techniques that arise out of the research of Martin Seligman, PhD. I’d refer you to his landmark book, “Learned Optimism”, to read the very powerful techniques for self-management.
Every sales person has to come to grips with his greatest enemy and most powerful asset – his/her mind. That often means we need to create disciplines to help us manage ourselves – mentally and emotionally. As you acquire these disciplines, you mature as a sales person, and learn to manage yourself to exceptional performance.