Mental Toughness! Your Key to Sales Success!

Many years ago (not that I am sensitive about my age) when I was playing college basketball, I was exposed to a coach named Gene Smithson.  At that time he was the assistant coach at Illinois State University.  He then went on to coach Wichita State University.

His mantra was  “MTXE” or “Mental Toughness Extra Effort”.  What the heck was he trying to do with this term “MTXE?”  It was his effort to bring resolve and a take-no-prisoners attitude to his players at both schools.  It is amazing how something sticks with you, but this one stuck with me. Mental toughness is not just important in athletics, it is extremely important in sales.

You should recognize that attitude could make the difference between winning and losing, or even walking away from an  occupations.

A Definition of Mental Toughness

According to a qualitative study by three individuals from Australia, Jones, Hanton, and Connaughton (2002) entitled Discovering Mental Toughness: A Qualitative Study of Mental Toughness in Elite Athletes, mental toughness is:

“…having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to:  1.) Generally, cope better than your opponents with many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sports places on a performer; and 2.) Specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.”

They went on to publish what they identified as attributes of mental toughness.  I will include a few here:

  • Self-belief
  • An Unshakeable focus
  • High Levels of Desire and Determination
  • An Overall Consistency of Effort and Technique

There is no doubt that these translate to the sales arena as well.Meta

Mental Toughness in Sales

Whether it is B2B or B2P, there is much to break you down in the world of sales.  Competition is tough, pricing is difficult, and the economy affects how people and companies spend their money.  Now, throw into the mix that the 3Ps (Perceptions, Preference, and Perceptions) sometimes play a role.

Facing adversity and winning is what all good sales professionals seek.  As a matter of fact, many do it all of the time.  Those who have strong self-belief, unshakeable focus, and consistency of effort while maintaining professional technique and high levels of desire and determination are who we interpret as winners. Sales professionals who win consistently are usually examples of mental toughness.

When you are mentally tough, nothing stops you from doing your routine; nothing stops you from your 10 or 20 calls per day.  It is what you do, and if they all result in a “no” answer, you realize that there will be more yes answers tomorrow.

Mental toughness in sales is attainable, and when coupled with Extra Effort it creates a significance force.  When coupled with a good sales plan and solid preparation you have a star.

Extra Effort

What is Extra Effort is in the avocation of professional sales and how does this apply to you?  It is essentially doing over and above what is necessary so that success is assured, and doing it better than most other sales professionals.

In prospecting it is making the additional five prospecting calls per day, with the recognition that the next call could be the “pay dirt” that moves the day from the normal success of scoring on 1 for 10 calls to the very successful 2-3 appointments. There is no area that extra effort will have the more impact than the process of sourcing prospects.

In customer service, it is the extra effort of treating each customer as if they are the only customer.  Giving this level of customer service is more time consuming and requires consistent awareness and forethought.

In prospecting it is treating each relationship as your focal point.  This can be a game changer in the long run.  It builds confidence and relationships.  There is no doubt that it takes extra effort to make this happen.

In your sales career it is getting the credentials that will make you a product or industry expert, giving you some degree of preference over other professionals that populate your industry.

Are You Mentally Tough?

Mental toughness is exemplified by many of the attributes that were illustrated in the beginning of this post.   As we apply it to what you do everyday, if you do not have these attributes, you can get them.  There is nothing magical about these attributes, they are what happens when you are mentally prepared, and realistic.

If sales is an occupation for you, you probably are outgoing, and probably not fragile.  You have personality and you are willing to have some income at risk.  You can accept coaching and have an ability to form strong relationships.  You need to be able to accept the rejection and disappointment that comes with the turf.

Now you need to build your mental toughness.  If you can recognize that much of the ‘rejection’ that comes during the sales process is not personal.  It just may seem hard to believe this when it is happening to you.  Mental toughness will get you there.  Frankly, you know you are good at what you do, and you know that you, and your company, have something to offer.  Be undeterred and keep calling more and more potential customers.  They do not know you or your qualifications.  They are not aware of your ability to provide solutions and solid customer service.

Your toughness focuses on the fact that you will have many rejections during prospecting, and some customers will leave you because of pricing, economics, and other varied reasons.  If you are calling potential customers as frequently as you can, you will not feel the pain of a few calls going bad.  It is a numbers game as was discussed in Black Sales Journal 2/28, How Many Prospects Do You Really Need?

We will talk more about mental toughness and extra effort in a future post.  Realize that you probably have it but do not recognize it.  Be the professional!

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Cold Calling Etiquette! Be The Master!

As a sales professional, you know that finding prospects and developing your leads is crucial.  You are probably doing in-person cold calls and continuously honing your skills to increase your effectiveness.  You also know survival would be difficult without the tool we call the telephone, as much of your prospecting is done on the phone.

It cannot hurt to discuss some basic cold calling etiquette for in person as well as phone solicitation.  Many of you veteran’s know this and practice it, yet a review for others can’t hurt.

In-Person Solicitation/Cold Call

As a sales professional I cold-called and that probably lead to me being a manager who also accepted cold call solicitations.  I will admit to giving almost all sales professionals a chance to make their pitch.  As I moved higher in the organization the sales pros were not always as lucky when they got my executive assistant as her patience with sales “nubees” as well as long-termers was short.  When they did get past her and to me, it was because she gave them her consent.

We had reps approach us who were unkempt, unprepared, and unprofessional.  Did I waste time by talking to them?  The answer is yes, and sometimes it was painful.  I also had a chance to witness some good sales practices from true professionals who knew the importance of their appearance as well as how to deliver their message quickly and effectively.

The short list that follows is more from a person who was solicited than one who was responsible for the employment of sales professionals.  It is a different view, and I think valuable for those with just the sales perspective.

I will throw out a few simple etiquette points for the in-person cold call that you should always consider:

  • Be prepared - Always know what you want to say.  Respect the prospect’s time.
  • Know your prospect’s name – Know the correct pronunciation and by the end of the call, the correct spelling.  When someone cannot get your name right it makes you wonder.
  • Check your appearance – You only get one chance for a first impression.  Have a mirror in the car or your brief case, and use it.
  • Be fresh – It goes without saying that gum or mints always help.  Remember, as the day goes on, you need to make sure that you are on top of your game.  Of course chew the gum before the call, not during the call.
  • Remember the end game – You want some information as well as an appointment.  A short informative call is what a buyer wants, while you want information.

It is also important to remember these important tips as they can get on the nerves of any potential customer:

  • Your prospect’s washroom is not for you. When cold calling/prospecting, get your relief the same place that you get your coffee.
  • Do not smoke on your customer’s premises, not even in the parking lot in your car.  This is not the place to satisfy your habits.
  • Turn off your cell phone while you are there. This is personal interface etiquette which you must practice.

The Phone – The Ultimate Sales Tool

The phone is an enabler, and even more important is the fact that it is totally acceptable to use it as a prospecting tool.  When I began selling many years ago, the phone was just barely acceptable for cold calling.  Most prospecting was done in-person, and it was very time consuming.  In the early ‘80s, it became acceptable to solicit and that was a renaissance as it not only saved time but allowed some “racial anonymity” to start the process.

There is established etiquette for using the phone as a prospecting tool.  The best sales professionals observe the etiquette and maintain their professional standing.

Here are a few of the more important items:

Phone solicitation:

  • Be conscious of the prospect’s time – short and to the point.
  • Have your phone voice ready – be warmed up.  Know one wants to hear you clearing your throat at 9:00 in the morning.
  • Have a brief but inclusive statement (sales pitch) to start your call
  • Avoid the ‘tricks’ such as telling assistants that you are an acquaintance if you are not.  You will lose in the end.
  • Avoid the speakerphone for cold calling – use a headset if you need both hands for notes and otherwise.
  • Don’t shuffle papers, tap pencils, or create unnecessary background noise.

Voice mail Etiquette:

  • Short messages only – keep it to 35-45 seconds max.
  • Talk slowly and clearly – spell words such as names or product names if necessary.
  • Leave your number at the beginning of the message and at the end of your message – no exec will go back to the beginning to get the number if they are interested.
  • Again, no background noise – no Judge Judy or soap operas in the background!
  • Clear concise message – plan it well and deliver.

The phone is an equalizer if used correctly as it reduces the opportunity for fair and equitable treatment for this first ‘touch’.  There is more to it than picking it up and dialing; there is planning and practice to do.  You can work magic with a solid script and practice.

If you have read Black Sales Journal before, you probably know how I feel about practice/role playing.  You should work at it until your comfort level is obvious.

Try it and you will realize that you will learn from each call.

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