Mental Toughness Revisited – Asset for the Black Sales Professional

I wanted to take an opportunity to revisit this topic while I take a needed break during this holiday season.  This is the cornerstone of the attitude that you need in this occupation.  Mental toughness is not a attribute that is required in all occupations, but in sales to be successful, it is a requirement.  This is a topic that we will  approach in some different ways during the 2012 year, yet take a look, or another look at this one, or send it to another sales professional if they are new in the game.


Boxing BusinessmanMany 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 MTXE?  It was his effort to bring resolve and a take-no-prisoners attitude to his players at both schools.

You should recognize that attitude as a necessity in the sales arena as well.

A Definition

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.

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!

We welcome your comments.

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