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!

We welcome your comments.

The Smartest Person in the Room

If you were to do a little research you would find something fascinating about people and positions within your organization.  You would find that the successful sales executive usually out-earns most positions that are not considered upper management.

Let me explain it in different way.  When I was a sales manager, I expected that my successful professionals should make more than I made, and the best did so handily.  General managers, vice-presidents, even some Sr. Vice Presidents and up are at a disadvantage when it comes to the total compensation package, but there are good reasons for it.

So why do so many people believe that all the brains in an organization are in the engineering departments, finance department, and general management?  Well, because so many people don’t know the rigors of professional selling and the strategies and intelligence needed to do it.

No Logarithms Needed

Think about the sheer brainpower needed to calculate the thrust to get out of earth orbit for a space vehicle with monstrous dimensions.  If you consider the brainpower necessary to design the new generation of space vehicles you would be correct in that it takes a ‘rocket’ scientist.  Now the big question:  Could they sell it?

Have you ever considered that those skills are literally worthless when they are used to try to convince a buyer that he or she should change widget manufacturers and do business with your organization?  You don’t need sophisticated mathematical formulae or extreme logarithms to make that happen, you need the ability to:

  • Create trusting and confident relationships
  • Apply sales techniques to influence buying decisions
  • Anticipate and answer the customer questions
  • Present effectively and with aplomb

Many people have trouble putting a value on these, but a sales manager and General manager know that this individual makes their job easier.  It is obvious that we all have our calling in life, and the role of a sales professional, as I have said before is to “convince someone to do something that they would ordinarily not do.”  Frankly, not everyone can do it.  It is an art, with some technical aspects behind it.

It’s Not For Everybody

Not everyone can play this role as it requires an individual who can:

  • Work with all types of people
  • Analyze and anticipate buyers needs and desires
  • Withstand rejection
  • Counter objections effectively

The best of these individuals are compensated highly for their skills and the uncertainty of the job to the degree that their annual income, which may include salary and bonus or otherwise are enviable.   Sure it is hard work, but so many know it is their ‘ticket out’ and have provided for their family in ways that draws jealousy from people in the other functions or departments.

I have seen sales compensation amounts in sales departments well over the $1M mark, and currently know a sales professional in financial services who 5 years ago, when the getting was good cleared over $1.2M.  Now, that is rarified air, and there are many who make more than those high numbers.  I am talking about b2b sales in these examples, and I am not talking about extreme or exotic products.

Machines Will Never Take Over

The occupation of professional sales is not unique, but it does stand out.  It might be one of those occupations that will not be taken over by computers or outsourcing.  The reason is simple, customer intimacy!  The sales professional does a lot of things, but the most importantly from the standpoint of the customer, they create the confidence that the customer needs to make the switch and stay put.

Even when we are talking about a commodity, the sales professional and the value that they bring can make the competitive difference (See Black Sales Journal 2/24-Selling a Commodity – The Difference is You).

The sale professional recognizes customer lifetime value (from the sales standpoint see Black Sales Journal 2/16 – All Customers Are not Created Equal) and seeks to extend the relationship as long as possible.

When the machines can create and nurture relationships we will be in trouble, but I don’t see that happening soon.

The Smartest Guy In the Room

So the smartest guy in the room might not be the engineer, the architect, the computer designer, or the aerospace scientist, it might be the person who operates closest to the person that pays the bills.  We know that as the customer.  We can’t do without them, and they need to be nurtured and fed.

This sales professional role is best done by someone who comes in with the skills that we probably take for granted.  We will call them advanced sales skills.

So the smartest guy in the room may well be the Ultimate Sales Professional (Black Sales Journal – The Ultimate Sales Professional I, II, and III).  Read this and let me know what you think.

We will ‘just ask him not to wear a cape to the sales presentations.  So when the meeting happens, who is the smartest guy in the room?

Your comments are welcome.