Getting into the Sales Performance Zone

Posted by on March 24, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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One of the great South African Olympic achievementsat the Athens Games in ’04, swimming gold medals aside, was the Silver medal in the men’s 800m by South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi. This result is made remarkable by Mulaudzi’s early season and pre-Olympic form – or total lack thereof. In his last race in the “Golden League” prior to the ‘Games, he came stone last! What did he, and other performers do in order to get out of the “slump”. As salespeople we occasionally hit slumps too – periods when it seems we are incapable of selling heaters to Eskimos. Read on to find out why slumps occur and how to get out of them quickly.

There is an old adage that says that “success breeds success”. Well the opposite is also true – failure breeds failure, and once we have received a few rejections in relative quick succession, we begin to doubt ourselves and our sales (or sporting abilities). Although these rejections may have nothing or very little to do with our abilities, we still perceive them as failures and once we have focused our thoughts on our perceived short-comings, these begin to hinder our performance.

1. Our mind moves us in the direction of our most dominant thought! Get a piece of paper and a pen. If you are right-handed, use your right foot and lefties use your left leg. Take the pen in your writing hand, lift your corresponding leg and begin to make clockwise circles with your foot. While making these circles, draw a number 6 on the page in front of you…. What happened to your leg? The only thing that changed was the dominant thought you had – it moved from circling to thinking “Draw 6”. So the first step is to change your negative perception about your sales abilities.

2. Warm-up. Surprisingly, when we are out of the sales zone, a well-established “warm-up” routine can help get us back in the zone, in very much the same way that athletes warm-up before competition. Ours however is not a physical warm-up; we’re going to place more emphasis on a mental warm-up.

A) Positive Self-imagery: These rehearsals should be short in duration and interspersed with effective, deep breathing. You can do this in the car before you enter the prospect’s office. This exercise will help you see yourself incarnating a specific positive quality whilst performing your “sales actions”. Eg: Walking tall, with purpose and direction.

B) Segmenting Goals: When I was participating in a multi-day cycle tour in Mpumalanga, the fact that I had never been a strong climber caused me to dread the third stage – one with three monstrous climbs spread over 185km. The thought of trailing the bunch over three climbs and then having to try and chase to stay within the cut-off time at the finish had me drained and perspiring before the stage had even begun. A fellow cyclist asked me to rate fear of the stage on a scale of 1 – 10. When I replied “10” he asked me how I would rate the first 50km to the base of the first major mountain pass, and I replied “3” (flats and rolling hills have always been my strength). In this way he taught me to segment the race by facing each obstacle on its own. As it turned out I rated the first climb a 6, the second a 8 and the third one a 6 again. Although I still finished behind the winners, the day was not as taxing as I first feared, the climbs not as hard as I had anticipated and I finished well within the elimination time. Try to segment your goals when going into a meeting with a prospect.

C) Change fear (anxiety) into Energy: I once heard someone define fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real”. Psychologists and sportsmen use the term “anxiety” rather than fear. When we are out of the sales zone, we become anxious, sometimes even desperate, about making sales calls and getting orders two things happen. Firstly our physiology changes. Heart rate increases, muscles tense up, our level of brain functioning increases to between 20Hz and 40Hz, our mouth goes dry, and we may sweat more profusely. The second thing that happens is that our prospect picks up that we are anxious and desperate which disempowers us and gives the “edge” to our prospect.

Studies among Olympic athletes have shown that when they become anxious they have a tendency to assign their strengths to their opponents. British shotist Barbara Lynch was preparing to shoot against World Champion Susan Natrose. When working with her performance coach John Syer, he found that Barbara described her opponent by using all the strong qualities she usually assigned to herself. She was able to overcome this through a visualisation exercise in which she saw her opponent’s strengths as a bright light that flowed from Susan back into her. This way she was able claim back her own strengths and in doing so, she could visualise her opponent shrinking while she (Barbara) was filling with renewed energy and strength.

We can do the same by visualising our prospect’s energy filling us prior to the meeting thereby feeling less intimidated by “powerful” decision-makers and using their energy to motivate us.

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