Are you struggling to feel confident with your new or existing sales job? Jill Konrath, author of the new book Agile Selling, explains why simply shifting your sales mindset can have a huge impact on your success.
Whether you’re just getting starting or you’ve been in sales for years, sometimes it’s hard to feel confident when walking into a room or getting on the phone for a sales call. The good news is there are simple things you can do to create a positive experience and generate positive outcomes no matter how the sale itself turns out.
Jill Konrath, author of Snap Selling, Selling to Big Companies, and most recently Agile Selling, says transforming a negative sales experience into a valuable learning lesson is an important state of mind that can propel you forward when things don’t pan out perfectly.
This Week’s Guest
— Jill Konrath, author of Agile Selling
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- Without the right mindset, its much easier to fail or mess up.
- Realize that success is a choice. Most people quit just before they get over the hump. If you just stay with it a little longer you figure it out.
- Some strategies to combat fear may seem trivial, but they really work:
- Transform failures into valuable learning lessons
- Even a small shift like sitting up straight can make you feel more confident
- Always return to the positive mindset. Its not natural at first, but you can condition yourself to treat all failures as positive experiences.
Announcer: This is Labcast, insights and ideas for the expansion-stage senior manager, hosted by OpenView Labs.
CeCe: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. This is CeCe Bazar with OpenView Labs. Thrilled to be joined again by Jill Konrath, author of Agile Selling and SNAP Selling. Jill, thanks so much for joining us again today.
Jill: I’m glad to be back.
CeCe: Thanks. Last time we spoke with Jill, we were talking about rapid-learning and the ability to chunk down, dump, and sequence information that you can learn everything that you need to know faster. This is all part of Jill’s new book, Agile Selling and how salespeople can get up to speed quickly in today’s ever-changing sales world.
That was a huge success, Jill, but we’re back today to talk about something a little bit different and a little bit more fundamental. Let’s talk about mindset. I know this is something that you’ve spoken about in the past. How can mindset affect sales people and their performance?
Want more tips from Jill?
Jill: It has a huge impact because the mindset buys new salespeople the time to become proficient. That’s a strange thing to say. A lot of people say, “What comes first, the will or the way?” We focus so often on, “Here’s everything you need to learn from a knowledge standpoint and from a skill development standpoint,” but underneath it all, without the right mindset, it can lead to early failure. Can I just share a story?
CeCe: Yeah, I’d like that.
Jill: About my early years in sales. A few years ago, I was asked by Andrew Limouris who was the CEO of Medix, which is a high-growth young company, to speak to his sales team. I was doing a training program, a half-day. In the day before, he said to me, “Jill, would you spend the first half hour just talking about your first years in sales, because I’ve got a young sales force. They’re not used to this,” and so I said, “Sure.” I went and started thinking about it. It’s been a while. What amazed me about my first couple years in sales was the sheer amount of fear that I felt during that time.
Jill: A lot of people would say that couldn’t be true because you appeared so confident and competent. I think many people who are in sales put on a good face of being confident, but underneath it all there’s this fear that, “Maybe I’m not going to make it in sales. Maybe if I did make it in sales, this last month I couldn’t repeat it the next month.”
I was stunned when I recalled the fear. I started thinking about all the strategies that I used to address the fear. The strategies themselves were what I thought were trivial at the time. However researches today showing that they are significant strategies that help people do that.
I shared the story with these young salespeople. As I’m sharing it, every single head is nodding. They’re all feeling the fear at some level. Nobody’s head is nodding large enough so that their neighbors can see it. It’s just like this, “Oh, she’s talking exactly what I’m feeling,” deep thing. I showed the strategies that I personally used. It was at that moment in time that I realized that this was an epidemic problem that all newer salespeople face and all salespeople who are in new positions face.
CeCe: Absolutely. We work a lot with outbound lead generation teams. Oftentimes these are recent graduates, first job out of school and they’re of that millennial mindset where they’re used to that instant gratification, understanding everything and understanding it now. The fact that you’re walking into a new place and you don’t have all the answers, that can make someone really fearful and nervous. What are some of those strategies that you used, Jill, to overcome that mindset?
Jill: I think the first thing that anybody who is fairly new to a sales position needs to realize is that success is a choice. It literally is a choice. I say that because most people quit. Most people who don’t make it in sales quit just before they get over the hump. They get in three, six, nine months and they go, “This is too hard,” but if they had just stayed with it a little longer, they would have figured it out.
Success is a choice. Beyond that, one of the things that I think makes the most difference is knowing how to transform failure and eliminate failure, entirely familiar vocabulary and turn it into anything that could be conceived as a potential fail into a valuable learning experience.
CeCe: I think that is so important. Can you give us an example of one? Maybe someone who’s new in sales who might feel like that failure that losing that customer or not picking up that call is the end of the world and how they can change that.
Jill: Sure, I’ll give you a real personal example on that one. It’s something that I haven’t told a lot in my life but I am telling finally now. When I first started sales, I was a learner. I was trying to learn as much as I could about sales fast because I was scared to death of failing. I had cold called this one company and talked to a woman. I was selling copiers for Xerox at the time. She said her company was making a copier decision. I was all excited about the chance to work with her. I was going to get back to her that next week.
Anyway over the weekend, I read a book and talked about the need to call at the highest level in organization. I suddenly realized I had called too low, that this Tinsy that I was talking to was an executive assistant. I needed to talk to her boss.
On Monday, I called her boss, got a meeting set up with him, went in to see him later on the week, and while I was waiting in the lobby, guess who came to get me to see the boss? Tinsy, the lady I’d been working with. She said, “Jill, what are you doing here?” I said, “I’m meeting with Mr. Big.” She said, “Why?” It was at that moment in time I realized it probably was a dumb idea, that I’d gone around her. I explained why. She started swearing at me and yelling at me. She was all over me in the lobby, and I fainted dead away on the floor.
Jill: Yes. I passed out and I remembered coming to and I had short little skirt on. I had to first get that part together and then I got up and put my head between my knees. She said to me, “Are you okay?” I said, “Yes, I’ll be fine.” She said, “Okay, then you leave and never come back here again.” That was a pivotal moment for me. I need to tell you. Not many people have fainted in sales calls actually. At this point, I had to either learn from that or I already had failed. You know what I mean?
Jill: I had to go sit outside and say, “Jill, that was horrid. You made an absolute fool of yourself. You can either call it quits right now. This is a decision point or you can figure out where you screwed up and make sure you never do it again.” I chose the latter. The learning from this is you never, ever go around somebody.
Jill: You never go around somebody. You find out a way to have that person take you to the person that you want to see or you open the door to the conversation earlier. That’s a real-life example for me. It was a real hard lesson to learn.
Everybody has those failures where they really blow it badly or they have a whole bunch of little ones where nobody calls them back and they start to think, “What’s wrong with me?” It’s not you. It’s a chance to learn. Emails that don’t get returned, there’s a gazillion reasons why they couldn’t get returned. Many of them you have control over it. If you’re not getting callbacks, you can just say, “All right. What might I change? They’re not responding to this. What else could I try?”
CeCe: I think it’s that idea of continuous improvement that people really need to take into consideration. Obviously changing your mindset and understanding that, “Okay, fear of failure and failure is most likely a reality.” Are there any strategies or things that salespeople can take into consideration in order to really adjust to that mindset?
Jill: First of all, I think people have to realize that they have to keep coming back to that mindset. It doesn’t just happen overnight. I think you have to realize that when the bad things happen, you probably have to gulp and go, “Okay, I’m not going to die here. What did I learn?” It’s not natural at first. There’s always a huge pit in the stomach or terror button that goes off.
We have to keep calling ourselves back to, “It’s not the end of the world. I’m learning. What did I learn?” If you don’t know what you learned but you know something bad happened, then you go have to explore it with other people. That’s something simple, but also to realize that there’s a whole lot of things that you can do to reduce the fear. Some of them are very physical.
By that, I mean simply changing your posture changes your response and your fear levels. A lot of people don’t realize that, that if you sit up… You’re on the phone and you’re feeling like you’re a failure. Your shoulders are hunched in. You’re kind of sagging. That posture itself is a posture that gives your body chemicals that make you feel even worse.
CeCe: Everyone listening to this podcast right now just sat up straight.
Jill: Let me tell you this. When you sit up straight and hold yourself erect or strike a careless pose, you put your feet up and take up a whole lot more space or stand as Wonder Woman, what you are doing is your body is releasing more testosterone, which gives you more courage. It reduces cortisol, your stress hormone.
CeCe: That’s great.
Jill: Simply the posture matters. Isn’t that fascinating?
CeCe: It’s amazing to me how much just those tiny shifts can make such a huge difference.
Jill: Right. I did a lot of these things personally when I first started in sales. I did them just because I just didn’t know what else to do. Now that I know that they are real strategies and they’re not just some stupid things, that they are real, it’s like, I stumbled on it. I don’t think there’s any reason everybody should stumble on it or not stumble upon it. It should be just a practice. Sit up straight when you’re doing these things. When you’re feeling bad or worse, that’s the most important time to take that Wonder Woman pose.
CeCe: My favorite thing to also think about especially for those who are new into sales is that everyone before you has had some type of failure or they have messed up before. One of the things we talked to our portfolio companies about a lot is having a round-robin where everyone in the room can go around on the phone and have the opportunity to mess up in front of one another and learn from that experience.
Even managers get involved, get on the phones, because if your reps hear you and they hear that you mess up or we say, “Vomit all over yourself in front of a prospect or in front of a customer,” that’s the best opportunity to prove that you’re in the weeds with them and that it is okay to fail just as long as you’re trying.
Jill: Right. I think we all look around us and we think everybody else is perfect and we can’t measure up to these people. What we don’t realize is that anybody who’s successful has had these failures. I probably had more failures than more people combined, but that’s why I’m successful…
CeCe: Me too.
Jill: …because I stopped and learned from them.
CeCe: That’s simply amazing. Jill, thanks so much again for joining us today. Everyone, if you want to learn more about how you can change your mindset, be sure to check out Agile Selling. Jill, thanks so much.
Jill: Truly my pleasure.
CeCe: Take care.
Image by William Neuheisel