As a sales training company, we spend a lot of time focusing our content on the technical side of selling. But we do also like to take a step back and examine the human elements of being a sales rep or sales leader, or a professional of any sort.
Like everyone out there in the world of selling, and the world in general, we’ve had to make certain shifts in the way we communicate and sell, lead and influence. The virtual selling environment has redefined our roles as salespeople and as people.
There is a certain vulnerability that exists within the practice of selling virtually, instead of face-to-face with our customers.
Change can be uncomfortable. It requires growth. But it’s important to examine this, to self-reflect, to figure out why it’s difficult, and learn how to push through those barriers to growth.
We hope that our ideas help address some of those challenges that salespeople are still dealing with in the world of virtual sales. At the end of the day, we all still have a job to do, and that is to serve our customers well.
The Barriers to Growth
A lot of the barriers to growth are emotional ones. It’s uncomfortable to leave your comfort zone. It’s hard to put yourself out there when the potential for failure exists, especially in new situations like those we’re all having to face with virtual selling.
“The problem is, if we stay in our comfort zone, we’re never going to get better at anything.” – Tom Stanfill
The place to start is with the “why.” Why is it so difficult to try something different or new? There are really two main obstacles to growth, to getting better at something: time and pain.
It requires time to learn or improve new skills and capabilities. That’s just the truth. It’s a rare person that can pick up a new sales skill or personal habit and excel on their very first try.
Whether it is writing or speaking or presenting virtually or landing a new job, when you really drill down into it, I believe we shy away from growth opportunities because it hurts to fail.
“Pain is part of the process.” – Tom Stanfill
Most people don’t like to lose. We’ve been taught, unfortunately, that our performance equals our value. From an early age, we learn that praise and attention come from being “good” at something and performing well. We become afraid of failing, of what people will think of us.
But there cannot be real growth without a certain level of discomfort.
When you look at people that have accomplished amazing things, it’s because they have learned how to manage the process, monitor the narrative, and push through the pain towards growth and success.
So how can we manage, lessen, and work through that pain in order to achieve growth and success?
Making the Decision to Commit
As you’re working on anything related to self-development, you have to want it. You have to have the desire and will to make that shift. It’s about a decision to make that leap of faith and then accept that missteps, setbacks, and even failures will be part of that journey. It comes with the territory of personal and professional growth.
With that in mind, we’ve laid out some tools and strategies, from our own experience, that have helped us along our own path.
Tools and Strategies For Fighting the “Negative Narrative”
What makes growth and failure so painful is how we think about it – it is the narrative we tell ourselves, how we frame it up in our minds. If we can figure out how we are thinking about these things, we can attack the lies (the negative narratives) and over time, minimize some of the fear that holds us back.
Let’s unpack some of those narratives:
1 – “I shouldn’t fail.”
The negative narrative is the thought that says, “I shouldn’t fail,” or “failing is bad.” The first time you give a virtual presentation or host a virtual workshop or publish an article, you will automatically judge yourself on how that performance went. If it went well, you’ll be pleased – if it didn’t, you’ll beat yourself up.
The negative narrative is the idea that you shouldn’t fail. That’s not true, because failure is inevitable. You should fail. You should fail, because it means you are trying something new and working towards developing a new skill.
When you start to move in a new direction, towards personal or professional growth, failure is simply going to be a part of the process. You won’t be perfect or get it right the first time.
Think about the first time you tried skiing or ice skating. The first time I got on skis, I broke my leg, in two places. That’s a dramatic example of failure. Most people won’t break their leg learning to ski, but they will fall. The point is, failure is part of learning and growing.
That desire to not fail can be a healthy drive to prepare. But it should never limit your willingness to try new things and keep growing.
Forget the notion that failure is negative.
2 – “It should be easy.”
So often, we tell ourselves, “This should be easy for me.”
“If I were good at _____, this would be easy” or “If I were a talented _____, this would be easy.”
We don’t see the hours of preparation that other people put into developing a new skill. We usually just see the final product. This “It should be easy” mindset is damaging, because it can halt us in our tracks before we give ourselves the chance to make any progress towards growth.
The truth is, it’s not easy. Of course natural talent is a component of getting good at something. I don’t think I’ll ever be an NBA star. But for things that are learnable, teachable, or feasible, it’s so important not to get caught up in thinking, “This should be easy.” It will still take practice, effort, and preparation.
Change and growth are not easy – and that’s okay.
3 – “I am what I do.”
What if you didn’t care what other people think about your performance? How free would you be?
Your value is not determined by what other people think of you. If we felt that free, think about how willing we would be to try and to learn new things – like young children do.
Determining Your Motivation
This is another way to shake off those chains of fear that can hold you back from trying something new. Many times, our motivation is focused on ourselves. If your motivating forces are money or time or glory, they may get you to a certain point, but they will not sustain you for long.
But if your motivation is personal passion for a subject or wanting to serve others, that will take your focus from yourself and alleviate some of the fear that holds you back.
If you’re doing something so that people will “like you more,” there is a lot of risk there. But if your goal and motivation is to help people solve a problem or make them laugh or learn something new, the pressure no longer sits so heavily on your shoulders.
In the context of selling, if your motivation as a sales rep is truly to serve your customer, you’re no longer worried about losing a deal. You’re not worried about the money or how you’ll look to your colleagues. You are worried about helping your customer solve their problem and making sure they make the best decision for their business, because your motivation and passion is to help them do just that.
Change How You Measure Success
When you move out of your comfort zone, you learn something new. Don’t measure the results. For example, the score you received or the number of downloads on your podcast.
The very first time you do something new, don’t measure your success based on the results.
Measure yourself by these three things instead:
- Did you show up?
- Did you define and follow your plan?
- What was your willingness to get feedback and learn from it?
In the beginning of the journey towards a new skill, it helps to look at what you are actually doing to get the outcome you desire, not the outcome itself. Don’t measure your success by the results.
Summing it Up
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This quote is attributed to multiple people but the idea of it rings so true and really sums up our topic.
If you’re in the mood for more content, check out Steve Harvey’s motivational speech, “Jump” here on YouTube.
Go public with your plan, share your ideas with someone. Putting it out there will hold you accountable for taking the (sometimes painful) steps towards growth and success.