Sales professionals leverage their history, training and experience in their personal selling tool kits, making them available as needed to attack any sales situation. This is good. But what happens when it isn’t working, when you’re in a rut, and you just can’t seem to move the needle with that target account and you’ve exhausted all of your known tactics? It’s time to change your approach, and that’s easier said than done when years of training and success have boxed in your brain with certain “realities”. It’s time to hit the mental gym.
Here are three ways to expand your sales thinking and overcome barriers that block your way to greatness.
5 Minute Brain Workouts
At 48 I’m not setting the fitness world ablaze, but I am in better physical shape than many my age and younger. I work out 3X a week at least and run several times a week, and just completed my first, and then second, full marathons at the end of 2013.
“So what, Karl? We all know we should work out.”
The what is, I realized that one of the “muscles” I hadn’t been working out was my brain. I kept hearing that most of us use less than 10% of our mental capacity, many less than 5%. I knew there was plenty of room to work. But I’m a busy guy, going on sales appointments, making calls, closing deals, a man of action. I simply don’t have the time.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much. When a muscle is dormant, be it a bicep or a creative center of the brain, it can be stretched initially with very little exercise. Since just about every breathing business professional has a Smart Phone to stay connected, we can be grateful that there are game designers out that who built quick apps specifically to gradually work out the brain. That’s right, I said it—there is actually a productive use of video games! These were developed initially as a mental health tool to help slow and reverse the effects of aging on the brain, but regardless of how old you are, they will sharpen the noggin.
You may have heard radio and TV spots for Lumosity (not to be confused with Luminosity), a web-based personalized brain training program developed by neuroscientists to help people improve weak points like multi-tasking, memory, or attention span. It’s also available on iPhone and iPad as a free download initially, then expectedly morphs into a reasonably priced subscription model.
Have no fear. The universal laws of capitalism have created competitors, many of them free, that work on Android or Windows phones as well. I’m a WinPhone guy, and currently I have Entity Cube, Memory Age, two different Mind Games apps, Quadrata and Triangula. I’m not here to review them, you can find that on Google. They do everything from mathematical timed drills to memory recognition exercises, trivia, speed pattern recognition and more. Sound boring? Actually they’re fun and you’ll find yourself really getting into it to level up, and most individual drills can be completed in under 5 minutes, about the time it takes to wait for your Starbucks or in the lobby at your next sales call. Sales pros can strengthen weak skill sets (name recognition is a killer for me) and expand the creative mind, helping on the job when you need new approaches to special product bundling, pricing, negotiations, or just getting past the gatekeeper.
The Confusion Principle
Sometimes my goombahs in the gym ask me, “What are you working out today?” I’ve learned to answer the same way each time, “Not what I did the last time.” This is called the Muscle Confusion Principle, stemming from the father of modern bodybuilding, Joe Weider, and it is specifically designed to break plateauing or what is scientifically called homeostasis. To you and I that means when you’re stuck in a rut and not seeing gains any longer, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been made on CrossFit and P90X type programs that are based upon the same concept.
The same thing applies to the brain. Change up the way you think and behave. Often that can simply be modifying your routine, and it doesn’t have to revolve around your work. You are willfully changing the inputs to your brain, whether it is the sequence of events or the material you focus on. Try these on for size:
· Alter your driving route on the way to work for a week.
· Change the books you are reading. I have a library of self-help, skill-building stuff. I just picked up a presidential biography and a Tom Clancy thriller.
· Watch different TV shows for a week. Kill the reality garbage and check out Discovery or Animal Planet, anything different from what you have been watching.
· Change up the times you receive and read email, make sales calls, and plan your day.
You get the point. This isn’t a forever thing unless you find value in it. It’s specifically for when you’re stuck in a rut and need to expand your thinking to get outside of your own mental prison.
Future State Gratitude
This sounds easy but is actually the hardest practice to engage in. We’ve all heard stories of Larry Bird visualizing jump shots to the point where he couldn’t miss even when he tried. Athletes do this form of brain training all the time, and when the future picture gets cloudy, they miss the 3 foot putts and blow The Masters in the final round.
I’ve been working on types of visualization from my Way of the Seal training, and am adding the gratitude piece from The Secret author Rhonda Byrne in her spin-off, The Magic. This sounds so pie in the sky and there are a lot of doubters out there, and that’s what makes it hard. You have to do these Future State visualizations a lot of times to start to generate the belief to make them work and open up a new lane for your brain. Unstuck author Keith Yamashita calls this Futurecasting, trying to unlock the powers of forecasting and imagination to develop a meaningful picture of the future.
Here’s what to do:
1. Find a quiet place where you can sit disturbance free. No ringing phone or chiming “You’ve Got Mail” sounds.
2. Close your eyes and think about the resolution to your sales problem (or any problem). Picture the positive outcome already having taken place. For me I think about closing the deal, shaking hands with the CEO of the target company, and going out to dinner for steak and champagne to celebrate the transaction. Burn whatever your picture is into your brain, adding as much detail as possible. Think only about the outcome, not how you got there.
3. Say “Thank You” out loud for the outcome having already taken place.
4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 ten times.
5. Walk away and go do something unrelated to your challenge.
This is simply brain conditioning to the successful outcome, the goal of all visualization, and putting in the kicker of giving thanks for it before it happens, but like I said, this ain’t easy. It can be, however, the very thing you need to blow open the doors of your brain and get the “Ah-hah!” moment you’ve been looking for.