Optimism Always Wins
According to motivational speaker and supercoach Steve Chandler (stevechandler.com), your number one job as a sales leader is to increase the optimism of everyone on your team. And maybe he’s right. After all, without optimism, your odds of failing at everything else rise. You could probably even graph an optimistic outlook tied to sales results and view it as an upward – or downward – trend.
“Managers who spend their whole sales meeting dispensing information are wasting everyone’s time,” says Chandler. “The only real purpose of bringing everyone together is to make sure that your salespeople leave more motivated, more encouraged, and more optimistic than they came in.”
But don’t get the idea that this is all about pumping ’em up and sending ’em out. Chandler, who has authored more than 20 CD courses and books, including Fearless: Creating the Courage to Change the Things You Can (Robert Reed Publishers, 2008), The Joy of Selling: Breakthrough Ideas That Lead to Success in Sales (Robert Reed Publishers, 2005), and MindShift: The Ultimate Success Course, believes that external motivation is “like a drug. It’s an adrenaline rush, a short-term stimulus that eventually fades, often leaving the person more down than ever. Lasting optimism is the result of changing how you think, and that happens through repetition.”
So smart managers motivate, not by creating wild enthusiasm at a yearly sales meeting, but rather by teaching their teams how to think optimistically on a day-to-day basis. How do you make your next sales meeting more positive? Chand-ler suggests the following steps.
Know Where You Are on the Ladder of Spirit
A cornerstone of Chandler’s coaching is what he calls the ladder of spirit, on which such emotions as fear and worry are at the bottom, and qualities such as creativity and imagination are at the top. There is a rise in consciousness as you move up the steps of the ladder, progressing from the mind-set of a victim to the mind-set of an “owner,” which Chandler defines as one who is capable of creating what he or she wants out of life.
“Some people habitually operate at the bottom of the ladder,” says Chandler. “They’re afraid of rejection, they’ve memorized all the bad statistics about the economy, and their minds have been completely closed by fear. The bottom of the ladder is where you’re least creative. You’re not likely to think of solutions to problems because you’ve convinced yourself that you’re a victim reacting to circumstances beyond your control.”
Chandler says that when confronted with a challenging situation, his coaching clients stop and ask themselves, “Where am I on the ladder?” You can often turn a negative situation into a positive one through what Chandler calls a mindshift, which involves viewing the situation from a higher perspective on the ladder.
If you’re managing a team of bottom dwellers, you can lead them up the ladder by simply showing them where the opportunities are. “Most managers know they should start meetings on a positive note,” Chandler says, “but they often just quote lines from positive-thinking speakers. It’s more effective to spend time before the meeting coming up with ten inspiring facts – things you’ve learned about a client opportunity or a segment of the market with the potential for growth, team members who have done well, or something or someone you’ve added to the support team to make their jobs easier. In order to help people up the ladder, you need to look for facts that are not just optimistic, but truthful, as well – very specific and immediate things they can do, tasks that are within their control and will bring them more sales and success. When you focus on, ‘Here’s what you can do today; here’s what you can do this week,’ the fear goes away, and they can move higher up the ladder.”
Encourage Setting Aside Self-Limiting Beliefs and Taking Storyless Action
Most people have any number of self-limiting beliefs, many of them involving their business skills – or their perceived lack of them: “I’m not good on the phone. Cold calling scares me. I’ve never been able to remember names.” Chandler calls these beliefs “our story.”
“The funny thing about business is that it often doesn’t matter what you’re naturally good at,” Chandler says. “You might tell yourself that you’re not good at cold calling, but if you put that story aside and make the call anyway, the odds are that you’ll achieve something. It’s irrelevant whether or not you’re good at something compared to what you can achieve if you just try.”
Chandler suggests putting the brakes on your internal dialogue whenever you catch yourself telling a story, and managers should interrupt their salespeople when they begin storytelling. “You might say, ‘This is hard,’ ‘This guy is tough to close,’ or ‘I’m not good at this or that,’” Chandler says, “but if you drop all these stories and wander in as an innocent, as someone who doesn’t have a story, you may do a great job. And you’ll certainly get a lot further than if you talked yourself out of trying at all.”
Use the Language of Ownership
Chandler calls the people at the top of the ladder of spirit “owners,” and their self-talk goes something like this: “I take full responsibility for my happiness, my energy level, and who I appear to be. These things will not be dictated by circumstance, but rather by my own actions.”
Owners use the language of intention. They make lists of what they want to do on both a daily and long-term basis, and they perceive these goals as self-determined. Chandler says many people instead use the language of victimization. They might have the same items on their daily to-do lists, but they believe that they have to do these things based on other people’s expectations.
“They might say, ‘I have to go to work; I have to make twenty calls today,’” says Chandler, “and they’re basically telling themselves that all these tasks are things they should do but don’t want to do. They’re starting off the day from a position of victimization and pessimism.”
The good news is, you can learn the language of optimism the same way you might decide to learn French or Spanish. “Are people born knowing how to speak any certain language?” asks Chandler. “Of course not. If you’re born into an American home and grow up around people who speak English, then you will gradually learn to speak English, too. It’s not innate; it’s learned through observation and repetition, and you can teach yourself the language of optimism the same way.”
It’s been scientifically proven that optimism is indeed teachable (see Learned Optimism), and Chandler urges skeptics to try it. “Look,” he says, “worry and fear don’t work. Everyone knows that, and pessimistic people know it better than anyone. Whether you believe a mindshift from pessimism to optimism will work or not, why not test it? Say to yourself that you’re going to operate out of a place of optimism for a day. See every situation in terms of opportunities. Try every task at hand without predicting whether or not you’ll be good at it. Take a break from worry and doubt. And see what that day yields.”
The Expert Says: Make Every Meeting a Meeting of the Optimistic Minds
Chandler says managers make a big mistake when they open a sales meeting by talking about what the sales team needs to improve. “When the first item on the docket is all about what’s not working,” he says, “you’ve opened the door to a meeting of wailing and venting and excuses. Instead, start by acknowledging what is going well – people who have succeeded and opportunities that exist.”
Of course, there are always problems that need to be addressed, but Chandler suggests you address them with the individual salespeople involved either before or after the meeting. “Bad news can be handled one-on-one,” he says. “Spend your precious meeting time discussing where the opportunities are.”
– Kim Wright Wiley
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