The following piece is the first of a series of extracts shared from The Conscious Sale, a guide to sales success. It was written for anyone in a sales environment but the insights have also served well many of startup founders and entrepreneurs I’ve coached who were looking for deeper resilience to the challenges of startup life, together with more consistency in their desired successful outcomes. Over the coming weeks I will be sharing further insights from the Conscious Sale, extracts which share how you too can harness the power of State, Intention and Belief as your guide to sales success and beyond.
It’s 6:39 on a Thursday morning and John’s just woken up. Not to his alarm, which isn’t set to go off for six precious minutes. Instead, it’s his cranky 10-month old that has John awake. This is quite the norm these days, though he wishes that weren’t the case. He’s up now anyway, and with his wife away for a work trip, he needs to get his baby changed, fed and dropped off at his parent’s house, not to mention himself showered, clothed, caffeinated, and in work. Have I mentioned that John is an accounts manager at a mid-sized company, and that at 9 am he has a sales meeting with a major client? Or that this particular client is unsure if she wants to renew her contract with John’s firm and that his presentation will play a large part in deciding if she sticks around or looks elsewhere?
When John leaves the house, car seat carrier in one hand, tea, keys, wallet, and jacket in the other, he notices a dry-cleaning ticket next to the door and groans — yet another thing he needs to do.
Traffic slows as the rain picks up and John’s eyes oscillate between the sea of brake lights in front of him, the digital clock on his car’s dashboard, and his child in the backseat. Why is this happening to him today? He’d happily double his time in traffic on the way home for it to lessen now. By the time he’s made the handoff to his parents, climbed back into his car and driven to work, it’s ten to nine. Instead of focusing on the upcoming meeting, he’s got a nagging voice in his head reminding him of everything he needs to do to keep his family afloat. The day has hardly started and already he feels like it’s slipping away from him.
With five minutes to spare, he shakes off the rain and straightens his tie as he enters the already full conference room. John may well nail the pitch, after all, he’s prepared for weeks. But by allowing these little things to affect him, by allowing them purchase in his consciousness, he is harming his psyche and subjecting his professional self to needless risk.
The reality of life is that things happen. The point is not that John needs to be better at time management or eliminating distraction, but that he is out of touch with what I call his state. He is mentally distracted, and even though he may have put in the necessary preparation leading up to the meeting, this distraction, whether he takes note of it or not, will affect him when the meeting actually arrives.
By labelling the morning’s events as things happening to John, instead of what they are — an unconnected series of individual occurrences, John himself becomes one more thing he needs to overcome. While John’s strife may be mental, that’s to say internal, it manifests itself outwardly in ways that he may not be able to detect, but that are obvious to his co-workers, his boss, and most importantly, his client.
There have no doubt been times where you have noticed that a colleague seems off, or out of sync. Rest assured that your colleagues have made the same observations about you when you have found yourself in a similar state to John. Being aware of this change in state, often interpreted or externally expressed as your mood, can help you negate the impact a tough morning/week/month has on your professional life. If you allow it to burrow into your mind instead of uprooting it before it settles in, you will be doing yourself and your job a disservice.
We tend to view our lives in binary terms, assigning positive or negative labels to events as they come, then stringing them together as if they were somehow related. But what would happen if you made a conscious decision to view each of these negative events at face value? How would your state be affected if instead of viewing things as “bad luck” when they happen, you decided to allow events to play out in their entirety before assigning value? If you are able to free yourself of the internal voice that reminds you how poorly things are going, you can unlock your professional potential, shedding the accumulated weight of “life” and give yourself the best chance to do a great job, unencumbered.
Were John to remain focused on what makes him and his company right for his client instead of feeling sorry for himself, might his performance be improved? By actively ignoring the impulse to make a snap decision about an event in your life, you free yourself. There is no stopping the onslaught of life, it’s impossible to dam the flow, but by accepting that not everything is within your control, you can view the bigger picture then hone in on what’s really important. For John, his baby will stop crying because he’s caring for it, the rain will stop, the traffic will let up, and the dry-cleaning will be there after work, but he has one shot to nail this presentation, and wishing that the circumstances of his day were different is a pointless exercise that distracts him from his task at hand.
Your state is something to be embraced, not ignored or criticised. If you find yourself labelling an event before it’s fully played out, take note of it, but go easy on yourself. Begin by noticing your feelings after both “good” and “bad” events, then slowly train the muscle in your brain that controls the impulse to label them, allowing for time to learn about yourself. At times it can feel like we are at the whims of the universe and powerless to fate. It’s important in those moments to remember that we are the players, not the played and that though we may not have the ability to control everything, we are able to control our state. By making a concerted effort to get in touch with that part of our psyche, we give ourselves the best chance to be successful in both business and life.
I can’t sit here and attribute my positive state only to my business success or vice versa. I’ve worked tirelessly and made mistakes, improving along the way. I’ve learned to maintain contact with the inner workings of my mind and allowed for events to play out in the bigger picture, which has always given me the best chance to let my skills shine through. I’d like to help you do the same. To find out more about state, keep an eye out for part two as well as other lessons of a professional life. And you can also find out more in my book “The Conscious Sale: Using the Power of State, Intention, and Belief, a guide for sales success.”