Paul Kenny on Building Resilience in Sales using Belief, Goals, and Drive

In this talk Paul talks about the sales success mindset and how to build resilience in your sales operation using belief, goals, and drive.

In a very real sense, your sales pipeline is the lifeblood of your company and the health of that pipeline is completely dependent on the health, motivation, skills, and knowledge of your salespeople. So while targets and commissions play and important part, to level up your sales game your team needs to also have the right attitude to chase opportunities down, to follow them up, and serve the client in the right in the right way.

Slides

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Transcript

Hello, everyone, I am absolutely delighted to be back at business of software, even in these very changed conditions. And I am going to spend the next 30 minutes or so talking about the sales success mindset.

Now, I know that when I see titles like this, I the cynic in me immediately starts to think this is there’s something a little bit kind of low rent Anthony Robbins about the term. But it’s an important thing for us to talk about and it’s something that we’ve been giving a lot of thought to, in the year since I saw you all in Cambridge. Back when I presented in Cambridge last year, I put this slide up, because our topic was ‘how to develop your sales team’, and we talked a lot about, about the core skills that are required to be a good salesperson, and how to map those skills through the life of a salesperson from entry, junior or graduate entry right up to being an account manager or senior sales executive.

We talked a little bit about knowledge there as well. But the one thing we didn’t talk about at all was attitude. And I’m going to try and put that right now. But I’m going to do a whistle-stop tour of attitude and mindset and why as sales managers, we should pay more attention to it. And what we can practically do to influence it. It’s a tough one of one of the reasons that people say things like this, hire attitude, develop skills and knowledge. I’ve said this to people, so you can hire me the best potential sales people and I will develop their sales skills and we will give them the knowledge to go out into the market and get great returns for you. But the more I’ve thought about this over the years, the more I’ve realised that actually is just nonsense. Attitude is not a fixed thing. If you hire somebody with the right attitude, that is no guarantee that they’re going to keep the right attitude or be able to maintain it, or be able to maintain it as the market changes. And as competition changes and as a status changes.

So we have to look into this in a bit more detail and even just going back to my own career, I can think of times when, as a salesperson, I was excellent, I was Exceeding my expectations. I can think of times when I was just average, I was okay, where it was good enough. There are also quite a few times when I just lost the love of the job or my confidence in myself. And there were periods where, frankly, I wasn’t good enough for the job. And the skills and the knowledge were constants. I was just as skillful. I had the skills and I knew my products really, really well, but my attitude sometimes let me down. And I think we’ve all managed people like that who’ve been brilliant for a while, and then things have changed. We need not to delegate this to somebody else by saying hire attitude, develop skills and knowledge, we have to look at ways that we can practically maintain and influence and support an attitude that will help people make the best of their skills and knowledge.

And the reason we’ve got to do that is that sales is a seriously ego depleting activity. It takes a tonne of energy. It affects our ability to maintain any resilience. Our confidence takes a battering. If you’re not familiar with the term ego depletion, take a look at some of Kathy Sierra’s presentations – different contexts but she explains the principle really well. ego depletion is the depletion of your grit, your willpower as a result of having really focused on something. And in sales the confidence that we need to do the job is often eroded away by a whole bunch of different things. Things like rejection. In sales we have they are the everyday situation of being told no many, many times more than we’re told, yes. There’s a kind of new version of this, this rejection now, which is the, in the last 10 years or so where people get really interested in a product, and then just melt away. They stopped returning our calls or our emails. As a salesperson, the feeling of being left with somebody who you had told your boss was a good prospect, who’s just now disappeared and you start to question whether you are good enough whether you said something wrong, or you didn’t say something right enough. And all of that plays on your mind and starts to eat away at your confidence.

Targets can be ego depleting, either chasing a sales target really, really hard, and just missing it. Or, when a target gets so far away from you, that you’re faced with this idea that no matter what you do, you’re not going to make it this month/this quarter, whatever, there’s a bunch of what we call byc factors, it’s beyond your control. Everything from a global pandemic to more usually shifts in the market, major players suddenly investing a lot of money in your corner of the market, things that change the dynamics and make selling harder still. And then we could add to that things like being concerned about your status within the business salespeople are not always treated as equally as important as other departments, and internal competition or external competition, and even what salespeople refer to as the bureaucracy, of maintaining their sales reporting, their pipeline, etc.

All of this impacts directly on the energy that you have left at the end of the week. And we want salespeople to have the ability to manage our energy and to be able to focus it where it matters most, which is in direct conversation and communication with the with the client. Most of us are used to working with sales dashboards, we used to at the touch of a finger having our ARR, MRR, Knowing a league table of some sort for our salespeople, a performance against target some kind of burned down market share a whole bunch of different things that we’ve got at our fingertips.

But if you think about it, everything that’s in your pipeline has been put there by a salesperson, and everything they put there has been put there because they brought not only skills and knowledge, but because they had the right attitude to chase it down to follow it up to serve the client in the right in the right way. And a big part of the results that are in your pipeline has to do with the attitude, or the mindset that that salesperson brings to the job. So we have to be able to influence it, we can’t just pretend that it’s a given, it’s a fixed thing. Our mindset changes all the time, our attitude, our motivation, goes up and down, our confidence goes up and down hourly within the day, so so we have to have something to help us think about that. So in addition to our sales performance dashboard, we need some kind of checklist or dashboard for the wellbeing of our staff. And here’s some of the stuff we’ve been researching and looking into this year, to try and help managers to support their staff more effectively, but also how to help salespeople to manage their own state. And you’re going to hear me use this word state a lot in the next 20 minutes or so. Because right in the middle of mindset is this issue of state; being able to have the emotional intelligence to know how to be able to articulate how you’re feeling. recognise when you’re becoming a bit despondent or your confidence is down. Or you’re getting upset with a client, to be able to temper those emotions and to manage them effectively and to choose your response to them is a is really, really key.

Managing state

Now today we’re going to focus on that managing your state and tied in with that managing confidence, resilience and drive. The three things that are key to success, but also which we can have a huge amount of influence over. We’re also looking at adaptability, which is flexing the role to being able to flex your approach, and focus the ability to decide what’s important, and stick with it. And the ability to maintain a learning mindset. We won’t have time to do that in this presentation. But I’ll be happy to talk more about those elements later on in the Q and A’s.
So there are these different parts. This dashboard is made up of different mental capabilities. But the problem we’ve got is that they’re not separate things; our emotions are a big jumbled mass of things, which are all elements, which are all interdependent on each other. Our resilience relies on our confidence, our confidence relies on our drive and so forth. So we can pick a few of these things out to analyse them, and to say what can a manager do differently, but everything you do to help people maintain the right mindset, will have a much wider effect, the new thing. And unfortunately, this stuff does not get talked about enough on sales teams, and by managers of sales teams with their teams. Some will send people off on a course – a motivation course or something like that and they will often come back punching the air and feeling really happy – but it doesn’t always result in sustainable mindset management. And that’s what we need to have a look at. So let’s dig in.

When we talk about mindset management, we always start with state. This element of emotional intelligence, that allows people to describe how that the fact that their emotions are having on them, and have an ability to manage their response to their emotions. So everybody will have had a salesperson at some time or another who worked for them, who would lose their temper when a client didn’t do something, or will slam down phones, or if they lose a deal, they will walk off and they can’t do anything else that day until they calm down. Or, or people whose confidence is the thing, they’re going to get a deal and it’s they get a hard rejection. And they struggle to pick themselves up from that. Or people who just get caught in a vicious circle of they’re not being successful because they’re not they’ve they’re not engaging properly with the client in some way or lack the credibility which results in fewer sales, which then compounds in their mind as a problem and shows itself as self doubt. And then that continues down and down and down.

And no matter how successful people are, we all go through periods of that. So my first action point and suggestion is that you’ve got to get comfortable talking to people about their state; about their mood, their emotions in any one given time, because they have an impact. One of my book recommendations today is going to be a book called mental mastery by Ken Way, and he talks a lot about state in here because this this understanding of your your state is key to all other elements of mindset, management. It is what we describe as it’s part of the definition of motion, emotional intelligence. And Ken always talks about a really simple tool for discussing state with with the people he looks after, which generally tend to be elite sports performers. He was the coach of Leicester City during their successful Premier League campaign a few years ago. And has coached Olympic athletes around the world. And Ken always says that, status, the opening is the is the blank piece of paper if you like. When somebody walks through the door, you you try and establish the state that they’re in that tells you everything about where they’re going to go from there. And he uses a really simple tool to discuss the state that we are in and I think we can use this as sales managers to to ensure that people feel they can talk about this open Lay on the team.

Now if you just ask somebody, how are you? You know, how are you today? Oh, you know, what kind of mood Are you a whatever, among sales teams is a sort of expectation that you have to tell your boss I’m great. I’m fine, all these good. And they say up for the fight today Are you up for they hit the scale, and they always go, yes. But in fact, our state is driven more by other factors. And Ken says what he always thinks is that talk to people about how energetic they’re feeling, or just take a note of how much energy people are bringing to the job.
And also listen to the way that people are interacting with each other and with customers to listen for the positivity and the optimism in their language. Because we have some different states, sometimes when we’re in low energy, and we’ve all been here, and low optimism, for those of you are not salespeople, this is often in the middle of a sticky, horrible phase of a project. But for salespeople, this can be the result of any one of those factors that I discussed earlier, where for some reason your energy today has dipped, and also your expectation of having any success has gone down. The market is against those, there’s nothing we can do. And when people believe that, and they’re in that that state, we call them the zombie or the victim. These are sort of slightly humorous names, but these people, or us when we are in the stage, rather we’ve got no reason to pick up the phone. We’ve got no reason to do anything different on the phone, we’ll just go through the the motions, why would we change anything? Because there’s no there’s no point.

Some people have got lots of optimism, but they lack the focus and the drive to do anything with it. And when people have got lots of optimism, and they lack that energy, and we call them spectators because they will happily watch everybody else sell. They will comment on everyone else’s sales, comment in meetings, sales meetings, they’ll always talk about the stuff that’s in the pipeline, but they won’t necessarily apply themselves they lack the energy, the resilience, the drive to to really bring those sales in. So it’s good to notice when somebody is in spectator mode.
And then you get this damaging mode that we’ve all been in at some stage or another that is the saboteur and when we’re in saboteur mode, we’ve got lots of energy, but very little optimism. So when when we saboteur on a football team, or rugby team is the one who causes arguments and criticises everybody and tries to bring people down because he or she knows they’re not playing terribly well or putting enough in and they want to bring everybody down to their level. We sabotage our sales team by taking the Mickey out of people by being overly critical of their performance by disparaging any attempt they made to do anything different, by engaging people in whining sessions and everything was better before nostalgia, moaning, pity party sessions, all of which sabotage the team and bring people in. But be clear, we can also sabotage our own efforts. By doing this by with the internal self talk, if you like, coming up with 100 reasons why the client won’t want to talk to us why they won’t want to engage why they won’t want to book.

And then when we’ve got high energy and high positivity, that’s what the sports psychologist called the champions mindset. And I’ve seen it countless times over the years, when people hit zone, where they are confident in what they’re selling. They’re confident in themselves, they believe in what we’re trying to achieve. They believe the targets are doable, achievable, they believe in the wider team around them. They can put lots of energy and be very, very positive with it.

Above or below the line: where are you?

Another way to describe the state that people are in is above or below the line. An old mentor of mine used to do this with me when I set up my first training company. And if I was struggling with sales or struggling with a particular major account, he would say to me, where are you now? And I never really understood that at the start. He said, Are you above the line? Do you feel like you can see what’s going on? Do you feel like you’re in control? Can you think about this thing these things calmly? If everyone shouts at you in a negotiation, are you going to panic? Or are you below the line where anxiety creeps in where you’re easily distracted where everthing is being done to you -you’re the passenger, not the pilot – rather than then having a sense of control.

And, you know, he talked about state being the degree to which you are above or below this conceptual imaginary line. Whichever you use, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we regularly talk to people about their state; about where they are, how they feel. Because if somebody is really far below the line, it’s better to know about it. And better to influence them in some way, which we’ll talk about in just a moment. So concentrate on state and ask me questions about this in the q&a, as well, to give more examples, as we go as we move on.
So the first question is, how good are we at being connected enough to our sales team to really know what their state is?

State is driven by confidence? When we feel really confident, we’ve got lots of reasons to talk to a customer to push a deal to be ambitious in our proposals, to demo with flair. And confidence comes in two ways. There’s the deep seated confidence. It’s like the deep roots of a huge tree that comes from what we believe about ourselves, do we believe we’re good enough? It comes from a belief in the business do we think this is a good business to work for, and that the people who deliver our products and our service are competent to do the job? If you’ve ever worked in a business where the senior managers or the management team constantly criticise each other openly, it has an impact on your sales team, even if you never say anything to them directly? If they’re aware of it, they start to think ‘Well, actually, is this company really good enough to deliver the promises that I’m making to the client?’ So they have to have belief that we’re competent as a business, and everything you do to raise that is really important.

And then they’ve got to have a belief in the product or the solution that they’re offering that it will work? Now, they don’t have to believe that you’re the best, the biggest, the fastest, the cheapest. What they have to believe is that you’re in the appropriate position to help the customer that they’re talking to. So what you’ll notice that there’s a common thread here, this belief is that is all driven by what we say to people about themselves, do we coach them, train them? Do good reviews with people give them good feedback? Praise them where it’s due do we explain where the business is going regularly, not just in an annual Town Hall, or quarterly Town Hall, but regularly day to day so they can see why the business is well suited to deliver?

And do we make sure that they’re on the inside track. As far as our developing our solution is concerned; if the sales team were the last people to hear about the things you’re doing to make the product better, they start to have doubts. And every time a client raise objection, it chips away, and eventually they stop fighting back. So you’ve got to make sure that their product knowledge and their engagement with the product, and particularly their positioning is really, really key.

Confidence can also be in the moment. And when we talk about confidence, we talk about it being a you know that feeling you get when you’re just about to go into a major demo. And this comes through and I’ll give you examples in the q&a, if you want to, if you want me to go into this in detail. But as a coach, we’ll do things like pre flexion, which is getting people to do mental rehearsals of the demo that they’re going to do or imagining how a month will play out. Anchors all come down to routines. Whether you’re touching the this is Anfield sign as a totem Totem of good luck, or you have a pre kick, routine or ritual. The same is true for salespeople. simply doing things like making sure that we’ve got a pre call ritual to make sure that we’re properly prepared for that call, to make sure that we’ve got a pre demo ritual so that we know that we’ve got everything covered, really, really matters and going through the ritual, whether it’s a checklist or a quick rehearsal anchors us in the last time or the most confident we were when we were dealing with that, that club with that that demo

Psychologists also use things like circles where they try and get people to get the most vivid and vibrant memories, sub modalities, also that their goal of their past successes, the best games they played the perfect swing, and they get them to step into them to those imaginary circles. Now, I’ve never run a sales team where people are anything less than a little bit cynical about any thing that’s psychology based. So I’ve tended to use that principle by getting people to present back their big wins. And I will sometimes do a little ritual that will say, Well, what was our best deal this time last year? And then points to the person who did it sorry, you delivered that deal? Tell talk us through this deal again. And by getting people to regularly review our biggest successes, our best deals, not just the most profitable, also the toughest ones to win the ones we snatched from competitors, the ones where we delivered amazing service, getting people to constantly present those back as part of our regular communication really, really helps.

And also making sure that people are ready to be present at their best do they do they sound better when they’re sitting up standing up, I’m going to leave you to find an old video, BoS video. I believe it was a Kathy Sierra video. But it started with Mark Littlewood in a pair of Superman underpants. And if you find that, then you will understand the importance of physiology and developing confidence. But ask me more about this in the q&a.
Resilience we define it as the ability to to keep going in the face of setback and difficulties. Resilience really matters in sales, because there’s a lot of setback, and some people are good at it. Some people eventually get worn down, the problem is sometimes the people who are that big, tough, hard fighting Rhino hide sales people who who on the outside look confident, you find that confidence has been eroded. And their resilience has been eroded. By all the things we talked about all those elements we talked about earlier, until one day, you they they deflate they kind of lose their fight, lose their joy in the job.

What can we do?

So what can we do as lead sales leaders? Well, just some of the things I think that work and making sure that you’re regularly rehearsing your salespeople to deal with the things that will challenge them. An old manager of mine, used to run a game called my worst nightmare. And she’d run it at the start of the last week of our production cycle. I was in magazines at the time. And she would sit everybody down three or four of us. And she would say, I want you to pitch me the magazine. But I want you to know that I’m not going to buy it. I’ll play client but I’m not going to buy I’m going to be your most awkward, difficult client. And I just but I am going to give you points for flair for imagination for finding new ways of selling this for thinking on your feet for tenacity and keeping coming out. And we would play this game where the point wasn’t to get a deal. The point was to get points. And when you walked out of that meeting, you felt 10 foot tall, because you’d heard everything that could the client could throw at you. So sometimes things like that really matter. Sometimes things like just a break or a disruption. really matter that same manager 20 minutes before a deadline, when we still had a chance of getting out for 20 minutes, half an hour an hour before the deadline. She dragged us off into a meeting. Because we were all we were done in we would we were tired, we struggled to think who to call or who we could go back to. And she just asked she said I know we’re close to the deadline. But I want you all to give me 20 good reasons why people would want to buy from us this week, so that we’re not going out there desperate to do deals or cut prices. 20 good reasons why they might want to do a deal with us this week. And we looked at her like she was crazy. We said we were on deadline, we were a publishing company. So missing deadline is a serious matter. She stood her ground. And we started coming up with ideas; we came up with five or 10 that were pretty good. Then there were getting sillier and because we were just desperate to get back and finish the week; she helped us to add for 20 minutes and we ended up coming up with some ludicrous reasons why people were laughing, then she sent us back in and the whole thing was closed down.

I think in two or three calls because the break in the tension, I suppose, everybody went back to the phones laughing they didn’t sound quite so desperate. And we learned from that. If you read BJ Fogg book Tiny Habits, he will tell you that you can build resilience to deal with really tough things, by starting with identifying the smallest element, and the smallest thing you can do, and then identifying a trigger to make you to make you do it. And, and we use this all the time in sales, again, times against us a little bit. So if you want to talk about how you can apply some of that thinking, and in your, with your sales team, we can talk about it in the in the follow up.

But just think about it, if you haven’t got your head around this yet, think about it right if you need to go running every day, to complete a marathon or something. And, and the people who are most likely to stick to their running routine are the people who put their trainers, their shorts, they’re running tarp, they’re waterproof, all out ready to go. So as soon as they get out of bed, they can just drop into their training gear and go off. If you have to go hunting for your a clean pair of shorts or waterproof top because it’s raining, by the time you’ve found it or whatever the chances are, you’ll have come up with a reason not to go and do your run. And that’s the idea of what’s the smallest step we can build resilience, step by step by step. Other things that we’ll talk about in the follow up or happy to do it personally, I think it’s like creating daily victories, and building teams so that each, each person is allowed to dip down because the others will carry them. So building teams based around team goals, not just individual goals are a great way of allowing different people to take point, at different time. And as my old business partner in my first startup used to say to me, on the rarely busiest, most horrible weeks when we had tonnes to do, and a lot was riding on it. And I used to get very worried about it. He used to say, look, whatever happens, whatever happens, when all lose whatever happens, it’s all going to be over. by six o’clock on Friday, we will know whether we’ve met our number, and then or not, but it will all be over. So let’s just focus on that. You had a habit of doing this. And for some reason, with me anyway, took some of the pressure, it took some of the pressure off. And it’s still 25 years later, something I used to get through those heavy workload or really demanding days. So my point of highlighting these is only to say that resilience is not a is not a hardwired trait, it can be developed. And then this drive and drive is simply the where we get our motivation from it’s too big a topic for us to talk about today. But no, this drive comes from belief, which we already have talked about those three elements of solution, self and enterprise. And everything you do to deepen that road, helps your sales people perform over the long haul. The quality of goals is a two hour presentation just on goals. But the quality of goals you set, please not just revenue, development goals, share goals, customer acquisition goals, customer service goals, rescue girls, when you bring back customers that were lost, these are the things that allowed to create lots and lots and lots of victories in a way that allow you to have a virtuous circle, rather than a vicious circle, are you lots of opportunities to give really strong feedback, and also understand that people come to work for very different reasons. And you should never stereotype sales people as being driven by money. And you know that success equals money. It absolutely doesn’t. For most salespeople money usually rates, three, four or five on a list of hierarchies behind collaboration behind meaning behind creativity, behind autonomy and being trusted. These are very powerful drivers. And I will do anybody who wants I’ll send you a link to the career drivers questionnaire, which is a great tool for talking about these things with your staff. So I’ve done a whistle stop tour of some of the things we’re thinking about as we help companies to develop their that their ability to help staff develop, maintain a positive energetic mindset, or state. These are my highlights, mindset and grit. I’m Amazon best sellers you probably know them BJ Foggs book is My best book for this year, because mindset is about lots and lots and lots of little habits, and he articulate it, the process so beautifully kenway his book is actually about sports psychology. But it takes no work whatsoever to trans to transpose all his lessons to the sales arena. And the link next to that book is my interview with Ken, a couple of months ago, which you’re very welcome to have a listen to. And Sherry walling just look her up on the bus presentations. Her book, my only criticism of her book was that the title suggested was too narrow.

Her book is really a masterpiece of mind set management. And I recommend it highly as I do Daniel muggins book, which again, has a sports element to it, but lessons that are easily transposed. So the question you must ask yourself, if you’re driving a sales team, is what am I putting in place to create a solid foundation, those deep roots for people to manage their own emotions and their belief in what they’re doing? And what am I doing day to day to make sure that there’s a constant top up, because if there’s not, if we haven’t got good answers to those things, the chances are, that confidence is being eroded. And you can’t say a bit like the foundations of a bridge across the river, sometimes you can’t see the damage that’s being done by everything that’s happening below the below the waterline. So thank you, I wish you a happy and productive boss and in spite of everything that’s going on a very, very happy and productive year. Please remember, love your sales team, they will play a huge role in pulling us all out of this mess. And and keeping our customers interested. Even if even periods when they may not want to buy from us. And so any questions drop me a line in the in the follow up or drop me a line Personally, I’m always happy to chat with with BoS people about your sales team

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