Mental Toughness + Sales: How to Become a Better Rep

User AvatarChris Pierce

In 2014, I was working as a Cognitive Performance Coach with the Green Berets. During a particularly grueling training, I witnessed a soldier severely break his nose due to a broken branch. He falls into the mud and closes his eyes. He takes 3 or 4 slow deep breaths and when he opens his eyes he shouts, “This is gonna make the greatest story! Come help me up!”

They continued on to complete their mission with a new found motivation with strength and precision. 

He could have responded in a number of unproductive ways, but he didn’t. What made him different? He had dominion over his mind and his body. He maintained control and strength when it mattered most. Most people in that situation would react emotionally to the pain, and nobody would blame them. it’s the natural way to respond; instead he used Mental Toughness.

What is Mental Toughness?

Mental Toughness is the ability to control yourself, your skillset, and your success even under difficult and stressful circumstances

If you are going to excel in times of high stress or high pain, then you must rebel against your natural responses. You must take control. This is mental toughness. How would your life be different if you mastered your ability to remain in control of your thoughts, emotions and behavior when it matters most? What different decisions would you have made? What would you have persisted in completing? 

As a sales rep, it’s your responsibility to be mentally tough. 

You have more power than you know. Now to get into the steps to mental toughness.

Before the Framework

The first real step toward building mental toughness is understanding that you are responsible for it. You are in control of your mind. For good and for bad. There is always something you can control. Your thoughts, emotions, actions, and physiology. Only after you’ve accepted this can you begin your mental toughness journey.

The soldier who broke his nose did not allow his emotions to take over. He took control of the situation. He took ownership. 

Think for a moment about a time when you’ve been knocked down in your sales career. How did you respond? Did you take ownership? Or did you just react? You have no one but yourself to blame for your thoughts, emotions and actions.

The Mental Toughness Framework

People make mental toughness out to be much more complex than it needs to be. The more complex you make it, the more difficult it becomes. This framework is designed to give you simple and actionable steps to activate your mental toughness. 

Despite your focus and preparation, the reality of selling is that something can happen that will throw you off and potentially start spiraling out of control. Someone yells at you. 3 people slammed their door in your face. Someone called the cops. Your team complains a lot. And on and on and on. it is imperative for you to learn to let go of anything negative that happened and refocus on your next pitch. Countless doors are wasted because reps allow something that happened on a previous door to carry over into the rest of their area. 

Not you. You let go of the past to move forward with precision and accuracy using the framework below.

The 6 Steps of Mental Toughness

  1. Awareness
  2. Release
  3. Center
  4. Refocus
  5. Ready
  6. Action

Step #1 Awareness

Learning to recognize where you’re at physically, mentally, behaviorally, and emotionally is a key to unlocking your mental toughness. You cannot change what you are unaware of. 

Have you ever been out in public and notice that your zipper is down? When you became aware that it was down, how did you respond? Most people would zip it up. Becoming aware of what’s going on, often enlightens you to the correct action. The biggest problem people face is simply not paying attention. They know they’re not getting results, but fail to pay attention to what’s going on between their ears.

Start paying attention to your thoughts and many of your questions will be answered.

Step #2 Release

To perform in the present moment you must let go of experiences of the past. Reps often complain about areas or people. They make excuses for their own behavior when the problem all along was their inability to let go. Carrying the past with you will only slow you down and limit your ability to perform.

Acknowledge and accept what has happened, good or bad. Then release it before moving forward. Adding a physical element to your release will enhance its effectiveness. Major league baseball players will undo and redo their batting gloves between pitches. Pitchers will remove their hats until they’ve let go. Pick up a pebble and toss it. Choose your release mechanism and start implementing it today.

Step #3 Center

To center yourself means to gain control over yourself. Your thoughts, emotions, behavior and physiology. Acquire the appropriate attitude, focus and intensity to meet the demands of the situation. Choose a specific action or stance that you return to after each and every door. This action ensures that as a rep, you’re in control of yourself. Your body positioning and posture convey a message not only to those who see you, but also to yourself. 

Step #4 Refocus

Now that you’ve made it through the self control phase, it’s time to identify what you are going to do next. This is where you shift from self control to performance.

When things are going well, often your focus is in the right place. You don’t need to waste time releasing and getting centered, because there is nothing to release and you are already centered. Your refocus has 2 parts, first scan. Understand the situation because it can change from door to door. Second, is to make your plan. This is the difference between a rep who just goes through the motions and a rep who closes. Once you’ve decided on your plan, commit to it with confidence. Lack of commitment leads to hesitation and hesitation leads to doubt and fear, which leads to poor performance. 

Step #5 Ready

All the planning in the world is worthless if action is not taken. The ready phase should be incredibly short and should consist of a simple trigger to “turn on” or flip the switch. This can also be as simple as an intentional breath. Select a trigger that will work for you personally. Having a strategy that you don’t use is worth nothing.

Step #6 Action

You’ve done the work. Now it’s time to execute. Trust in your preparation and allow your mind and body to work together to enjoy the process. The results will speak for themselves!

How Mentally Tough Are You?

It’s taken some time to work through this framework, but it should take seconds to get through it on the doors. If selling at a high level is important to you, then following this framework should be a no-brainer. Take ownership of your performance and your results. Your skills are only as good as you can control yourself. Start with a quick check in on your thoughts, emotions and physiology. Let go of any past experiences using your physical trigger. Get centered. Refocus. And go. And remember, information is worthless until used. 

If you enjoyed learning about Mental Toughness, watch out for our next blog and webinar to follow!

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