by Dave Kahle
Here's some real-world advice on how to stay motivated even during these difficult times.
Sales is an emotional roller coaster, and unless you figure out how to manage those emotions and keep yourself motivated, you'll have a difficult time succeeding. This is particularly true right now. The economy continues to struggle, and unemployment is higher than it has been for years. Many companies are cutting back, there are fewer jobs available, and pressures to perform are greater than ever. It's easy to lose our motivation.
However, even though the world around us may be dreary and depressing, that in no way reduces our personal need to do the best we can. That means that we all have a responsibility to stay motivated.
It is amazing what a difference a few degrees of attitude adjustment can make in our performance. Try this little exercise. Tell yourself these things: "Business is terrible. All of my customers are struggling. Nobody wants to see me, and when they do, it's just to complain." Now wallow in those thoughts for a moment, and note how much energy and enthusiasm you have.
Now, think the opposite: "I have great opportunities. My customers need me more today than ever. I have valuable solutions for them. It's a great time to have this job." Roll those around in your mind for a while. Note how much energy and enthusiasm you have.
As you reflect on this exercise, it's clear that your energy, enthusiasm and drive to succeed come as a result of your thoughts. And here is one of the most powerful truths known to mankind: You can control your thoughts.
Going beyond "positive thinking":
Succeeding in difficult times depends a great deal on our motivation. Staying motivated requires us to take charge of our thoughts.
I've heard dozens of salespeople say, "I've tried positive thinking. It just isn't me." I agree that it is difficult to patch a bunch of positive thoughts on top of an essentially negative personality. The issue is deeper than that. Let's, therefore, examine the deeper issues.
At the heart of motivation lies a pair of powerful beliefs that you must embrace if you are going to successfully motivate yourself. Without a wholehearted commitment to these foundational beliefs, all the techniques and tactics for self-motivation are like spreading wallpaper over crumbling plaster. It may hold temporarily, but it is soon going to deteriorate into a mess.
Here's the first foundational principle: You must believe that you can do better than you are now doing. The second is this: You must accept that it is your responsibility to do so.
It's simple and commonsense, but, the more I observe people and salespeople specifically, the more convinced I am that the majority of people do not share these core beliefs. Rather, they are in the habit of making excuses for their situation. They believe fate, not their actions, determines their success. They believe success is for someone else, not them. They never really grab unto the first of these foundational principles.
Others believe that they can achieve greater degrees of success. They embrace the first principle, intellectually, but they never internalize the second. They become content with their situation and remain in pre-established comfort zones. They look at their manager as the person who is responsible for their success, or lack thereof. Maybe it's their parent's fault, or their spouse's, or... the list goes on.
Whether you are struggling with a lack of energy that accompanies a bad day, or you're depressed and frustrated with your lack of progress on a larger scale, examine your core beliefs first. If you really accept these two principles, you have the keystone in place to become highly motivated.
Having said that, here are a couple proven techniques you can use to keep yourself motivated day-to-day.
Have something you are working to accomplish:
This can be an important and compelling goal like saving enough money for a down payment on a house. When you are working toward something like that, your emotions of the moment tend to be a lower priority than your drive to achieve. If you are trying to make money for a home for your family, so what if you're tired or depressed? You get out and do it. The same is true for having a compelling purpose. I believe that every salesperson should be able to articulate clearly his or her purpose in life. I once began a ten-week sales training program with a requirement that everyone write a two-sentence "life purpose." Why? Because it gives power and focus to everything you do. In your job as a salesperson, there will many difficult times when things don't go your way. You may lose a big deal, or be unable to get anyone to return your calls. At times like these, it helps to view them within the context of a larger perspective - your life purpose.
Proactively put positive thoughts into your mind:
Make a point of taking charge of your mind and the kind of thoughts you choose to think. Wise and thoughtful people for ages have discovered an extremely powerful principle: Your actions arise from your thoughts, and you can choose your thoughts. Controlling and managing your thoughts is one of the basic tenants of Zen Buddhism, for example. In the Christian context, the apostle Paul said, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Philosophers, educators, and thinkers of every generation conclude the same thing. But the power of this truth is not reserved just for philosophers. Salespeople can make use of it as well. The reason you may feel depressed or anxious is because you are thinking depressing or anxious thoughts. Change your thoughts, and you can change your feelings. Change your emotions, and you can change your behavior. Change your behavior and you can change your results. It's not as difficult as it may sound.
Do this -- invest in a couple of audio programs - good, positive stuff - or find something at the local library. As you drive between appointments and on your way home from work, listen to those tapes or CDs. You'll find yourself thinking positive thoughts. Those positive thoughts will lead to a more positive attitude. That attitude will manifest in more focused actions. Those actions will lead to better results. Read educational and inspiring books and periodicals. Hundreds of good sales books are published each year. Spend 30 minutes at your local Barnes & Noble, Borders or business bookstore and you'll find several works that will interest and stimulate you. The World Wide Web is awash with resources. Then there are hardcopy publications. There is no limit to the amount of positive, educational material available to you. If you are not regularly exposing yourself to some of this, it is because you are choosing to not be motivated. Succeeding in difficult times requires you to take charge of your motivation. Now is the time to take this most important step to becoming a true professional.