You have all the right technical skills to be a great salesperson. You know how to qualify, negotiate, and move to a close. But if you’re getting nervous, you’re not performing at your best.
Technical knowledge and practice aren’t enough unless you have a game plan for dealing with the emotional pieces. Do you get anxious before sales calls or meetings? It’s all about finding the techniques that work for you and putting yourself in the right mental space before you go into an important event.
If you watch Tom Brady before the Super Bowl or Michael Phelps before Olympic swim events, you’ll notice they have a plan. They’ve been taught what to do — whether that’s listening to certain music, doing certain body movements, or thinking certain thoughts. You need to have a plan like that, too. Don’t just sit there being nervous. It’s only going to make the situation worse. Be self-aware and create a checklist of constructive things that you can do to help tame your anxiety and boost that confidence and energy. Here are a few ways you can do just that.
Find your confidence boosters.
The first thing to do is a self-assessment. Ask yourself: What’s holding you back in a sales call? Is it that you’re anxious about the outcome, or is it more that you lack confidence and you’re not presenting yourself well enough?
In my experience, people struggle with the confidence piece more than anything else. What can make you feel more confident as you head into that big sales meeting? One approach is a “greatest hits” strategy. We’ve all seen highlight reels of sports moments on ESPN or sports shows. I’ve met athletes who actually have had someone make a personalized reel for them to watch before games. If you’re in sales, you should try doing the same thing with your imagination. Before stepping into a room, vividly recall your best moments as a salesperson — your professional greatest hits. Or visualize those past deals and the congratulation emails you received. All of this should remind you how capable and successful you really are.
Another great technique is using music. Many people choose songs that get them very upbeat and motivated. Especially if you are a rep who is driving or flying between sales meetings, you may want to choose podcasts to help enhance your technical knowledge. Knowledge is power. Being up to date and broadening your expertise will help you bring even more value to your customers, boosting your own confidence at the same time. But, in those last 10 minutes before you pull up to the client’s site, remember to turn on a special playlist of songs that you know will make you feel energized.
Create a routine.
People who have a mental-preparation routine perform better. Our bodies crave repetition and ritual. We like the fact that we have turkey on Thanksgiving: It’s familiar and what we expect. There’s something about predictability that eases our anxiety. You can see that in an Olympic diver on the high-dive platform who does a series of actions the same way every time before a dive, just like in practice.
When you’re in a nerve-wracking situation, even a silly ritual can make a difference. Think about the baseball players who scratch letters in the dirt with the back of the bat before they go up to the plate. Scientifically, does that make any difference? Well, no, it shouldn’t. But sitting there and worrying about striking out could hurt their performance. If a ritual can distract you from negative thoughts, it will have a positive impact on performance.
Do a backstage ritual.
In concert documentaries, you’ll often see band members backstage holding hands or doing rituals as a group before going on stage together. Research shows that teams that do something together tend to perform better than people who are off on their own before a team event. For my new book, I talked with a Broadway theatrical company about the group’s approaches to mental preparation. Their director had the lead actors play a game of throwing balls around and chanting before the show.
One of the show’s actresses said that when she went to drama school, she was taught to do yoga and breathing exercises and to listen to certain kinds of music backstage. These worked pretty well, but they were solitary, almost isolating kind of rituals. A few minutes later, she would find herself out on stage in front of 1,000 people interacting with someone she hadn’t even said hello to that night. Why? The other actor had been off in his corner doing his yoga exercises.
If you’re selling in a team environment, the sales leader should come up with a five-minute exercise for the team to do before going into a customer meeting. There’s a good chance it will help the group feel a little bit closer and more cohesive. It really is important to bond together before we’re in an interactive environment, rather than just being off with our headphones on and doing our own thing. For a sales team, it makes sense to take those few minutes together and create that sense of unity. And that can only help you ease your nerves when you know everyone is there for each other.
“Technical knowledge and practice aren’t enough unless you have a game plan for dealing with the emotional pieces.”