Resilience in Sales and How to Build It

The only way is up! Building resilience in sales

Much of this blog was inspired by the advice given from: Hillary Wild-Hirons of Black Swan Data, Kate Lewis of e4enable, Richard Smith of Refract and our own John Richardson, after the ‘Sell yourself to Safety’ webinar we hosted on the 1st of October. To watch the whole webinar, click here.

The steps you can take to build resilience in yourself as a sales rep:

Accepting it and moving on

Kate – ‘Shit happens, people make mistakes, the thing that will influence the outcome more than anything is your reaction to the situation’. 

So, although it’s easy to do, ruminating for hours in sadness and disappointment over what you did wrong is not great for your mental health and also not very productive. ‘Accepting it and moving on’ is the quickest way to bounce back and get working on your next opportunity. Some suggested methods are: 

  • ‘Shutting your laptop and remembering that tomorrow is a new day, because you can’t go back and change what’s already been done’ (but you can learn from it for the future) 
  • ‘Speaking to supportive leadership that will encourage you to remember that it’s not the end of the world’ 
  • Remembering that everyone (all of your colleagues) will screw up, make mistakes or have ‘horrendously shitty days’ at one point or another (and they still have jobs)! 
  • Speaking to colleagues that provide a safe space for you to talk about your mistakes 
  • Remembering that in sales, you’re always more likely to get a ‘no’ than a ‘yes’ and preparing yourself for that
  • (Sometimes) having a complete meltdown, if the situation warrants it/ drinking a large glass of wine 

More on how to implement these as we go on. 

Active self-reflection and treating ‘failure’ as an opportunity for learning

Hillary – ‘You don’t have to have formal systems in place to build resilience, it should be an ongoing mentality. Getting into the habit of giving yourself feedback helps you exercise resilience through self-reflection’. 

A key thread that was often mentioned in tandem with building resilience, was the practice of using ‘reflection’ to see the positive in negative situations. Our panellists spoke about allocating yourself time at the end of the day to reflect on: what went well and what didn’t go well and based on that what you’d do differently next time. It’s important to note that the attitude you take into self-reflection is just as, if not more important than the practice of it. Because of that, we’re going to briefly describe the ‘growth mindset’ and why this kind of thinking is essential when it comes to building resilience through reflection.

Carol Dweck’s definition of a ‘growth mindset’ is the belief that setback’s and failure are learning opportunities to cultivate skill and ability and that ‘failure is not a permanent state’. People who have a growth mindset are more successful than their peers because they are more ‘willing to fail, to be wrong and start over again with the lessons they’ve learnt’

Putting this attitude into the context of sales resilience. Sales reps that are less afraid to fail, are more likely to push themselves out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves by approaching what they believe to be their ‘far-fetched opportunities’. They treat critical feedback as information that will help them learn faster, rather than a confirmation of a lack of ability which makes it a lot easier for them to ‘bounce back and try again’. Ultimately, they look at their losses as opportunities to learn and become a better salesperson. It’s an attitude that’s nicely summarized by Lewis – ‘The more No’s you get, the closer you are to a Yes’.

Building resilience in sales through 'accepting it and moving on' with a growth mindset

Putting the situation into perspective

As Richard says the sales profession is quite unique in that ‘you could feel like you’ve done an honest week’s worth of hard work, and feel like you’ve got jack shit to show for it’. 

This might not be because you’ve done anything particularly wrong in that week, but is instead more reflective of the nature of the profession. It is therefore crucial that you don’t take every ‘no’ as a reflection of your personal performance, but instead put it into the correct context. You can’t control the uncontrollable, you can’t control when someone says no to you because they genuinely don’t need your product. The more you are able to detach yourself from thinking the prospect has something against you personally, the better prepared you will be to bounce back from those knock-backs. 

‘The best piece of advice I’ve ever received in my life is when I’ve started to get overwhelmed with a worry, is to go okay, purposefully take your mind to the worst-case scenario’ – Kate. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t win that deal, that your prospect has chosen to go with a competitor, but it won’t ruin your life and you won’t lose your job. The faster you can move on, the quicker you can secure other opportunities.

Speaking to supportive colleagues/ leadership

Hillary – ‘When I was thinking about resilience, my mind immediately went to everything around me and not just me. It’s about finding those people you can trust and talk to’.

Most of our webinar panellists referenced the support of colleagues and managers as playing a crucial part in the resilience-building process. If resilience is about that ‘bounce back’ ability, colleagues are the support you need to put those challenges back into perspective. Speaking to supportive leadership can help you distil what you’ve taken away from a loss, and show you how to use that information to approach the situation differently next time.

building resilience, even in a remote-first world

As Richard said, the transition to remote-working has meant ‘you’re cut off from your team members, your best pall at work who picks you up isn’t sat in the desk next to you and your manager isn’t in earshot to come and give you advice when you’ve come off a bad call’. It’s therefore never been more important to make an active effort to touch base with your team. Lend a supportive hand when you can and make it clear to your trusted colleagues, that you are at the other end of the phone if they need advice. It is all about mutual reciprocation!

Putting yourself in the situations you find uncomfortable and prioritising doing parts of the job you dislike

John – ‘By putting yourself in difficult situations and experiencing the challenges that come with that, you’re automatically in a better position to handle them next time’.

Consistently do the things that you find the hardest about your job and make them part of your routine. This piece of advice will help you build a second type of resilience, one that John describes as ‘the daily effort of consistently doing things even when the motivation isn’t there’. For example, if you don’t like prospecting, prospect at the beginning of each day. Make yourself do the things you dislike (even when you’ve lost all motivation), because ultimately, the more you do the hard things, the easier the hard things become. 

When putting yourself in novel or challenging situations at work for the first time, you should feel informed and backed by your management. They won’t be holding your hand every step of the way, but they should make you feel that your choices are supported and that if something does go wrong they’ll help you figure out how to fix it. Finally, although putting yourself up for a challenge at work is a fast way to learn, you should only do so if you feel that you’re ready to hold yourself accountable for the outcome – even when there is a healthy culture of coaching and support, there will always be a level of autonomy.

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