When it comes to sales, embracing the uncomfortable aspects of the process is key. Top performers know this, and that is why they shine. Sales discomforts trigger a hard-wired “response to fear” category in our brains. This primal instinct makes us perceive feelings of fear as actual threats to our person, and act accordingly: run away! For salespeople in particular, running away from discomfort is deadly because the sales process is a series of uncomfortable moments. But, here is the good news: we are better than our primal wiring! We’ve got it in us to embrace discomfort and do amazing things. To excel in work and life, you can—you must—embrace discomfort. Here are five ways you can train your brain to embrace discomfort and make bold choices.
1. Learn the Challenge-Change Connection
One key to understanding how our brains work is to realize that every time we experience a moment of discomfort, we simultaneously make a decision. Understanding the constant pattern of discomforts and corresponding decisions is a career-changing concept. Great sales professionals understand this. In fact, it is what defines top performers. They face discomforts just like everyone else. They simply respond differently.
That discomfort can relate to any aspect of your sales performance – prospecting, asking for referrals, negotiating a deal, closing, or even just dealing with a snarky customer.
Until you train your brain otherwise, your decisions will be made by default. Through awareness and repetition, you can rewrite your mental code and choose your responses.
2. Play Out the Worst-Case Scenario
As we think about discomfort, our natural tendency is to think about the risks and consequences of taking bold actions. This thinking starts out innocently enough, but quickly degenerates into a series of “OH NO!” scenarios: “What if the customers don’t like me?”…“What if they fight me on the price?”…“What if they say ‘no’?”
If we really thought about it, all of our “ON NO!” questions can be answered with a shrug of the shoulders and a simple, “So, what?” We expend an incredible amount of energy internally reacting to things that have not and likely will not ever happen.
In order to be bold about our sales discomforts we must start with brutal self-honesty. I encourage people who work in sales to pinpoint the exact things they dread in the sales process and then yes, by all means, go ahead and play out in their minds the absolute worst possible outcomes they can imagine (complete with a Hollywood soundtrack). And then I like to remind them that whatever sales discomfort they have played out to its movie-worthy end, it is not going to kill them!
Recognizing that we have let fear-filled fiction dictate our actions is the first step in embracing discomfort. Replacing that fiction with realistic scenarios frees us up for the next step.
3. Write New Stories
Justifications and rationalizations are a natural default of the human psyche. I call this behavior “making up stories,” and I believe we are really, really good at it. Making up stories is a skill that we have developed into a fine and subtle art. It is the way we accept and normalize our comfort addiction. Like the frog in the proverbial boiling pot, one small step at a time, we justify self-defeating behaviors and we slowly make it the norm to be continually defeated by our own desire for comfort.
Here is some good news about all those rationalizations (stories) you’ve been telling yourself for years: They are all fiction. You have made them up and have accepted them as truth, over time. Why is that good news? Because it means that you have the power and ability to write new and better stories!
Consider this insight from Alex Taba, the #1 sales representative at Penske Automotive at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, who sells Ferraris for a living, “In sales, you have to start with the end result in mind. You have to believe in what will happen in every sales conversation. I envision my customer driving away in a car, and then I just connect the dots to get him there.”