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⚡️ Today’s level up ⚡️
Even after building a $27.3M/year book of business in less than 4 years, I still got nervous before meetings. Today’s system breaks down a 5-step framework I developed that you can use to make nervousness less debilitating.
Read time: <7 minutes
The pressure can be immense
Picture it: You’re about to go into a meeting with several executive stakeholders.
The company is a Fortune 50 icon. They’re the largest player in their industry.
Your CEO and CTO are joining you and the rest of the account team you’ve assembled. Because of their busy schedules, you have to brief them in just 30 minutes in the hotel club lounge before catching an UberXL to the prospect’s HQ.
Your executives really want to win this deal because it gets the company into an industry they’re desperate to enter.
On the other side, the SVP mobilizer you’ve been closely engaging with over the past 6 months has briefed you the best he can. He’s pulled in his boss, an EVP who reports directly to the CEO. They’re eager for change and believe in your company’s capabilities.
Yet, the prospect’s CTO and the entire IT department have a lot of political sway and have already invested a $50M sum in another solution just 4 years ago. They have made it clear to the business team and the CEO, they have no intentions to evaluate any new technology.
That’s a lot of pressure.
I would know, because the above scenario was exactly one I faced. We ended up winning the deal, but I had to work hard at keeping my nerves in check throughout this engagement with so many big time executives involved and high stakes on the line.
Here’s how I did it.
Nerves are natural, and in fact necessary for peak performance
Before I get to exactly how I did it, it’s first important to recognize that nerves are natural.
In fact, in other high stakes performance-based fields such professional sports or in the military, nerves are necessary. According to extensive research I compiled with the help of my capable intern (a.k.a. ChatGPT 4), having some level of nervousness will actually boost performance:
1. Research in Psychology:
– According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, moderate levels of anxiety can actually improve performance in high-stress situations, such as job interviews or public speaking. The study found that participants who experienced moderate levels of anxiety performed better on a math test than those who were completely calm or extremely anxious.
– Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that anxiety can improve cognitive performance by increasing attention to detail and focus. The study found that participants who experienced anxiety performed better on a task that required them to focus on specific details than those who were not anxious.
2. Research in Sports:
– In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, researchers found that athletes who experienced pre-competition nervousness had better performance outcomes compared to those who were not nervous. The study found that moderate levels of anxiety can help athletes focus and perform better under pressure.
– Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, once said: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” This quote highlights the importance of failure and nervousness in the process of success.
3. Research in Music:
– A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that musicians who experienced moderate levels of nervousness before a performance had better musical expression and accuracy compared to those who were not nervous. The study found that moderate levels of anxiety can help musicians focus and pay attention to detail.
– Adele, a 16 time Grammy Award winner, once said: “I get so nervous on stage that I can’t help but talk [to myself and the crowd]. I turn into my grandma. She’s saying: ‘Might as well go ahead and do it.’” This quote from Adele highlights how nervousness can lead to her being more talkative and expressive on stage, which can enhance her performance and connect with her audience. It also shows how she accepts nervousness as a natural part of her performance process, rather than trying to completely eliminate it.
4. Research in the Military:
– In a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers found that soldiers who experienced pre-combat nervousness had better performance outcomes compared to those who were not nervous. The study found that moderate levels of anxiety can help soldiers focus and perform better under pressure.
– General George S. Patton, a famous military leader, once said: “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” This quote highlights the importance of embracing challenges and nervousness in the process of victory.
This research from various performance-based fields suggest that moderate levels of nervousness can be beneficial for high performance. But how do you find the sweet spot and keep the nervousness from being debilitating so you use it as an ally?
Let’s break it down using a framework I developed called C.R.A.F.T.
The C.R.A.F.T. framework
1/ C: CREATE
Being creative had a calming effect for me. The goal was to create something that I knew would help me and our company stand out.
– Big meeting = bigger creative (like a vision video)
– Short meeting = shorter creative (like a visual or quote from their CEO I could put onto a single slide)
2/ R: RESEARCH
Knowing a key detail about the executives I was meeting with was empowering, so I researched something meaningful about each one and interviewed my mobilizer to confirm the details.
– What do they really care about?
– How does their role connect to the company’s big initiatives?
3/ A: ASK
Trying to position large transformations is no easy feat, so asking for help is not only necessary, but it eases the burden on you as the orchestrator of the deal.
– A second set of eyes to eliminate mistakes on your presentation materials
– A co-pilot to prepare and present the pitch, adding a new perspective and level of credibility you may be lacking
4/ F: FOCUS
The parasympathetic nervous system is a network of nerves that relaxes your body during periods of stress or danger. By focusing on my breathing, using specific exercises, I could get back into the present moment to either calm my nerves or increase my alertness.
A tool I’m now loving (and wish I had a few years ago) is the new Stress Monitor from WHOOP.
It’s measuring things like resting heart rate and heart rate variability in real-time, giving guidance on how to better manage stress in the moment (like preparing for a big pitch meeting).
Based on my goals – either to increase relaxation or increase alertness – I can get guided breathing exercises from one of the preeminent experts in peak performance, neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman.
5/ T: THINK
Remembering “I am human and they are too” puts it all into perspective because I think about the bigger picture.
– Nobody will die if this meeting goes awry
– If you make a mistake, it will give you a new learning opportunity to be better next time
Hope this was helpful. Remember to use C.R.A.F.T. as a helpful framework to keep yourself in the peak performance sweet spot. The big deals will be waiting for you on the other side.
See you next week!
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