⚡️ Today’s level up ⚡️
In this edition, we’ll explore the root cause hindering peak performance in sales and I’ll share a simple system, called “OKAY,” that I use when I am feeling in a rut.
→ Read this in <7 minutes right now
→ Understand you’re a human first and a seller second
→ Re-evaluate constant activity as the only antidote to low performance
→ Apply a simple system to get back to the basics (being a healthy human) so you can be a better seller
It’s okay to not be okay
Image courtesy of University of Illinois, Chicago Wellness Center
I often use the mantra human first, seller second.
It’s intentional, because I use it to remind myself and others that to be a stellar performer, it starts with being the best version of our human self first.
I suffer from depression. And there are waves where I experience crushing crashes. The kind where it’s hard to get anything done. I also suffer from anxiety, particularly social anxiety.
I know I’m not alone.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 4% of the world’s population suffers from depression (approximately 280 million people). And 1 out of 14 people around the world are being affected by some form of anxiety (approximately 548 million people).
And in sales, mental health is getting worse.
My good friend Jeff Riseley, creator of Stress Less, Sell More and founder of The Sales Health Alliance, along with the good work from UNCrushed and Richard Harris, revealed in The 2022 State of Mental Health in Sales that sellers struggling with their mental health is on the rise year-over-year (up to 63% in 2022 compared to 58% in 2021).
Better selling starts with being a better human
There’s big business in making selling more complicated than it really is.
I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with my former sales performance coach, mentor, and now good friend – Andy Paul. We talked about a lot of cool things, but one thing we kept coming back to is our joint distaste around a hyper focus on quick sales hacks and ineffective sales processes.
In Andy’s third book, Sell Without Selling Out (which is on my must read list), he talks about four core pillars of selling in, which are Connection, Curiosity, Understanding, and Generosity.
These are not sales tools, they are human assets. Using them effectively leads to better sales. Yet, what we often find is that sellers are continually having their “selling cups filled” when their human cups are sitting empty and being outright neglected.
Struggling to hit quota? Let’s get you more sales training.
Not connecting with the buyer? Must be the sales process – are you following the playbook?
Crushed your number this year? We must have set your target too low.
It pays to be you
Luckily I jumped off this merry-go-round four years ago when I embraced the human first, seller second approach.
And it paid me well…
As a corporate strategic seller, it took me 24 months to build an $11M ARR book of business using mostly a hustle-and-grind, activity-based approach.
Yet, when I slowed down in order to speed up and started focusing on the human quality inputs (like my sleep, health, wellbeing, and quality deep work efforts) and making more of a human impact with my prospects (improved account selection, saying no more than yes, better connections, and more collaboration), I actually closed more in less time – $16.3M ARR in just 18 months!
And now that I am working with others through Make More Hustle Less Club and via 1:1 coaching and mentoring, I’m seeing it play out effectively for others.
Take for instance, Himanshu. When we started working together earlier this year, he struggled with limiting beliefs:
- • “Do I deserve to be in this role?”
- • “Am I even cut out to be in enterprise sales?”
- • “How can I achieve the level of success others have?”
Instead of working on specific sales strategies, we worked on developing a better personal operating system…or something Himanshu calls his daily “practice.”
He wasn’t lacking the ability to be a top seller…he was simply focused on trying to be a type of seller that wasn’t natural to him. One that prized constant activity, hustling, and grinding. But that didn’t feel right to him as a purpose-curious individual.
We focused on the human side, not the seller one:
- • Observing and documenting his behaviors
- • Developing routines that matched his personality
- • Embracing his role to connect with like-minded individuals
→ Feeling more calm and capable
→ Sleeping better and more healthy than ever
→ Promoted to a strategic sales role in a key division
He is now able to align with the right type of contacts on his account list and be himself. Because being himself means he can (in the words of Andy Paul) Connect, be Curious, Understand, and offer Generosity.
Being himself is what he needed to discover, not the quick hacks or process designed to create the type of seller he was being told he “needed to be.”
But what about those days when you just feel stuck? Try this simple system called OKAY.
Confession: I was in a funk before writing this newsletter.
It was one of those downward spirals that come time to time. A reminder that no matter how hard we try, or how perfect we try to make ourselves look to others, there are simply going to be days that suck.
Granted, I am no mental health expert, so please seek professional help where applicable, but if you find yourself stuck some days, unmotivated to do anything, here’s my personal system I use to get unstuck that may inspire you to try it too:
STEP 1: O- OWN it
A good place to start is by simply acknowledging you’re not alone in feeling this way.
Remember the stats I referenced at the beginning? That’s a lot of people who are not feeling great – and that’s perfectly okay. Take some extra time to not feel okay. Guilting ourselves into action will eventually backfire, because we’re trying to be someone we’re not in those situations.
→ TRY THIS: Revisit the “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” image frequently. It’s a reminder that being perfect does not exist, in fact it’s boring (more on that in the next step). You could even be like Jack and get the phrase painted on your bike wheels. : )
STEP 2: K- Let others KNOW about it
While we’re not alone in our human conditions (anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma, and others), we’re all unique individuals.
And that’s a beautiful thing!
I like to think that everyone on earth is on a spectrum based on myriad human conditions (good, bad, and neutral). We’re able to connect on those shared conditions, yet remind ourself that our path is one just for us.
It’s a solo journey within, but a journey best shared with others once we better understand what we discover inside.
→ TRY THIS: Come up with a phrase you can use with others that lets them know when you need a little extra time to get your work done (I use “I’m in a down cycle”). Perfect for your manager or important people in your life, like your spouse, partner, friends, family, or roommate. Let them know ahead of time what this means, why you need the extra time, how they can best support you, and what to expect during this time.
STEP 3: A – ACT on it
Focus on one, tiny healthy action.
According to research by BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits (another book on my must read list) at Stanford’s Behavioral Design Lab, the key to building effective habits is through feeling good.
However, on the days we’re not feeling so good, we need one anchor behavior to jumpstart other healthy actions that lead to a more productive you.
It’s important it to note that there is no one-size-fits-all behavior here. For some, it might be listening to their favorite song, for others it’s getting an extra hour’s sleep, while others it’s meditation.
However, there is a formula for behavior, which is B=MAP (at the same moment).
- • When a behavior is prompted above the action line, it happens
- • The more motivated you are to do a behavior, the more likely you are to do the behavior
- • The harder the behavior is to do, the less likely you are to do it
- • Motivation and ability work together like teammates
→ TRY THIS: Use the B=MAP model to design a behavior (ahead of time) you can use to take a simple, healthy action when you’re in a funk. For instance, going for a walk outside (movement, nature, and fresh air are all proven to help lift your mood – so this behavior might get as close to a universal action as it gets) would look like this:
- • Behavior: Go for a walk outside.
- • Motivation: Desire to feel better and get necessary work done.
- • Ability: Unless you are injured or impaired or there’s extreme weather outside, walking outside should be relatively easy to do for most people. To make it even easier, you could leave a pair of shoes (or boots and coat if it’s snowing) by the front door to make it even easier.
- • Prompt: When you mention your “not okay” phrase, that’s your cue to take a walk outside.
STEP 4: Y – YIELD better to it
Yield means to be “flexible under stress or physical force.”
When we’re facing tough times or feel in a funk, it’s not the time to hit the accelerator, we need to slow down so we can avoid a bigger crash down the road.
I like how the Cleveland Clinic describes it:
Sometimes, distractions and self-care can be the best ways to help us work through ruts.
→ TRY THIS: Clean up or organize your surroundings. According to Mayo Clinic, “too much clutter may increase stress and your risk of depression.” Instead of jumping right into sending an important email, take just a little more time to organize files, run the vacuum in your home office, or clean up your desk. There’s something to be said about the energetic feeling you get after tidying up, so you can use this as leverage to improve the quality of your work.
When it’s no longer okay not being okay
A rut is temporary, so feeling bad shouldn’t be permanent.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “an indicator of something more serious is the inability to identify happiness or good times in your past. It might be cause for concern if you have the sense that things won’t ever get better or if nothing improves your mood.”
“When we’re dealing with clinical depression, at times the person is not able to identify happy moments from their past,” explains behavioral therapist Amy Brodsky, LISW-S. “It’s when you think that you’ve felt this way forever and it’s starting to really impact how you function or your obligations.”
“Clinical depression looks different on everyone, but hallmark signs include changes in appetite, feeling tired or exhausted all the time, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, or even physical pain or achiness.”
“If you’re not experiencing any little joys or breakthrough moments of happiness, it might be time to reach out for support. A mental health expert can help you work through and manage your feelings.”
- • Remember, you’re a human first, seller second
- • Being a better functioning human pays you more as a seller – literally
- • Focusing on more sales activity or process won’t unblock better human performance
- • When you’re really overwhelmed, at your max, or in a funk, try the OKAY system to get unstuck:
- – O: OWN it (Embrace it’s okay not being okay)
- – K: Let others KNOW about it (Don’t bottle it up)
- – A: ACT on it (Focus on one small, tiny behavior)
- – Y: YIELD to it (Slow down rather than hitting the accelerator)
- • If you can’t remember ever feeling good, then it’s a sign of a larger issue and a good time to check in with a mental health professional
See you next time!
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
- 1.) Get the exact system I’ve used to go from earning $200K to over $1M a year in SaaS sales without burning out here. (2,500+ students)
- 2.) Join a community of Purpose-Curious™ sellers in the Make More Hustle Less Club where we develop a personal operating system together here. (300+ members)
- 3.) Book a 1:1 coaching session to up-level your performance here. (Limited spots available)