By Jamie Crosbie
Peak performance is not reserved exclusively for world-class athletes, brilliant trauma surgeons, or steely-eyed Top Gun fighter pilots. The truth is that anyone can learn to achieve peak mental performance. It is a completely learnable skill for salespeople.
The first step is deceptively simple: embrace your mistakes and see them as growth opportunities.
That’s based on pioneering research conducted by author Carol Dweck, who studies motivation and cognitive performance. Dweck believes we cannot run from failure or stress. Rather, we must develop what she terms a “growth mindset.” The secret to this mindset is to see everything as a progression toward a solution instead of a stopping point.
Learn to See Obstacles as Building Blocks
For instance, in a TED Talk she delivered in 2014, she noted that kindergartners – many of whom had lacked the focus to hold a pencil when they arrived at a Harlem inner-city school – were able to score in the 95th percentile on the National Achievement Test when they were taught that obstacles are not failures, but, rather, natural building blocks to success.
Simply reframing the circumstances strengthened neural connections even when students grappled with difficult concepts. For instance, when students in one high school were faced with passing a certain number of tests in order to graduate, teachers gave them grades of “Not Yet” instead of failing grades. This encouraged students and challenged them to move forward. Instead of fearing failure, they focused more naturally on the challenge.
The children were taught that even failing a test or not understanding a lesson had value because it was part of a larger process. They learned, in essence, that a given situation is not bad or good until you label it so. As with the seniors who needed to pass a class, failure is only failure when we slap a label on it. This is more than a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full mindset; it is a realization that the glass is, and always will be, refillable.
Except for death (and possibly taxes), nothing is static in life. There is no stop sign because everything in life runs on a continuum; one moment flows into the next. What seems to be destruction in one situation can be the turning point in another.
As a sales professional, you understand that perseverance is key to success. There is, however, a bit more involved than simply getting up when life knocks you down. To be a top performer in sales, you have to respond to what looks like abject failure, in a completely different way than most people.
Six Tips to Achieve Peak Performance
Here are six tips to achieve peak performance as a salesperson.
- Don’t protect your ego. Embrace mistakes as part of the process of learning. Be unafraid in seeking out the root causes of a given failure.
- Remember that most things do not have an end point. Almost anything can be changed into a launch pad if you change the label it carries.
- Create a mental safe space and environment. Encourage off-the-wall ideas and creative solutions.
- Practice letting go of treasured processes that continually fail. Be willing to tweak – or even abandon – what does not work by trying many different paths to solutions. In other words, find what works; let go of what does not.
- Understand that most things are not inherently good or bad. It is simply our viewpoint that determines how we feel and what we do.
- The best way to move forward is not to lament what a situation should be. Rather, embrace what the situation is so you can make it into something even better.
Like any good bodybuilder will tell you, you have to put some time in at the gym if you want to get stronger. In the case of peak mental performance, the best workout space is located between your ears. Remember: Failures are not permanent. They’re simply a “not yet.”
Jamie Crosbie is CEO and founder of ProActivate, LLC, and has 20 years of experience in sales leadership and the talent acquisition industry. Previously, she served as vice president of sales at CareerBuilder, where she successfully led a team of 80+ people and exceeded her revenue goals on a quarterly and annual basis. Her sales business experienced 50-85 percent revenue growths annually. Join her at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14, where she will participate in a panel discussion, “Innovative Ways to Help Reps Reach Peak Performance Levels.”