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How to Develop Sales Grit and Live Life Like a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

How to Develop Sales Grit and Live Life Like a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

February 23, 2016

“I want our whole organization to show off how to overcome stuff … I want us to demonstrate resilience, which is one of the foundations of grit. We’re going to demonstrate it, just like we demonstrated the resilience to win.”

So said Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll in a recent Sports Illustrated article just six months after “the call,” his much-maligned and game-losing decision to throw the ball to a receiver (which ended up being intercepted by the Patriots) instead of the practically “sure-thing” call of running it into the end zone from the one-yard line.

He was reflecting on what makes his process different from other coaches — a key characteristic of his success. Instead of dwell on the bad outcome, he simply uses what he learned from that and other negative experiences to adapt and improve — all with a positive outlook that his best opportunities lie ahead, not forever ruined by one bad play in the past.

In other words, Pete Carroll exemplifies true grit.  I like Angela Duckworth’s definition of the word, given in a TED Talk: “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years…and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

In sales, it can be really easy to fixate on the last bad call, or the terrible quarter we had, or the latest string of rejections. This self-limiting habit causes us to lose our drive, to give up where we should be persistent, to accept many weak “maybes” instead of demand the firm Yesses or No’s we really need to make our sales and reach our goals.

But what if we developed “sales grit?”  What if, in the face of our worst mistakes, we simply chalked them up to lessons learned and continued to passionately move towards our goals. What if we could quickly get over the day-to-day disappointments and know that in the long haul, they don’t mean much, because we are not going for the quick win but for a successful life.

It would be pretty great, right? So, how can we achieve this?

In another TED Talk, psychologist Carol Dweck gives us a very big clue. In her research, she discovered that there was a marked difference in achievement between children who adopted a certain positive mindset regarding failure versus those who took failure as a devastating loss.

The latter group had some interesting attitudes. They tended to run from difficulty. When probed, they revealed they would likely cheat next time they took a test, in order not to fail. Or, they would try to find someone who did worse, in order to make themselves feel better. We can all identify some people who have these characteristics as adults — and they are not pleasant to associate with.

In contrast, the group that had a positive outlook were coached on maintaining a GROWTH MINDSET. They were told that with every challenge and difficulty, their neurons were making new connections — and were actually getting smarter. In other words, the process of failing and trying to overcome obstacles was itself extremely valuable to their growth and should be embraced.

This is powerful thinking. Adopting this growth mindset makes you realize you are always on a learning curve — and you never really “fail,” you are just “not there yet.” This is the path to sales grit. This is the way to achieve persistence and resilience in the face of obstacles.

You are always growing and learning, and your individual journey — the process of meeting challenges and trying to solve them — is what is most valuable to your development.

So, keep your mind on the big picture. Some clients will click, some just won’t. But never give up. Today’s game of sales requires a lot more touches with prospects to make the sale. There is a lot more competition. Your customers are way more informed, so it is easier to be seen as a mere commodity, regardless of your product or service. It is challenging.

But as we just learned, those challenges actually make us smarter, and make it more fun and rewarding personally than ever to sell.

There is simply more opportunity today if you develop a growth mindset. Think about it. There are more people and businesses to sell to in the US and more countries with emerging economies and unique needs to fill. We have information and instant communication at our fingertips. It is extremely easy and cheap to prospect thanks to the Internet and other technology. All that is required to take advantage of these and other riches is the development of your personal sales grit.

I hope this provides some inspiration for you to do so, but if you need some more motivation, feel free to drop me a line any time.

— Shaun

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