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Step One: Regulate
Self-regulation is our ability to manage our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions in a conscious and productive way. Someone with solid self-regulation skills knows what to do and how to act in different situations. For instance, they know how to control their anger when their manager gives lay-up lead to another rep.
It’s hard to stress how important this is if you plan on moving up the ladder at your company. As Warren Buffet says, “it can take 20 years to build a reputation, and 20 seconds to tear it down”. Sales is stressful, but you need to create space between the day-to-day tension and how you are perceived across your organization. Here are some tips:
Keep your promises. There are two parts to keeping your promises. First, do what you said you would do. It creates trust with others and within yourself. Second, be careful what you say yes to. Your job is not to be a hero. It is to stay focused on your role and to work to your strengths. For example, falsely forecasting things you know won't close will lead to more stress later on.
Align to the right level of engagement. Appropriate engagement varies from the executive table to individual contributors. There is a continuum from strategy to execution that moves from “why” to “what” to “how.” Keep your focus on the right point for your role. For example, as a middle manager, your job is to translate the “why” of strategy into the “what” of discreet projects. At the AE level, it's about translating the "what" of discreet projects to the "how" we get it to customers. Try not to get too caught up outside of your engagement areas.
Focus on what you can control. No matter how good the plan we make, we are not in control of or responsible for everything that happens around us. What we are in control of is how we respond to the impact of these circumstances. Sometimes we lose deals, and there isn't a damned thing we can do about it, regardless of how good we are!
Be a player, not a victim. If you begin to feel things like “this isn’t fair,” you are likely seeing yourself as a victim. How can you move from victim to player? A player works with intention rather than being controlled by external events. They can often find themselves engaged more productively by evoking a coaching stance, being creative to propose solutions, or respectfully challenging the status quo.
Know who you are (and who you aren’t). Keep an inventory of your strengths in mind, and as you plan your work, assign yourself work that fits these strengths. The corollary here is that you also know what you aren’t good at, which means finding others who are. For example, I’m aware that I am not great at navigating tense conversations with customers, so I avoid letting conversations escalate, where some sellers might use this as a tactic.
Check-in with yourself. Make time for yourself to stay on plan. At a minimum, set time aside for a one-hour weekly meeting where you take stock of pipeline, catalog problems, notice opportunities, and update your calendars and plans for the next week, month, or quarter. You might do this daily to “zero out” of the day, so you know where to pick up in the morning.
Avoid “coveting.” Coveting is defined as a yearning to possess or have something. When we do this, we attach our happiness to future outcomes, which can provoke feelings of stress in the present about achieving those outcomes. Keep your energy in the present, knowing that good work now leads to good results later. We often see coveting manifest in sales through the lens of upcoming promotions.
Nurture yourself. You can’t do your best if you aren’t at your best. Know that you will be most effective if you eat well, focus on physical wellbeing, and get at least seven hours of sleep daily. Also, know when it's okay to deviate from routine for the sake of letting off some steam. Nurturing yourself isn't about being regimented 100% of the time. If you can do this 50% of the time, you are winning.