Bringing The Athlete Mindset Into Sales | Ollie Sharpe, SalesLoft – SaaSGrowth2019

So, I’m gonna be talking to you, no, I see sport science ’cause that sounds like I’ve done a degree in it or something. I’m actually gonna talk more around what we can learn, what sales can learn from the world of sport, and how mindset can drive peak performance. So, as James said my name is Ollie Sharpe, VP of Revenue for EMEA. I spent pent 10 years at LinkedIn prior to joining SalesLoft, and I had a real passion for the mental health side of employees as our teams. Because and I think it splits into two areas, I think the sales generally happens to have lots of stressful times. That’s part of our job and we gotta learn to manage that, but also as individuals shit happens, okay. We all have our personal issues that happen and I think these things teach us things. I think that I had some four years ago my wife had breast cancer, and it really impacted me in the way that I thought about life. What was important to me, and my boss at the time put things really clearly for me. Saying that, okay your number one priority is your wife. Your number two priority is your family. Your number three priority is yourself, make time for yourself, and number four priority is work. If you get any time left do some work, and it makes you think differently, and, but what I’m gonna talk about more today is the general every day stresses that we have in our sales career. In our sales life. 

Okay, so 15.4 million days were lost in the UK last year, due to anxiety, depression and stress. Okay, so hands up in the room who has had one of those days or those weeks that you’ve thought about changing your career. I know I have, I’ve even thought about being a trucker. Okay, how nice would it be to get out on the road, have no pressure just probably getting that package to the next place. Don’t think I’ll ever be doing it, but we all have those times, and Institute of Sales Management, they researched this more looking purely at sales sector in the UK. ‘Cause the sales sector is the largest sector that we’re talking about or one of the largest sectors, and what they found was that 11% of people in sales frequently due to stress consider a career change. And when asked what the main causes were the top two were targets and too much work. Now it’s very easy for us to go well that’s sales, okay, but in my view it’s the way that leadership handle the targets and how much the work load is that impacts the stress levels with it. Leadership style came third and long hours. So it’s lots of things that we can think about ourselves but there’re also things we can do as leaders. What could your company introduce or do more of to prevent stress? 23% said improvements in leadership. 

Now, the way that I believe we should think about this is down to all of us. Because we all have a role to play in this, Whether we as a leader, whether as a colleague or thinking about ourselves, okay. So, I’m gonna talk you through a few areas that I’ve learned about from this psychologist with the book that I’m gonna talk about that will help you understand the situations that arise in your work. Okay, whether it’s over a period of time or a day. And there also similarities between sports and sales, okay. There’s having to perform under pressure, the ups and the downs, the wins and the losses, and it’s not about getting back on your bike, and getting back going, but building the confidence with it. So, doctor Steve Bull who is a psychologist. He’s worked with the, done lots of work within the sports arena, he’s worked with the great British Olympic team at three Olympics. He’s worked with the England cricket team for about 17 years, and his last book is The Game Plan, and it’s Your Guide to Mental Toughness at Work. So, he’s taken all this learnings form the sports world. He has also worked with CEO’s and senior leaders at some of the largest companies. Taken those learnings and put them into something that helps us in work, and it helps us become more mentally resilient. 

And there’s four types of toughness that directly impact whether we are at our peak performance. The first one of those is Turnaround Toughness. Okay, this is about picking yourself up, okay. Makes you better. It’s about dealing with adversity and setback. Okay, so imagine not closing that big deal that you were expecting, or missing last months or last months quota. That’s what this mindset is about. Steve Bull puts it down to two areas. The first is reconnecting with previous success, and what he does with this, on a A4 peace of paper or whiteboard builds a confidence peak chart. So, imagine a mountain range with 12 peaks on it and he’ll sit down with them. You can do this yourself, you can do it with a team member, and write down past, previous successes and achievements. Okay, by writing them down and also rereading them it will give you your confidence back that you can be successful. But also it’s about learning and moving on, okay. A lot of us may just try forget the bad things that happened and move on to the next quota. What can you learn from that? There’s a great book called Black Box Thinking that talks about learning from failure and it’s great to do that. So, making sure we’re understanding that before we move on. Okay, so there’s the two bits around Turnaround Toughness. 

The next area is Critical Moment Toughness, and a lot of people, well this is about performing under extreme pressure. It’s not necessarily doing something out of the ordinary. It’s like speaking in front of 300 people probably, but it’s probably not out of the ordinary in your every day things, it’s board meeting, closing a record deal. But you just have to perform normally but the pressure gets to you. Two great examples, one positive, one negative, probably people in this room may know these people, not know them, but know of them. So, on the left you got Jonny Wilkinson, this is 2003 Rugby World Cup 17, it was, we’re playing Australia in the final in Australia, and extra time, it was 17-0 with 30 seconds to go. 26 seconds before the whistle Jonny Wilkinson scores a drop goal. Okay, I remember sat there on the sofa jumping up, alcohol going everywhere, we won the World Cup. Other one, Chris Waddle. Okay, I don’t know if anyone remembers this, I’m old enough to remember, but this was in the 1990 Italy World Cup playing West Germany in the semi-final and it was a draw after full time, and it went to penalties and we never good at penalties you knew it was gonna happen. And Chris Waddle steps up and completely miss from where the camera was it looked like he got it out of the stadium but these two examples here when the critical moment comes completely two levels of success of what happens. Not putting it purely down to mental capacity or anything but gives you an example of how we can differ. But he’s taken loads of penalties, he’s scored loads of drop goals, what’s the difference? So, this requires clear thinking and positive focus, and Steve Bull puts it into three areas. The first is Control the Controllables, and how he uses this is he has a chart with three levels on it. The top level is the intended outcome, what are we looking to achieve from what we’re doing here. The next level is what’s the process, no, the performance needed to achieve that and the bottom level is where we concentrate our efforts. it’s the processes required. Okay, and a good example is me standing on this stage today. Because I broke it down, I used this model for preparing for today. I looked at the processes I need to do, which is the presentation, my bullet points. Concentrate on those, they’re the things I can control. So you’re concentrating on the bottom level, the elements you can control. Second part is move slow and breathe deep. Now when we’re not breathing deeply, when we’re not moving slowly our heart rate increases. Blood goes around our body quicker, it goes to our brain quicker we think slower. Okay, that’s why I don’t drink coffee before speaking, I can’t do it, it’s not a good thing. So move slow and breathe deep. 

And the third part of this is see and think success. So, visualization. This is Major James Nesmeth, he was a keen but average golfer doing around mid 90s per round on his favorite course, and he was a Vietnam veteran, went into solitary confinement for seven years and he was in a cage that was four foot by five foot. But every day to keep his mind sane he had a round of golf. Okay, in his little cage. And he would stand there pretending to feel the golf club swinging the golf club. Feeling the wind in his hair or whatever, listening to the birds and he would take the time between each shot, okay. So, it’s proper visualization where he was imagining the rounds being successful, and it would take the same amount of time as a normal round of golf would. Now after seven years solitary confinement he got out, and he went wasn’t in the best of health but he went and played golf on his favorite course. He went around in 74, okay. 20 shots below his average. Best he’d ever done, okay. That shows you the power of visualization and thinking about the success, but he also talks about, Steve Bull talks about positive self talk. So, our positive, if I’m, positive self talk impacts how we perform, okay. So it’s like when my daughter walks in with a tray with loads of glasses on and my wife goes don’t drop them. I know what she’s gonna do. Whereas if you wanna put them down over there there’d be different results, and it’s, so concentrate on the dos, not the don’ts. Okay, it’s like me coming up, don’t wanna be thinking don’t trip up, don’t do this, it probably increases the chance of me doing it. 

Okay, the next part of this is endurance toughness. So this is about being, performing when excessively fatigued or stressed, it’s remaining at your peak performance. This is your Q4, okay. This is when you’re traveling a lot and you still got to hit your target or you’ve got a newborn baby at home and you’re still working. So, when we’re busy or getting stressed, our cortisol levels increase, okay. Which is not bad, okay, but when that’s for a sustained period of time, that’s not positive. That’s when our health gets impacted, whether we have increased blood pressure. Our immune system goes down and that’s not when we’re at our peak, okay. That’s when we get ill. So when we’re tired and run down and emotionally exhausted, our mental focus depletes, okay. So, and our performance drops, and mental and physical resilience and looking after your body and mind is what Steve Bull talks about with this endurance toughness and there was two doctors, Schwartz and Loehr and they’ve done, Loehr was, had done loads of studies within the sports world, looking at tennis players. How they get back to peak performance very quickly, just after sitting down, or between matches and they took a lot of the learnings into the business world and they wrote a book together called The Power of Full Engagement introducing the corporate athlete. So again learning from sport into the workplace. And they talk about rituals. So, rituals are the things that you put time aside for and make sure you do to make sure you’re constantly at your peak of your performance. 

The first of those being Physical Capacity, okay. This is about keeping your body healthy, exercising, drinking enough water. Your brain and hearth are just under 75% water so you need to keep them right, hydrated. Having enough sleep, eating the right foods. That gets your body ready for what is ahead. The next level, so once you put those rituals in place then move to the next level. That’s about Emotional Capacity. So, this is about thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s making sure you put time aside to do the things you enjoy. Okay, you will find that if you’re constantly working and you’re not spending time with your family or doing whatever you want to do, you will not be at your peak performance. So, put in the time aside. 

The next level is the Mental Capacity. So, this is about just taking time off. Whether you want to meditate, whether you wanna take a walk at lunch time. Put in some time aside so your brain can rest, okay. If it’s not doing it you’re not at your best. And the final part of the jigsaw is spiritual. So Spiritual Capacity, this is about having purpose or a goal, knowing why you do what you do, and I think we lose sight of that. We just think about this quota’s quota. What drives you? Now the people that have these in place are the ones that are most likely to be the most successful. I normally remind my team when I was in LinkedIn every Q4 about these. We all know when it’s busy in a Q4 it’s very easy to forget all of this and to sit at home looking at TV thinking about what you can do tomorrow, having a crap sleep, getting up in the morning and losing purpose. The final part of it is the Risk Management Toughness, okay. This is about making difficult decisions under pressure. Okay, this can be stressful it’s about supporting these people. Do they go big on a deal, do they present differently to how they used to because they gonna put the bigger solution together. Most people don’t win gold by playing safe, okay, and the top performance probably take a few risks, and Steve Bull puts this down to two areas. 

The first of this is awareness, okay. So, we’re being aware of the situation and you’re strengths your weaknesses, your product’s strengths their weakness, your products weaknesses. And then also the awareness of what’s happening with the client, okay. Knowing, if you know all of that you know the best decision of whether to take that risk and you can weight it up for yourself, okay, because your own ability comes into that. And the second part is mindset. It’s seeking out the challenge. Most top performers aren’t afraid of failure, okay. They relish the challenge of going and changing something or taking that risk. So, concentrate on how you’ll succeed, not the potential consequences. Okay, so as we said there are similarities between sport and sales, okay. It’s a very similar world. What it comes down to a lot of the time is the mindset comes down to self belief, clear thinking and resilience. And hopefully the models we’ve talked about with the Turnaround Toughness, about reconnecting with previous successes, approaching future challenges with confident mindset, the critical moment, the endurance, risk management. Hopefully that will help you understand the things you’re going through but also the people that you’re working with, or the teams that you’re leading. Understand what’s happening to them. Understand how you can help them and hopefully use these models. Thank you very much for listening.


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