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Among the many great speeches, deeds and quotes Nelson Mandela’s legacy offers us, one in particular has stuck out to me in these wild and unpredictable times under the cloud of the coronavirus.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
As a CEO who trains and counsels salespeople and leaders on how to adopt the mindset to win your daily battles, I fully understand how hard it is to not make fear-based choices today. I see, hear and experience them every day, just like you. One client told me recently they wanted to slow down their investment strategy because they were in fear of the possible implementation of martial law. When you start hearing objections rooted in military lockdowns, you know we’re in uncharted waters.
Fear has become a gripping part of our reality. New York mayor Andrew Cuomo shared on NBC’s Today, “The fear and the panic is a worse problem than the virus. We know what we have to do with the virus. It’s going to be difficult, but we know what we have to do. But the fear and the panic can get more out of control than the virus can.”
All that to say, fear is a natural response. I get it. We’re hardwired through our primal amygdala to fight, flee or freeze when confronted with grave threats like the spread of this virus. Those are traditional life-preserving reactions, but they also completely override the logical centers of the brain. Most of us would prefer to control our response, minimize the fear — much of it coming from the blinking red light constantly provided by many cultural responses around us — and come out of this trial better than before.
If that’s you, and you want to embody Mandela’s ideal of making hope-based decisions, then consider this a message specifically for you.
I’d like to give you a few resources to use in the coming weeks and months when you feel that natural fear response creeping into your consciousness. Use these to combat the fears you feel, build up your own inner voice and control your own narrative. There’s nothing more important than a healthy, uncluttered mind, and these simple daily strategies will help you clear the cobwebs and come out the other side of this stronger.
1. Find your daily wins
You’re having daily wins right now, you may just not be fully acknowledging them. In easy markets, everyone is buying, so what you considered a win a month or two ago might’ve been closing a big contract, expanding your market share by X amount, or upselling a client on a huge new service you’re offering.
Those are wins, but guess what else is a daily win? Getting a DocuSign to a prospect. Getting a prospect to talk to you who hadn’t followed up in weeks. Successfully leading a virtual webinar in place of an in-person meeting for the first time. All these things are wins. I always tell my clients to focus on the process and let the score take care of itself. Don’t get overwhelmed by the moment. Start making a list of three process-based wins you’ve had every day where you moved an opportunity forward. In my experience, the less you actually focus on the result, the more results you’ll get. And by focusing on those process-based wins, you’ll start to see your results turn around.
2. Change your daily focus
Believe it or not, the popular exercise method Pilates was born in a World War I internment camp. Joseph Pilates was a German living in England when World War I broke out in 1914, and he soon found himself exiled to an internment camp for the rest of the war. Pilates spent the next four years in that camp, including 1918, when the Spanish Flu engulfed the world and killed more than 50 million people.
Pilates, determined to beat the disease, enlisted a small group in a rigorous stretching exercise regimen. Pilates later boasted that none of the people in camp practicing his daily exercise routine caught the disease.
The point isn’t that Pilates was some miracle cure. It was merely that their focus was on health, not on disease, and they took steps to put that focus into daily practice. Whatever you focus on, you do, and whatever you do, you become. Just the same, where is your focus? Is it locked on the news, digesting only market spirals and death figures? Or is your focus on things like survival rates, opportunity that didn’t exist before, and ways to stay healthy? Every day, commit to removing one daily focus that isn’t benefitting your state of mind and adding one focus that will.
3. Change your market definition
When consumer confidence drops, the first thing to take a hit is sales. People step back, consolidate and try to wait out the storm. But that doesn’t mean that they still don’t need to purchase. That doesn’t even necessarily mean they don’t have the resources to purchase from you, either. In cases where companies do have the means, it’s just a clear sign that they’re making choices through fear, not through hope.
The only difference between a bad market and a good market is where the buyer is getting permission to buy from. That’s it. In a good market, that permission is coming from every corner: the media, friends, stakeholders, family, peers. The inhibition is lower and the sales are easier. In a bad market? The permission only comes from one place. It’s certainly not coming from the doomsaying environment around us.
It comes from you.
People still need goods and services in down markets. In many cases, they need what you have to sell them even more. But the sale itself requires that much more proactivity. It requires follow-up, a healthy mindset, and a willingness to see and celebrate daily wins. It requires a hope-based mindset, not a fear-based mindset. It requires patience and persistence in equal measure. It requires that little bit extra that wasn’t required when sledding was so much easier not that long ago.
But here’s the good news. It’s never been easier to separate yourself from the pack in times like these. While others scale back, lick their wounds and try to figure out how to survive the winter, you can jam your foot down on the accelerator with your hope-based mindset and come out the other end of the storm even better than you were before.
That’s what hope will do you for. Don’t miss this chance to embrace it.