Do you find yourself showing up to work not feeling motivated? You’re not alone. Working in sales is exhausting and most salespeople have an extremely difficult time motivating themselves on an ongoing basis.
This is worsened by the fact that most sales leaders don’t understand motivation and therefore don’t know how to help their team find it. When their team loses motivation, they opt for manipulative tactics. They use things like fear, micro-management, gamification or other dopamine driven incentives to get their team moving.
When that external reward like a target, incentive or reward is achieved – What usually happens next?
Motivation plummets until the next carrot for the rep to chase is placed in front of them. This leads to inconsistent sales performance and reduces the level of meaning we are able to find in our work.
What individual salespeople and leaders are failing to understand is that motivation is essentially a state of arousal. When we’re in a balanced state of arousal – we’re motivated and focused to hit our goals. However, too often in sales – this balance does not exist and we usually find ourselves in one of two groups:
- Hypo-Aroused: Salespeople in this group are not aroused at all and lack the energy to move.
- Hyper-Aroused: Salespeople in this group are overly aroused and too overwhelmed to move.
In this podcast, Dr Andrew Huberman shares how depending on what category you’re in – the ways to motivate yourself will be different. Step one is determining your arousal level. Step two is selecting a motivation strategy that either boosts arousal or lowers arousal depending on which group you’re in.
When we successfully do this we re-balance our arousal level, we feel motivated to take action and become less dependent on external rewards.
Not Motivated – Hypo-Aroused
We have all been there – metrics to hit, a workout to complete or an important task that needs to get done. But for whatever reason we just can’t seem to muster the energy and push through the fatigue to get started on our task. Instead we procrastinate and opt for scrolling through our phone.
Dr Huberman explains that when we’re Hypo-Aroused we need to do two things to increase our arousal:
- Release some adrenaline in our body.
- Increase the stress associated to the event.
Cold showers and the Wim Hof breathing method are two proven ways to release adrenaline in our body. They engage our body’s physiological response to stress using cold water and deep breathing that forces our body to release adrenaline.
Obviously spending too much time in cold water or breathing heavily for extended periods of time will damage the body. But the point here, is you can use these methods to trick your body into releasing adrenaline when your arousal level is low.
If those tactics sound a little too intense for you to start – try listening to some music.
According to neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin, there is strong evidence suggesting that fast stimulating music stimulates the production of adrenaline. We’ve probably all experienced this and why many of us naturally listen to music to get pumped up before a workout.
When we’re Hypo-Aroused we can also increase the stress associated with the task we’re trying to complete. We can do this by setting a deadline. Break our bigger sales targets and metrics into smaller chunks and deadlines.
For example, if you’re not motivated to make your 50 calls today – set a deadline that you need to make 10 calls in the next hour. If you’re not motivated to go for a run – set a deadline that you need to be out the door running by a certain time.
It’s important to realize that the discomfort and internal tension you feel trying to get started is simply your body trying to warm up. Remember you’re Hypo-Aroused. Setting a deadline and increasing stress will give you a kick in the pants to push through this warm-up period.
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Not Motivated – Hyper-Aroused
Our mind is racing, our heart is pumping and our breathing is short and quick. We’re so hyper-aroused and overwhelmed by pressures and tasks in our sales role that we freeze. Anxiety, fear of failure and self-doubt take-over and paralyze us.
The key to regaining our motivation and balance when we’re Hyper-Aroused is we need to calm down. We need to lower our arousal level so we can regain perspective and find our starting point.
One of the best ways we can do this is by again using our breathing. Rather than taking quick breaths like above and when our arousal is low; this time we want to focus on taking long, deep and steady breaths into our stomach. This will help slow our breathing down and signal to our body to stop releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
Something I do consistently to achieve this is box breathing; inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and hold your breath for four seconds. Then repeat until your breath steadies.
In the podcast linked above, Dr Huberman shares another breathing technique (110 minute mark) where he recommends inhaling twice, followed by a long exhale. This is supposed to be the quickest way to rebalance oxygen and CO2 levels in our blood to help calm ourselves down.
Finally, downloading the Headspace or Calm app and following a 10-minute guided meditation can also be an effective way to slow your breath.
Just like music can be used to stimulate adrenaline, we can also use it lower our levels of arousal. Listening to slower music or calming soundscapes like lapping waves can also help slowdown our internal rhythm.
One of the best exercises I’ve found was shared by a drummer named Jim Donovan, during a Ted Talk. He shows you how you can turn your body into a metronome and quickly calm a racing mind; the exercise starts at the 8 minute mark.
Finally journaling can also be a great way to lower our arousal levels. When we’re hyper-aroused we normally are not in the right mindset a deep reflective journaling process. What has helped me is a strategy shared by Brene Brown in her book Dare2Lead called:
Write a Shitty First Draft (SFD).
Writing an SFD means you essentially do a data dump of everything racing through your mind onto a piece of paper. Dump your thoughts, emotions, judgements, doubts and fears onto the page and keep writing until your brain feels empty.
Like an author writing a SFD for a book, sentences and ideas probably won’t make any sense. The purpose of the exercise is to offload information circling in your brain so you can find steady ground again. As a result you’ll have a better chance at determining what you need in that moment and where your starting point is.
If you’re in a state of Hyper-Arousal and not totally paralyzed, one of the best things you can do is exercise.
In a recent study completed by Oxford and Yale, they collected data on the physical behaviour and mental mood of over 1.2 million Americans. Their data showed that those who were less physically active felt bad for an average of 18 more days per year, compared to their more active counter parts. The data also showed active people feel just as good as those who are not active, but earn $25,000 more a year.
Consistent exercise is one of the best ways to improve our Mental Health and prevent becoming Hyper-Aroused. Exercise works by balancing stress hormones and lowering adrenaline in our blood to help keep our motivation in check.
Some of the strategies above will work better for you compared to others. Start experimenting to find which ones help lower your arousal levels when you’re Hyper-Aroused.
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Your Internal Gear Shift
This may not have been clear in the breakdown above but we all have a powerful tool at our disposal. Our breathing and our diaphragm. Like a gear shift for a car – we can shift our arousal level up and down when we find ourselves stuck in the wrong gear.
When we’re stuck in a lower gear, we can quicken our breathing using the Wim Hof Method to gear shift up. When we’re stuck in a higher gear, we can use box breathing or slower breathing methods to gear shift down.
This will balance our arousal levels and find the ideal state we need to be in to stay motivated.
Not Motivated – Lack Of Purpose
The final key to ensuring our motivation is consistent, requires clarifying our purpose and why we’re showing up each day. High performance psychologist, Dr Michael Gervais explains that a strong and meaningful purpose must have three components:
- Purpose must be future oriented.
- It must be meaningful and important to us.
- And it must be bigger than ourselves.
It’s this last part where many salespeople struggle. Their purpose for showing up each day is self-serving. They want the commission, the career goals, the expensive lifestyle and vacations. When our purpose is self-serving it becomes easier for our arousal levels to become unbalanced.
We need to make sure our purpose and WHY for showing up each day is focused on serving others.
This means being connected and truly caring about the pain and discomfort that our customers are facing. Don’t just think about their challenges – visualize and feel their challenges emotionally.
Emotion motivates us to take action. When we’re Hypo-Aroused, we can tap into our customers pain to motivate us to help them when we’re feeling fatigued. We increase the stress and importance of our task by perceiving it differently. Reflecting on a customer story who’s life benefited from what your selling can make this process easier.
When we’re Hyper-Aroused – anxiety, fear and self-doubt are zoomed in on YOU.
We’re overly aroused on protecting ourselves from failure, hurt and embarrassment. By zooming out and shifting our attention to serving THEM – a purpose that is bigger than ourselves – we are no longer the object of attention. As a result our self-protection system can calm down and lower our arousal to a balanced state where we’re motivated to sell.
Daily motivation doesn’t need to be something outside of our control that we have somedays and lack on others. This is one of my favourite quotes from Rich Roll in the podcast mentioned at the start of this article:
“Mood follows behaviour.”
Far too many of us in sales are trying to “think” our way into motivation each day. Or we’re simply waiting for motivation to find us. Instead we need to action a behaviour that will help put us in a mood where we feel motivated to sell.
You can do this by following these steps when you’re not feeling motivated:
- Determine your arousal level – too high or too low?
- Gear shift up or gear shift down using breathing and the exercises above.
- Deepen your purpose and emotionally connect with the greater good of the people you’re serving.
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About The Author
Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.
Jeff combines his sales (Sales Knowledge Institute) and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through a mix of sales mentorship and mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams improve their sales process, while helping them become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.