by Bill Cole

   How well do you handle the stresses and challenges of selling? Would you consider yourself mentally tough?
   Members of the military have maximum mental toughness. They have to. Military training is probably the toughest mental, physical and emotional juggernaut in the world. It has one main goal; to toughen every soldier into an efficient, hardened, face-any-hardship-head-on-and-come-out-on-top fighting machine.
   Top-producing sales professionals have this toughness as well. Here's how they achieve it.
   What is mental toughness? It's the ability to persevere in pursuit of a goal, no matter how long it takes or how much pain is involved. It is the willpower needed to complete your mission regardless of obstacles. This discipline called mental toughness is an acquired habit. It can be taught, and learned, through repetition. It eventually becomes a way of life.
   If you're mentally tough you have these attributes:

  • You can delay immediate gratification.
  • You handle pain and discomfort well.
  • You tolerate frustrations and inconveniences well.
  • You are not emotionally reactive to errors.
  • You are flexible and adaptive.
  • You thrive on stress and challenge

   Why do you need this hardiness in the sales game? Selling is a tough profession, full of stress, full of ups and downs. It's an emotionally demanding job, one that only tough people survive and thrive in. Being mentally tough in sales is not a luxury�it's a minimum requirement.
   I have done extensive research into the training systems of the world's militaries and have discovered many military mind tools we sales professionals can benefit from. Probably the most often-cited military mental-toughening training principle ever, was made famous by U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover � "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war."
   What does this mean? The pain is worth the pride you gain. Your hard work will pay off, in big ways, when the real selling stress begins. Make your sales training harder than the real deal, and your confidence will be sky-high going into your selling 'event'.
   At the US Naval Academy, first-year students, or Plebes, are required to memorize the poem "All in the State of Mind." It contains this verse:

   If you think you'll lose, you're lost/For out in the world you'll find Success begins with a fellow's will/It's all in the state of mind.

   Navy mental toughness begins with this mind set--the belief that you will handle anything that comes your way, and you will do so without complaining about it. Naval Academy students experience mental toughness training in everything they do, from dressing, walking, talking, eating, studying and sports. Every detail of the Academy experience is designed to teach, drill and lock-in the concepts and skills of mental toughness. These future naval officers become mental toughness machines.
   There are five major military mind training principles that produce hardened mental toughness:

  • Excellence in small, unimportant things leads to excellence in big, important things.
  • Work hard on problems. If they persist, work harder. Never give up.
  • Endure pain and discomfort in order to succeed.
  • Take pride in overcoming difficulties. The greater the difficulty, the greater the pride.
  • The more effort you invest in a task, the less likely you are to abandon that investment and quit.

   One way to toughen your selling mind is to write down three things you notice yourself regularly complaining about in your work and life-- and then stop complaining about them for one full day. Then do it again the next day. Don't stop until you have completed a whine-free week. You'll have a tougher mental outlook.
   Sharpen your military mind tools for better selling mental toughness. Then you'll be a lean mean selling machine.