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This post originally appeared on Jill Konrath’s website and is republished here with permission. 

comfort zone

Recently I did a webinar for sales leaders on "how to kick your reps out of their comfort zone." Sounds brutal, I know. But it wasn't. You see, for the past few years I've been studying how the brain works and what it means for salespeople.

The good news is that our brains are designed to look for patterns and then systemetize them. The bad news is, that's when we go into cruise control mode -- which means we're not actively learning new things and adjusting to changing conditions.

The problems are further compounded because our bodies are wired to keep us safe and happy. So, when we step outside our comfort zone, our brain screams at us:

"Wrong way. Don't go there. It's not how we do things. You might fail or look stupid in front of your prospects."

With messages like that swirling in our heads, it's really hard to change. It takes a conscious effort, over time to seek out new knowledge and to acquire new skills.

What was my message to the sales leaders?

To create an environment of continuous learning and experimentation. It's the only thing that works. But back to you ..

What can you do to kick yourself out of your comfort zone?

1. Start by exposing yourself to new ideas. Go deeper than you usually do. Read an entire sales book -- armed with a marker, pen and post-it notes.

Highlight ideas and strategies that pop out at you. Write notes in the margins, connecting the dots between what you're reading and your job.

2. Question what you're doing. Right now, you know one way of selling. Just. One. Way.  There are so many different things you could be doing. You might even be able to get significantly better results, with less effort. You might want to explore questions like these:

Could your prospecting emails be more effective? What would it take to really pique your prospect's curiosity? Could changing your presentation yield better results? Would it make more sense to eliminate the PPTs entirely?

3. Create sales experiments. There's only one way to find out if your new ideas might work -- give them a try. At first, you'll be awkward. Probably even screw up. But that's just part of the experiment!

I'd strongly suggest you practice what you're doing too -- before you go live. It's much better to make those mistakes and correct them in private. As you get a little bit more competent, observe the results you're getting.

If you run into glitches, try to analyze why. This is, after all, simply a sales experiment where you're trying to learn what works and what doesn't.

In reality, today we can't afford to stay in our comfort zone. We need to always be learning, growing and getting better.

Personally, I've chosen to live at the edge of my comfort zone. I hope you'll join me there.

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About Jill Konrath

Jill Konrath’s career is defined by her relentless search for fresh sales strategies that actually work in today’s business environment. Jill is a frequent speaker at sales conferences and kick-off meetings. Sharing her fresh sales strategies, she helps salespeople to speed up new customer acquisition and win bigger contracts.

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