Inner Game for Competitors

Last time the Warriors were in the playoffs I had season tickets – saw Baron Davis posterize AK47. They went on to lose that series against Utah, though. These Warriors? Only they can beat themselves, which their accumulating injuries finally did last night. Very excited for next year, though.

I love winning. I FFFFFFFFIIIIIINNNNGGGGGG love winning. But I don’t like trying to win. Rather, I don’t like appearing like I’m trying to win. A colleague called me out on this once: “you like being the smartest person in the room without anyone thinking you are the smartest person in the room.” Guilty (of the liking part, not necessarily the being part). Guilty of following Robert Greene’s Laws of Power #3: “Conceal Your Intentions.” Which is a corallary of Law #21 “Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than Your Mark.” And Rule #30: “Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless.”

So, having just coached a group of young, male media salesguys, some reflections on competition. For sales is a game of competition played by fierce competitors. Victors feast; losers go hungry. Coffee’s for closers.

I gave these guys my standard Inner Game playbook. They grooved on a few points – Stoicism and Positive Energy – but clearly wanted techniques for closing deals now. I don’t blame them. They eat what they kill and have to hit quotas or they are out on the street. I get that.

I know a thing or two about sales, mainly from dodging overpaid, cocaine-fueled ex frat presidents pushing big bank Wall Street research on me. Oh yeah, with Harvard MBAs and such. In other words, more annoying and caustic than helpful. But a few of the good dudes have become close homies over the years.

Compete; but don’t be Competitive. I mean when you are with clients. Back at the office, thump your chest all you want. But as your client, I want to know what value you can add for me. As opposed to information about how I can help you win.

Here’s the three pitches I get all the time; guess which one works:

1. Bro, We/I need to do better in your research vote – what can I do to move up (we allocate millions of trading commissions each year based on a semi-annual voting process where we rank the Wall Street banks).

2. Bro, I wanna help you any way I can what can I do for you; my firm has great research.

3. Bro, I know you are busy and probably tired of salesguys hitting you. I have a few ideas and analysts that I think are pretty good. Can I throw one at you and see if it works? If not, no worries, I won’t bug you. What’s the best way to connect?

If you are sales guy and didn’t guess number 3 you probably won’t be a sales guy for long.

What’s behind Door #3? Humility. Patience. Empathy. Respect. Authenticity. Congruency.

WTH? Those aren’t lock-down red-meat eating win-the-new-caddie sales guy tactics!?!? Are they? Does this guy drink decaf? Cuz real closers drink the real stuff. What complete BS.

But hold on, player. These qualities work exactly because they aren’t standard sales guy hard-charging take-no-prisoner qualities. As an introverted finance geek doing gnome-like research all day, these qualities resonate with me. Me, the whale client whose millions you want. Robert Greene’s Law #43: “Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others.”

I think Authenticity is the most important characteristic for salesperson whose job involves anything more than order taking. Authenticity is the bedrock of relationships (I also happen to believe in ‘fake it til you make it,” but let’s set that paradox aside for a moment). I don’t want to be around you if you have negative energy flow. But if your positive energy flow is inauthentic, then gtfo. Even an authentic negative energy attracts more than a sacharine positive flow.

One of my old sales buddies, who is now my personal financial manager, always plays the curmudgeon. But its real. And endearing, when all his competitors are fake nice, he’s just a crank. He took the time to get to know me, though, figured out I liked basketball, and launched his first offensive with some Warrior tickets on a hot date with his top ranked Aerospace/Defense analyst. The analyst was so established he wasn’t even taking new clients. But he liked bball too, and happened to be in town so I got hooked up. I ditched the analyst later cuz he would eat his lunch on speaker phone while talking to me. Arrogance, writ large.

How to get Authenticity? Two things. Believe in what you sell and believe in yourself. If you love Coors Lite please don’t sell me Bud. If you think your analysts, research, and bank sucks, please don’t sell it to me. But I’ll take those Warriors tix, anyway, thanks very much (a joke, in case the lawyers are reading).

Believe in yourself. Your best self, that is, the one that’s stoic, enjoys life, rolls with the “invulnerable jollity of indifference,” proudly lives from your strengths and values, and is always congruent with your self. That’s what Inner Game is all about.

Stoicism – The foundation for a competitor’s philosophical grounding. You are going to get told no a lot. Be mentally prepared in advance so your energy level and motivation to make the next call are safeguarded.

Outcome Independence – The more you focus on a specific goal, the more power that goal has over you. Rarely is that power helpful; rather, it costs you mental energy and focus. Your focus should be on the client and the relationship. Not the numbers.

Positive Energy Flow – Many salespeople make the mistake of needing to prove themselves right with the client. Read your Dale Carnegie – rarely does winning an argument help you close. Drop the “Analytical Frame” and replace it with a relational and/or good times frame.

Know Yourself/Be Yourself – Employ all the sales tricks and techniques you want – as long as they are real to you. And as long you can respect yourself in the process. The minute you switch to games you don’t believe in, is the minute your client loses connection with you.

Stay In the Moment – If you do the above, you are freed to set aside stress and anxiety and worry and be completely present. Your client will feel the love and respond accordingly. If your mind is elsewhere, so will their’s be. Recent neurological research reveals that all humans possess a so-called “mirror neuron.” This brain feature drives our social connections. Thus your lack of mental presence will directly backfire on you.

Abundance Frame – The final phase and ultimate fulfillment of complete Inner Game – you give energy and value away consistently and unconsciously. Your clients begin to view you as a resource. They are drawn to you, answering your calls and returning emails and saying yes.

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Filed under Philosophy, Psychological Strength, Sales

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