Dr. Peter Jensen dedicates his life to teaching coaches how to help their team members achieve their goals. Whether he’s in his role as a sports psychologist with the Canadian Olympic team or as a professor of sales management at Queens School of Business, he understands the complexities of coaching high performers. At our April EcSell Institute Sales Coaching Summit, he shared with us his strategies for coaching one of the most critical aspects of performance – energy management.
Have you ever had physical effects from feeling stressed before a big sales call or meeting? Maybe your palms got sweaty. Maybe your heart rate increased. Maybe your stomach did flip flops. In whatever way your nerves impacted you, you had to figure out a way to work through them in order to perform. Dr. Jensen asserts that like elite athletes, salespeople face “moments of truth” – that is, those moments when they are on stage and must perform – on a regular basis. And just like elite athletes, they must figure out how to manage their energy so they can perform at the peak level.
To Dr. Jensen, the stress you may feel at your moment of truth is not necessarily a bad thing – it simply means that you care about the outcome and want to do well. His mantra of “no pressure, no bounce” reinforces the idea that feeling pressure and stress is a normal part of striving to perform at a high level, and if you can deal with it effectively, you can actually perform even better. In that way, stress is not the problem – it’s your reaction to it that’s critical. To deal with your stress effectively, you have to manage your energy in the moment.
Dr. Jensen’s strategy to manage your energy is called “active awareness” – it’s essentially the act of turning your arousal system up or down based on your performance needs. For example, when you start to feel too much anxiety or stress, you need to find ways to turn down your arousal system. This is critical because when your arousal system becomes over-stimulated, your focus narrows to the extent that you can’t think clearly or perform well. In sports, this is known as “choking” and in sales, it can lead to a very similar result.
One of the simplest, but most profound, insights shared by Dr. Jensen was the importance of breathing effectively to reduce the physical manifestations of stress. When your anxiety rises, you tend to take in more shallow breaths in your chest. To lower anxiety, you simply want to do the opposite. That is, take deep, slow breaths from your diaphragm. As your breath evens out, your body is able to return to a more relaxed state. This allows you to think more clearly in response to that tough situation.
At other times, stress may not be the issue and, instead, you may need to find ways to turn up your arousal system. For example, if it’s the middle of the afternoon and you are feeling tired, drained or distracted, you would benefit from turning up your arousal system.
Dr. Jensen shared the simple strategy of simply taking a break to do an activity that’s the opposite of what you were doing that was draining you.
- If you were doing intellectual work, take a quick walk.
- If you were doing physical work, take a moment to read something.
- If you’ve been working by yourself in your office, spend some time reconnecting with colleagues.
Elite athletes know that being aware of their energy state – either too high or too low – is critical to being able to perform at the peak level. As a sales coach, you can teach your reps to have the same awareness. That is, when they are able to recognize that they need to relax in a situation or dial up their energy level at another moment, they can better achieve the optimum energy level they need to close the deal.
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Read a guest blog post written by Dr. Jensen himself here on the importance of mindfulness and performance improvement.