How to build resiliency in sales

29 March 2021

London, 29 March, 2021 - 'You can only appreciate joy because you understand sorrow. You can only appreciate fine wine because you've had nothing other than brackish water’

Sir Graeme Lamb


The above quote is taken from the resiliency series on our Sales Transformation Podcast episodes, published at the end of 2020. We introduced The Sales Transformation Podcast, to bring our audience an exciting new range of podcasts that discussed a varied selection of topics within the sales world, ranging from the impact of Coaching on sales performance, to how to thrive in Sales in 2021. As part of helping the community of sales leaders and sales practitioners, Dr Philip Squire hosted a ’Resiliency Trilogy’ where he dived deeper into the topic with established leaders in their respective fields.

Dr Phillip Squire discussed this topic with Sir Graeme Lamb, a former 3-star general of the British Army and former Director of the SAS, Baz Gray, a former Regimental Sergeant Major of the Royal Marine Commandos, and Dr Carol Pemberton; a professor who has dedicated her doctorate to the topic of resiliency. The unique line up of guests were suited for the unique new world we now live in, each bringing to the podcast, a unique perspective on resiliency and how this can be translated into the sales world. These resiliency episodes focus on:

  • How to build organisational resiliency.
  • How to build personal resiliency.
  • The notion of resiliency being taught or something that you are innately born with.


Developing Organisational Resiliency with Sir Graeme Lamb

While speaking with Sir Graeme Lamb, the pair spoke about several historical figures and their relation to the topic of resiliency: Winston Churchill, Thomas Shelly, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and the book ‘Team of Teams’ by General Stanley McChrystal which he suggested is a must-read for anybody wishing to understand the complex business of resiliency and the problems you may face. Sir Graeme also spoke about scenarios regarding situations where he draws on resilience:

“When you get on the ground and find out the order, we gave you was wrong, execute the order we should have given you, that is resilience.’ And yet it would not automatically resonate like that. To me, that is absolute resilience because it means what you have is a company by design, an organization by design, whose culture is one that can adapt and can demonstrate agility.

People talk about, you would have to be agile if you do not prepare your people, your company, and the protocols or procedures, the processes, which allow you to be agile. You weren't, you can have people there who truly would change the direction of a company but can't.”   

This example demonstrates the importance of being agile in today’s world. When things are not going to plan or how you expected the outcome to be, we as sales leaders and sales practitioners need to be able to think on our feet and respond in the most appropriate manner. These are the moments where the foundational Sales values which Dr Phil discovered as part of his Doctorate matter the most. As an organisation, being able to adapt when the odds are against you is a true sign of resiliency.


Developing Personal Resiliency with Baz Gray

In the second episode of the resiliency trilogy, Dr Phil and Baz Gray discussed personal resiliency at great length, referring to relatable setbacks in our personal life and how these can be translated into the sales world. You can either go one of two ways: give up and accept defeat or as sales leaders and sales practitioners, learn from what went wrong and build on that knowledge for the future. This is best described in a sales context by Baz himself:

“…you've just lost the company millions of pounds or whatever it might be, and you can sit down and ask a different series of questions very early on. And when you look at it and put things down and you go, “did I do my homework?” “Could I have asked more questions?”  “What reasons have they given me to tell me why they are not going with me?” and you can build this picture and this story if you ask the right questions that will then start telling you where it went wrong.

 …And quite often, if you do that, it is obvious. And if you draw a line there and then answer all those questions, you have just asked, then that shouldn't happen again in the future.”

Baz spoke about a time where he has had to muster up his own resiliency. when he was training to become a mountain leader for the MLS (Mountain Leader Scheme). 

“…the course is a year long. So, if you are unsuccessful, you have to wait a whole year to get onto the course again. And in the first month, end of week three, I completely smashed my calcaneum in the back of my foot, in an incident that took 10 seconds. I leapt from one rock to another, as if nothing had happened and literally a few minutes later, I was pale. I felt sick. I had a pain in my foot that I have never experienced anything like this pain in my life. I just dropped to the floor and I was just out of it. And I did not cope well at all. I was devastated. I was embarrassed.

I was frustrated. I do not think I even got close to being myself again for about three months. I had lost all confidence and I was a fit, strong, motivated guy that just broke. I always look back at that point. Now that I have achieved what I have achieved as someone who just wished he had a little bit more support or a little bit more resilience training, or a little bit more the ability to adapt to those really tough times and those really tough environments.”

During the times where we need resiliency the most, the environment in which we surround ourselves can really make a difference in how we come through the situation at hand. The art of Coaching for Sales Transformation and having a support system that can help build your resiliency can be the key to building personal resiliency. Together with being able to adapt to difficult scenarios, we as sales professionals can pull ourselves and the teams, we are responsible for through the truly tough times.


Applying Resiliency with Dr Carol Pemberton

In the final episode of the resiliency series, Dr Carol Pemberton sat down with Dr Philip Squire to discuss the findings of the research she carried out on her own Doctorate. What affects resiliency? How do you become more resilient in the workspace? As well as, touching on Mental Health, Brené Brown's work on vulnerability and various analogies help contextualise what resiliency is and how it can be improved.

This episode really delves deep into the mechanics and cognitive behaviours of what resiliency is. Dr Carol looks at the importance of personal well-being and keeping a healthy mind and attitude towards your work and the work environment:

‘ important part of being resourceful is actually just facing into the reality of it, and then at some point your larger selves in space, you then start to become creative again. And that's an important positive, but also, you've got other people involved and there's so much evidence that we are so much stronger together than we are supporting ourselves...

.... we've now got a look at how we're getting ourselves ready, look at how we're having honest conversations about things now and we know that that's important for supporting people. Another one is around being willing to be flexible. It's one of those instincts when we're under pressure we become much more rigid.’

When there is a dramatic change in your work life, it is important not to isolate yourself when you are feeling under pressure or anxious. Look for support from your team, your friends or your family and this will help you reflect on the change and what is important moving forward. This will enable you to become optimistic about the situation happening around you. If you are a leader and you are going through something now, where you are having to pull together a team to motivate them, you need to be clear with what everyone's purpose is. This will allow a degree of realistic optimism and expectation management. Resiliency is something that can be developed with the support of the people around you. Dr Carol perfectly summed up what resiliency is with this anecdote:

‘It's about finding what's the bit that needs attention. And if we think about resilience is like a jigsaw puzzle, the outcome is your resilience, but the jigsaw pieces are all the things we have been talking about like optimism, like purpose, like support, like creativity.’  

These podcasts are available to listen to for free on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. If you are working within Sales during this extremely trying time, these podcasts will help you understand what is required to start to build resiliency personally, with your team and take a wider look into the theory behind it all.

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