This is the third episode of a five part miniseries on Building Resilience, you can find episode one here.

Your First Sales Meeting

Do you remember the first sales call you ever went on? I remember mine, it was terrifying. I was selling advertising to a carpet company, and I just remember sitting down with the store owner: I nearly had a heart attack. I sweat through my shirt. I’m guessing it was just absolutely painful to witness. And it wasn’t that I wasn’t trained. I knew the script, I had my materials with me, but something about it just… it was terrible. 

What’s the most dangerous or scary thing you do? I’m guessing it’s not something all that dangerous. It’s certainly not defending your village from a neighboring village who’s coming to kill everyone. I’m guessing you don’t run from wild animals trying to kill you very often, but biologically, we still have all the systems necessary to facilitate those activities. We have this body brain mixture  that allows us to survive in those situations. I’ve heard it called unconscious bias and a bunch of other things, but I like the lizard brain.  

You and Your Lizard Brain

That lizard brain is where our unconscious biases live. It’s that part of your brain that  has applications running so that when you walk up to an elevator, you don’t like freak out and have to figure out how to use it. It’s just processing, always in the background.  It’s how we get through the day.

It’s how you decide if you like a person or not. It’s how you figure out if it’s safe to be where you are, or if something that you’re going to eat is going to kill you.  I don’t think we could survive as humans without that kind of lizard brain, but it does also screw up a lot of stuff in the modern world.

This part of our brain is where racism lives. It’s the part of our brain that makes stupid financial decisions. It’s how we get taken advantage of when you go to carnivals and you can’t do the actual calculation of how likely you are to get the fricking ring over the bottle to win the prize

This part of your brain is what spam messages were invented to exploit. This is why we have so many cybersecurity problems in this country. Or I guess in this world are frigging everywhere right now. There’s a great book called Thinking Fast and S low another fantastic read if you get the chance. This is the fast part of our brain, that thinks very quickly and processes a ton of information. But also makes a lot of mistakes. 

Your Lizard Brain Thinks You’re in Danger

 So chances are the scariest thing you actually do in real life is a sales meeting. You’ve got to talk to strangers, you’re in an unfamiliar location. You have to ask that stranger for money. And if you don’t get that money, your brain, at least your lizard brain is thinking I might lose my job. And maybe my spouse will leave me, and maybe I’ll get evicted or I’ll lose the place where I live. I guess maybe I have to live in a national force somewhere in caves for the rest of my life, which is probably going to be short life because I’m going to get sick and die. And everyone that I know in love will starve to death. Maybe. 

Of course this is stupid. You know (in your conscious mind) that this isn’t real, but your lizard brain does not care what your conscious mind says. It’s got its own thing going. And then you add adrenaline to that and you’ve got a real problem. You can’t think. You can’t talk, and your lizard brain thinks you’re going to die. Thinks you’re being attacked by lions or your villages burning to the ground. It’s the scariest thing that’s happened to you all day, maybe all year. 

You Need Some Dynamic Range

It’s possible to give your lizard brain a greater range to work with and to redefine in a very tactile and physical way, that a sales meeting is not a life or death situation. And the way we do that is by introducing a little bit of actual life and death.

Now hear me. I’m not saying you should become a superhero or take on something that’s actually really dangerous. Me personally, I’m a bit too much of a delicate flower for any kind of extreme sports. I have a healthy fear of my own mortality. I’m pretty much a wuss, but there are a handful of things you can do to gain control and to trick your body into believing you’re in danger.

Trick Your Lizard Brain into Thinking You’re in Danger

One, I take ice cold showers. Now, when I first started in my sales career, I had to do it for 30 to 60 days to really break my fear of sales meetings (my biological fear of sales meetings). I would take a regular shower and then as soon as my shower was done, I would turn the hot water completely off. I would grit my teeth and ball up my fists and I would stand under the ice cold shower for 60 seconds (I would count it out loud). And what I wanted to do was stress out my body a little bit. I wanted to introduce danger in a physical sense.

Another thing I did early in my career was I signed up for Brazilian jujitsu. If you know anything about me you know I’m a big guy; I’m not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. But let me tell you: it’s hard to get stressed out about a sales meeting when earlier in the morning, someone was trying to choke you to death.

I have a friend who will go down to a field and he would stand on one side, and he would run full speed, screaming all the way to the other end. As if there was a lion chasing him. He would literally scream and run as fast as he could sometimes falling down just to simulate that moment of running for your life.

Redefining Scary

That danger, that physical fear, it expands your body’s understanding of what’s actually scary.  Your brain can’t tell the difference right now between a sales meeting and something that’s dangerous. We’re redefining for your lizard brain what danger really looks like.

Getting an unexpected objection. Just doesn’t dump adrenaline into your system the same way it does when your hand slips off of that edge of the rock. And you experience that brief moment of weightlessness as the rope catches tight and you don’t fall to your death, but your brain doesn’t know the difference the moment you start falling. 

Once you can get this physical response under control, you’re going to be sitting in those meetings and you’re still going to have objections. You’re still going to need to sell. You’re still gonna have to do your job. But what we’re doing is we are redefining for our body, what we should actually be afraid of. Chances are, if you’re listening to this podcast, you being bad at your job, doesn’t kill anyone. Nobody dies from it. So it’s really not as stressful as our bodies think it is. 


All right. So here’s your homework.  I want you to pick two things. One of them has to be at least daily and for the next 30 days, you’re going to go do this. And I want you to compare your first three meetings with your last three meetings over those 30 days. The goal is I want you to be able to see how much improvement you can have over those 30 days as you push your body outside of its comfort zone.

This is the fourth Episode of a five part miniseries on Building Resilience, you can find episode one here.
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