When her husband left her out of the blue, with two infants to raise and very little financial support, [my friend and BlueSkyCoaching client] Betsy instantly turned from stay-at-home mom to car salesperson. It was 1984, and Betsy was one of the first women selling cars on her lot (or on any lot, for that matter). Within six months, she had broken the corporate record for gross profit in monthly sales.
“For a while, I was on top of the world,” Betsy recounts. “I was selling lots of cars, paying my bills, and was even recognized at the Christmas party. Soon after, the owner took me aside and said, ‘You did really well last month. But remember, that was last month. In the car business, each month you start back at zero. Let’s see how you do this month.’”
Betsy’s personal Moe and Schmoe nay-saying gremlins loved that remark. Seeds of self-doubt were firmly planted, kicking off the beginning of the slippery slope that led to her first big valley in the peaks and valleys of sales.
Betsy continues, “I started to struggle. The guy next to me was selling cars like crazy, but I couldn’t put a deal together to save my life.
“I started to worry… ‘I have a family to support, bills to pay, I’m on 100 percent commission… What if I don’t sell anything? I won’t be able to pay my bills!’
“Worry turned to fear… Maybe it was all a fluke? Maybe they were right, and I couldn’t really sell; I had just been lucky!
“Fear turned to panic. I turned to my friend, a woman and mentor who had trained me.
“She said ‘Of course you can sell! You’ve already proven that! You just need to get back to the basics.’”
Betsy went home and thought about her friend’s words. She decided that for the next few days, she wasn’t going to even think about selling a car. With each customer, she was going to pick a part of the sales process and do that one part the very best way she could.
“After I was done with my customers,” she says, “I would critique myself and figure out how to do it better the next time. When I mastered that step, I went on to the next one. I didn’t measure my success on whether I sold a car but on how well I mastered that part of the sales process. Sure enough, after a few days I started selling again, and I was back on track.”
Betsy discovered that by shifting her focus from the fear of failure to something she could control, moment by moment, she boosted her confidence and helped herself get back in the game. Once she focused on simply connecting with the customer and listening well, her sales skyrocketed.
As Betsy demonstrated, when you’re feeling squished under the heel of life, dialing down to the basics and doing a few simple things—or even one simple thing—within your control can help you slowly crawl out of the basement and back into action in the greater world.
What, in the work you've chosen to do, constitutes “the basics, the building blocks of best practices that make up its foundation?” What simple actions or steps do you you know you could dial down to and do (e.g. listening more carefully; reaching out ritualistically to warm-leads; sending out exploratory e-mails) that might make you feel less in fear and more in control? What part of the process of what you do in your work everyday could you choose to focus on and ritualistically practice? Make a list of these actions and best practices, and post them in your work area. Then, when you're feeling overwhelmed, stuck or stalled, pick something off of the list and do it rituatistically and well. Remember, fear cannot hit a moving target: The more you get back to the basics, and focus on the task at hand, the less fear can catch you and keep you from making the difference you were born to make.