Resilience: How to Survive as a Sales Professional

Many people enter the field of sales from selling cars to engineers who work for manufacturing companies, etc. Sales is a job you must “really enjoy”. But, to survive as a sales professional you also need to have resilience.  Fortunately, you can learn to be resilient.

Learning about being resilient isn’t as fun or exciting as learning how to close a deal. But, if you want to have a successful and long career in sales, I would suggest that you carefully read this article and pick up what you can.

By learning to be resilient means that you are lowering the chances of burning out and losing your motivation.

The question is: If you can learn something that will allow you to thrive,  why not learn it?

Before I get into resilience and how to survive as a sales professional, I would first like to tell you a little about my experience when I first begun to sell.

When I First Started to Sell

Earlier on in my sales career the most important thing for me was to close the deal and then who’s next. My motivation came from thinking about all the potential money I could make. That was in 1978, and only if I knew back then what I know today, my journey would have been much easier.

Back then sales to me was like a roller coaster and so were my thoughts. I discuss the roller coaster affect in my blog “New or thinking to be a sales professional”, worth reading.

When I would make one sale, I would feel great, two sales fantastic, after 3 sales – the world was mine. I was soaring above the clouds. On the other hand, when I didn’t sell, the world was caving in.  I felt like crap and wanted to never sell again.

I tried a few times to become a full time sales professional not to mention barely having money to survive (100% commission). But I kept on going and finally found success and a career in sales. Luckily, I had this natural ability of optimistic self-talk. Probably because growing up life was tough and I always “believed that things will be better” one day.

Believed That Things Would Get Better

“Believed that things will be better!” I didn’t know it back then, but a belief that things will get better which is optimistic, is one of the key ingredients in achieving goals. Not only that, you must be optimistic if you want to be successful and survive as a sales professional; not to mention for good mental health.

To repeat, I was lucky I had this optimistic self-talk ability. Yet, so many others love selling but, negativity gets in their way. Then, before you know it – they are in different profession.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Now, could you imagine if someone were to teach you about being resilient from the get-go? This would give you a process to deal with all the negativities and adversities that come with the sales job.

Not only will you have a process to deal with issues, you will learn that your actions and the way you live your life would be in a way that would allow you to thrive.

“Being resilient is living your life in a way that you are able to overcome the hurdles and negativity which life and business throws at you”

For example: Life balance – so many sales professionals get so involved with their career they give up certain things in life that they enjoyed.  After a period of time, life becomes all work and no play, their motivation and sales numbers go down.

Check out the case studies page, it talks about this among other things.

Resilience and Positive Psychology

A key point I want to make has to do with the research and science of resilience and positive psychology.

Positive Psychology was basically founded by Martin E. Seligman, Ph.D. and he is the director of the Positive Psychology Centre.

Although I was lucky to be pretty resilient and optimistic, my coaching led me to learn about Positive Psychology and resilience.

It was amazing to note that the researches at the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania did research on an entire country.  Not only that, they tracked their results over  a period of years. Furthermore, they have taught resilience skills to the military.

Resilience research is headed up by Karen Revich, Ph.D  Director of Resilience and Positive Psychology Training Programs, 

Research for Hiring Life Insurance Sales Agents

Metropolitan Life hired Martin E. Seligman and his people to do a study on hiring salespeople.  This was important due to the millions of dollars spent on sales training and having a bad retention rate.

So, if they can figure out who is best to hire based on a specific psychological profile, the retention rate of their sales people would be greater, thus saving millions of dollars.

Without getting too in detail about the research I’ll tell you some basics.

Each person has what is called an explanatory style which is either optimistic or pessimistic.  Fortunately, there are test that will determine where you fall. The questionnaire was designed to ask questions that would determine a persons style, which would be either optimistic or pessimistic.

One of the research test they did had 200 experienced life insurance agents half of which were very productive and the other half that was unproductive fill out a questionnaire. The very productive agents scored very high as being optimistic and the others not.

The Results

They compared the actual test scores of the agents to their actual sales records to find out that the agents who scored high in the optimistic half sold 37% more insurance in their first two years than the other half. They also found that agents in the top 10% sold 88% more the the most pessimistic 10th.  In addition agents that are optimistic not only do they sell more, but they have a longer retention rate in the industry.

The research showed that agents with pessimistic explanatory style will end up quitting when there are problems and were less successful.

They were able to create a screening test for hiring . What can be better than being able to hire people based being optimistic knowing that they have a greater chance to succeed in a tough business like sales?

On the other hand, what if you are pessimistic and you want to succeed?

Can A person Become Optimistic

The sun always risings when you are optimisticLuckily, a person can change the way they become and act when things go wrong. For example: constant rejection and all the negativity that goes with sales.

According to Seligman, one of the tools used is the ABCDE model by Dr. Albert Ellis, which changes a persons internal dialogue.

At the end of the day it’s how a person is able to deal with the negativity in sales and life in general. A person who is resilient will be more successful in both their business and personal life.


Now that you have an idea of resilience and how to survive as a sales professional, I’m  going to expand on the resilience part.

The research and methods that was done is used by mental health professional and taught to the USA military.   It’s also used to help those that have different challenges and/or adversities which all of us face.

Although, I’m using it in the context of sales it has helped people with tragedies in their lives as well as other hardships that may befall them.

Your sales and life may be great today, but who knows what tomorrow holds

In my coaching I have seen agents that went from the top of the world to where the world is sinking. So don’t take anything for granted.

Resilience, your magic pill for continued sales and life success.

Seven Skills to Be Resilient

Seven Factors Which are the Bases of Being Resilient

People that are resilient have these seven factors. The good things about them, is that it can be taught, measured and improved:

  1. Emotional Regulation – the ability to stay calm under pressure.
  2. Impulse Control – the ability to control your impulses like being able to not get distracted or raiding the refrigerator.
  3. Empathy – being able to read other people like their cues to their emotional state.
  4. Optimism – the ability to keep a positive outlook and being realistic that things will get better; and not avoiding the negative stuff.
  5. Causal analysis – being able to accurately figure out the causes of your problems.
  6. Self-efficacy – it’s a belief that we are able to solve our own problems that come up and our ability to succeed.
  7. Reaching out – being able to  reach out to other people for help and for new opportunities.

The Seven Skills to Overcome Adversities

These seven skills will help you to overcome adversities and challenges; and bounce back from setbacks; all of which will make you resilient.

Our thinking style, the way we look at the world and interpret it, is the number one obstacle preventing us from digging into our inner strength.

In order to build resilience we must learn to understand our thinking styles and development skills. This will allow us to see the true causes of adversity and its effects on your life. When you  build your resilience, you are also increasing your emotional intelligence.

The seven skill below are all researched based. Below, I will explain some of the skills:

The Seven Skills

  1. Learn Your ABCDE
  2. Avoiding Thinking Traps
  3. Detecting Icebergs
  4. Challenging the Belief
  5. Putting it into Perspective
  6. Fast Skills – Calming and Focusing
  7. Fast Skills – Real Live Resilience

Let’s Learn the Resilience Skills Now


A-Adversity; B-Beliefs; C-Consequences; D-Disputation, E-Energize.  If you want to learn about the ABCDE Model, go to my How To Get Out of a Sales Slump post and it’s further down the page.

Avoid Thinking Traps

  1. Personalizing – you assume that what people are saying is about you, even though there is not necessarly any indication.
  2. Externalizing – when you believe that when something happens it’s not your responsibility, you blame others.
  3. Magnifying and minimizing – when over exaggeration of a problem, so that if anything is difficult it’s evaluated as overwhelming and anything positive is ignored.
  4. Over Generalizing – when you make a broad generalization or an assumption on a bad experience you may have had, then you think it will  happen over and over again.
  5. Mind Reading – when you assume that you know what a person is thinking and feeling; and why they are acting that way.
  6. Emotional reasoning – judging or evaluating things based your own feelings. ex. I feel ugly, so I am ugly.
  7. Catastrophizing – exaggerating the negative impact of an event. Usually starts with “what if” statements

Fast Skills – Calming and Focusing

Everyone has stress and to be resilient means that you have the ability to control it.  Let’s face it, events happen that causes you to think a certain way which then affects your emotions and then you physically.

Not everyone can just remain calm. The key is having the ability to control how your body and mind responds to stress.

You will want to bring yourself back to a state of relaxation which can be done using techniques such as controlled breathing; progressive muscle relaxation; and positive Imagery. Below is how you do controlled breathing.

Controlled Breathing

Sit in strait in a chair and for three minutes slowly breathing and exhaling  through your nose for a count of 4 seconds and relax your body while you  focus on your breathing.

Shifting Your Focus

In sales when you are cold calling, it’s very easy to start thinking about something else, to the point of not making anymore calls.

Intrusive thoughts which are can be negative, takes away your focus.  There are specific focusing techniques that will help you overcome them.

Mental Games which is a technique will shift your attention away from the intrusive thought by shifting your focus. `One game is Categories, you chose a category, then name as many items in the category as possible within 2 minutes. Example: Cars – name all the cars you can think of.

By doing this, you’ve shifted your focus and now you can go back to what you are doing.

Fast Skills – Real Live Resilience

Like the header reads: Real Live Resilience – which is what you can do in the moment so that you can control your thoughts.

What it comes down to is 3 things, where you challenge the evidence about your belief; change your perspective by reframing it; and then deal with it by putting a simple plan together.  By starting a sentence with what is shown below, will allow you to deal with a negative belief or thought.

  1. Evidence: That’s not true because….
  2. Reframe: A more helpful way to see this is……
  3. Plan: If x happens, I will y…..
  • Evidence – vivid tata to create a picture of why what you are thinking isn’t true.
  • Reframe – The counterproductive thought that is getting in your way, using optimistic strategy.
  • Planned (contingency plan) – When a counterproductive catastrophic though creates anxiety and is very intense.


In this article – Resilience: How to survive as a sales professional, is about looking at Positive Psychology’s Resilience and being able to adapt it. I tried not getting to much into the technical detail, but hopefully enough for you to buy into it.

I mentioned the seven factors required to be resilient, but I didn’t go into detail on how to learn them. You now know what they are, so I invite you to do some research and learn them.

Also, I gave you some of the skills required to overcome the adversities, the stuff that gets in our way from going forward. I would suggest that you give them a try, they work.

Although, I discussed and gave you what is required, not everyone will do it. Having a professional coach that is properly trained is the best way to go.

Goodluck  and good selling.


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