Distinguishing yourself as a great sales coach, one who can help your team exceed its goals, is directly related to your ability to get into your groove, or flow, as a coach. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term flow, describes it as, “A highly focused mental state” in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” (Harper & Row, 1990). In other words, it is a state of complete concentration. It’s being in the zone or the groove of doing something; being so absorbed and engaged, that nothing else seems to matter.
Elite athletes are familiar with this concept—as they are able to get into the zone and visualize their desired performance before stepping onto the court. Basketball player Kobe Bryant is famous for this. His mental game is fueled by his ability to visualize the outcome and focus on the solution. He describes “flow” or being in the “zone” as having the feeling of “supreme confidence” and having the ability to “focus on what’s going on; staying in the present, not letting anything break the rhythm.“
Swimmer and the most decorated Olympian of all time Michael Phelps drew much attention at the 2016 Summer Olympics before his race as he waited with his hood on, preparing for his race with a stone-faced look, preparing mentally for his race, getting in his zone. He considers all scenarios, what might go right, things that could go wrong…so that he is ready for any situation.
What makes being in the zone so remarkable is the pleasure that athletes experience while in this state. While sports are typically enjoyed for the most part, being in this flow state is a rare, heightened moment; a peak performance experience.
In sports, champions are made from getting into flow. As sales coaches, the same concept applies. Having confidence and visualizing the achievement of your sales goal is critical. When there is a high level of interest and motivation, flow is more likely to occur.
We might not all have Kobe’s or Michaels “mental game” view, but we can learn to incorporate visualization and get into the zone when it comes to leading our teams. These basic rules will get you into the flow state for coaching:
- Just as athletes take advantage of pre-game planning, we can prepare and do the research. Prior to any coaching session ensure that you understand the context of the target client, their market conditions, and potential business challenges. Immerse yourself in the deal. Concentrate on all information and sales tools that have been provided to you for the coaching session to ensure that you understand the players involved. Know their backgrounds, potential business priorities, and personal agendas.
- The 30-minute flow period—immediately before the coaching session become totally focused 30 minutes before the conversation. Turn off all notifications and silence your cell phone. Concentrate, as this is the critical time to mentally engage and get “inside” the deal. Consider potential strategies and tactics that could be deployed as a result of studying the tools and background information prior to the coaching session.
- Be authentic—If the sales team that you are coaching believes that the one thing on your mind is to help them be successful you can be open and transparent with your coaching advice. If they feel this is your motivation then the coaching session will be a valuable encounter to advance their opportunity and help them grow as individuals. Support them through challenges and encourage them to be resilient. This will help them to more easily get back into flow.
- Hold them accountable—Game plans are created for athletes to follow. Specific action plans are built and sales teams feel accountable to execute within the time frames agreed. Document the action plans for both of you, as often new thoughts will come to mind following the coaching session. The primary role of a great sales coach is to provide your sales team with the insight and confidence to take the risk to do something different tomorrow than what they would normally have done. The motivation for them to do so is a direct reflection on the ability of you, as the sales coach, to enter flow state.
Personal Challenge: Discover your peak time of day when you tend to be most productive. At that time, sit down and take a few deep breaths. Manage distractions, including email and phone alerts. Next, identify a time when you were in the flow. What was your peak performance? How did you get there? How did you feel? What will it take for you to get back to your flow state? The next time you are planning a coaching session, reflect back on this situation. You can confidently get to flow state again.