Discomfort with Selling: Interview with Author Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore talks about being bold in the face of discomfort – a subject that quicklyBe Bold and Win got my attention.

Jeff is a sales expert, speaker, author and executive coach. He focuses far more than the usual person in this field on mindset issues, perhaps due to his combination of sales and cognitive behavioral therapy approach. Maybe that’s why I was so intrigued. His first book, Deal With It, was for salespeople coping with rejection.  His latest book, Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance, is forthcoming from McGraw-Hill in January 2014.

Here’s our conversation:

Charles Green. The title of your new book, Be Bold and Win the Sale, sounds very upbeat and motivational. Yet the book is built very much around the idea of embracing discomfort. That sounds like a very negative approach. How do you get from discomfort to being positive in relation to sales?

Jeff Shore. Discomfort is an inevitable part of the sales process. The most successful sales people have learned to embrace discomfort as an opportunity for growth, vs. avoiding it. From the perspective of potential change and growth, discomfort is inherently positive.

We all know people who have found a way of enjoying discomfort in order to achieve a goal or to maintain their daily life. We may not think about it in those exact terms, but when we do, it isn’t hard to come up with a list of people who experience joy in the discomfort of their pursuits. (Professional athletes, humanitarian aid workers, the list can go on and on).

We tend to think that people who enjoy discomfort are simply made of different stuff than the rest of us. That’s a handy explanation, but completely untrue. People who enjoy discomfort have trained themselves to do so. They have learned, on a deeper level, how and why the gain is worth the pain and they have reprogrammed their knee-jerk reaction to discomfort in order to recognize it for what it is: the means to a greater good.

CG: You also write and speak extensively about being bold. What does being bold mean to you and how is it related to discomfort in sales?

JS: It’s different from what we sometimes think of as “bold,” in that it’s not about aggressive selling or plowing over people to reach our individual goals. It is a humble, servant-oriented mindset. But it’s also the strategy we use to dismantle what I call “comfort addictions.” Being bold is about focusing on strengthening oneself in order to be equipped to better focus on and serve one’s clients.

Every time we have a moment of discomfort we also have a moment of decision. It takes boldness and a willingness to embrace discomfort to peel back the layers of our habitual actions that are based on decisions we make so quickly that we don’t even realize we are making them.

CG: This is very similar to what I mean by lowering our self-orientation. If we can stop feeling personally attacked, or fearful, in high-stress situations, then we can be free to pay attention to and be of service to our clients.

JS: Yes, and when we take the time to be honest and examine what we are thinking (fearing) and then analyze how those thoughts are defining our actions, we can gain a new understanding for ways in which we can improve in not only sales, but all of life. It’s not at all comfortable to face one’s own well-worn rationalizations or to choose to take action that is not our norm.

CG: Interesting. This reminds me a bit of Julien Smith’s excellent eBook, Flinch: he suggests we need to face our “flinch” moments and drive through them. So, how does ‘trust’ come into play in your message of being bold?

JS: First, trust always has to do with complete honesty and that is what I encourage people to embrace as a starting point: total honesty with themselves. Sales professionals are busy people with demanding quotas and deadlines. Over time, out of a sense of survival and/or efficiency, sales people inevitably develop habits that are not based on self-honesty.

By that I mean, there are so many potentially awkward moments in the sales process that sales people learn how to largely avoid these moments by basing their actions on possible outcomes vs. what actually is. The fear of losing a sale or of experiencing an intensely uncomfortable situation is what largely motivates most sales people. I believe that if a person can change their level of honesty with themselves, they will be freed up to change their actions and then, as I always say, they will be able to change someone’s world.

CG: Fear is a great motivator, but ultimately a limiting one. We need to get over it to get to a higher, more client-focused level.

JS: Trust also comes into play in my message of being bold in that it is crucial for people to understand and believe (trust) that boldness is not an inherent personality trait that is possessed by only the “heroes” amongst us. Boldness is a choice and an action. It can be learned. I have learned, and continue to, that this is true for everyone, including myself. If I hadn’t seen evidence of this in countless aspects of my own life, including my work in sales, I wouldn’t be so convinced of it. But, I have…over and over!

CG: I would echo that. Personally, I’ve never learned as well from positive examples or even positive experiences as from negative ones.

JS: I am utterly convinced that there is no growth without discomfort. Period. If you want to accomplish big things you must first accept and then appreciate discomfort. Every time you find yourself in an uncomfortable position you can be assured that an opportunity for success is around the corner. My mantra is: a moment of discomfort ALWAYS leads to a moment of decision.

CG: And what about that “moment of decision?” Say a bit more about how people can best respond to a moment of decision?

JS: In the book, I explore, analyze and dissect all of the how’s and why’s behind the sequence of feeling discomfort and then making a decision. I talk at length about retraining one’s mind and making “pre-decisions.” Again, being bold has everything to do with being bold with oneself: taking the time to recognize those moments in the sales process that are uncomfortable and coming to grips with one’s fears in relation to them.

When we honestly recognize how our actions are based on our perceived fears, it is then that we can make a plan for change and improvement. I encourage people to be very practical and pro-active in this process. In the book, there are spaces for readers to record what their usual responses (actions) to discomforts are and write down exact plans for different actions. This is part of the pre-decision process. When someone takes the time to foresee discomfort and plans for it by pre-deciding a positive response vs. their usual response, life changes for that person!

CG: You mentioned your work in sales. Can you give us a brief description of your career in sales and how you came to be an author?

JS: My sales career spans almost 30 years and in that time I’ve done it all – sales, sales leadership, executive leadership, consulting, training, speaking and writing. I wrote my first book, Deal With It!, to help salespeople overcome objections (a specialty of mine).

Be Bold and Win the Sale is my legacy book, my vocational ambition for many years. So much of a salesperson’s success is mental. I want to help high achievers to break through barriers and find the real prize.

CG: Jeff, thanks so much for taking the time to share with me today; I love your approach.

For more about Jeff Shore:

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pre-order Jeff’s book Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance