How to keep our emotions in check

by Susannah Mathieson

As an enthusiastic tennis player, I very often see parallels between our emotions both on the tennis court and in the world of sales.

Imagine you are in the middle of an exciting rally. Your opponent’s long baseline shots are sending you from one side of the court to the other and keeping you from approaching the net. Nevertheless, you feel that your footwork is right. You are in control and place your shots just as precisely in the corners of the opponent’s court. A sudden ball from your opponent just behind the net demands your full attention. You sprint to the net and see the gap in the opponent’s field. Hundreds of times you have seen yourself in a similar situation. Hundreds of times you have scored a wonderful point. But today you hit the ball out, way out.

Frustrated, you turn your back to the net, heading slowly back to the baseline ready for the next serve. You can’t believe you missed that shot. In your head you are mad with yourself, but you can’t let it show. There is another point to play.

How do you control your emotions?

With such a missed chance, emotions inevitably boil up inside you. That is human and completely normal. What is important in this situation is how much you let your emotions influence you. Do negative emotions like frustration and anger take over, or do you manage to block out all negative feelings and instead concentrate on the here and now. Because it’s not our past actions that define us and our success, but the repeated, constantly seized opportunities that come our way.

And so, if negative emotions dominate, our motivation and chances of success can be destroyed in the long run. Because while we are still guided by negative emotions and mourning the missed opportunity out of sheer anger and frustration, we have already missed the next opportunity for a new success. This so-called basement effect is a dangerous situation – for tennis players as well as for sales professionals.

Think positively!

For me, I take a lot of inspiration for how I act today in my professional career from the tennis court. Time and time again, I have been victim to my own emotions on the tennis court, hitting ball after ball out, because I can’t keep my emotions in check and I forget to tell those voices in my head to “go away”! If you also play tennis, or any sport for that matter, you may well empathise with this situation.

Whether we play sport or not, we can all learn to keep our emotions in check when selling. It’s about small, simple steps to reset our brains, telling it to “move on” and not dwell in the past.

Every time you get the feeling that negative emotions and feelings are taking over and you are only focusing on the past, take a little moment (it can be just a few seconds) and reflect on the success that lies ahead.

On the tennis court, after such a missed opportunity, I imagine myself winning the next shot to equalise the playing field again. Sometimes I talk to myself and say “slow and steady wins the race” to remind myself to calm down and take relaxed steady shots first to get back in the game – the winning shots can come later! At work, it might be a job I wanted so much but didn’t get. Then I check my CRM for the next step I need to take to progress a deal (remember “slow and steady”) and focus on getting that step right, whether that is picking up the phone, sending an email or quoting for some work. Need the big picture to keep going? Then imagine that trophy in your hands, or in a work situation, that order showing in your monthly figures!

In the end, one thing is important: let’s channel our emotions towards a positive attitude. Let’s try to block out those negative feelings. Let’s practise it anew in every situation. Over time, we will learn to be calmer and more composed. We will be able to radiate confidence and calmness and thus become more efficient and successful in the long run. Let’s always remain solution-oriented and consider what we can learn from this situation. In this case, a colleague or trainer are important discussion partners to maintain the necessary distance from the situation and to initiate a change of perspective.

Try it!

Here are a couple of techniques we can try when we are feeling demotivated:

  • Take a break. Go for a walk, do something different, make yourself a coffee. It doesn’t matter what, just give yourself a pattern interrupt.
  • Speak to someone. Talk through the concerns, review what went “wrong”. What can you learn for next time?
  • Imagine what success looks like. Think of the car you want to buy, the holiday you want to go on, or the feeling of seeing the next deal on your dashboard. Positive thoughts can drive positive behaviour!

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