EPISODE 648: Achieving Massive Sales Success While Battling Chronic Lyme Disease with Holistic Sales Trainer Cara Pacific Campbell

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Today’s show featured an interview with Cara Pacific Campbell, founder of Kusi Nuna, Holistic performance management training and coaching for sales teams. She is also a chronic Lyme disease survivor.

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CARA’S ADVICE:  “Make a conscious decision about what voice you’re using and realizing that you have that power. This is something you’re telling yourself. You have control over what you tell yourself, and you have control over how you describe your obstacles and how you experience what’s happening to you. We can immediately change the conversation and drop complaining about how ridiculous our quota is and how we’ll never hit it, and how stupid our customers are, and how tired we are, and how dumb everything is, and how we never get enough help. All of a sudden, those are fantastic challenges for this amazing hero who somehow always manages to thrive despite ridiculousness thrown his way.”


Fred Diamond: You and I have been friends for about a year now, and I was excited to have you come on the show to talk about your battle and your struggle with Lyme disease, how you’ve overcome it, and how it’s helped you to become a better sales coach and consultant. I’m really excited to talk to you. You’re in Idaho. I’m in Northern Virginia. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us a little bit about your journey. As we talked before, not a lot of people understand what chronic Lyme disease is. It’s a tickborne illness. One thing that people don’t understand, and I’ll ask you to talk about this, is a tick just doesn’t transmit Lyme disease. There’s as many as 24 other, what we call co-infections, like Bartonella, Babesia, et cetera, which make it even more complex. Give us a little bit of an understanding of your journey and I’m excited to talk to you.

Cara Pacific Campbell: I’m so excited to talk to you. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I’ve been listening to the past episodes for a while now and I’m excited to be involved and included. I love bringing Lyme and sales together because those are the two biggest influences in my world. I’m a sales performance specialist, which basically means I help companies who have huge growth quotas figure out how to actually up-level their team to meet those quotas without burning their team out. But my experience with Lyme goes back 17 years now already. I had Lyme for 10 years before I was diagnosed, and it had been 10 years of really random, strange diseases that would come and go, symptoms that would come and go, migraines, stomach aches, dizziness that left me stuck at a hotel room in St. Louis for three days straight. One day in 2016, all of these strange things all of a sudden came together in one massive nose bleed that left me in the emergency room after a nice ride in an ambulance, where they, of course, tested me for Lyme disease and said, “Well, it’s not Lyme disease. We’re just going to cauterize your nose and send you home. You’ll be totally fine,” and I wasn’t.

I never got any better. The most energy I had was immediately after that nosebleed. It just went downhill from there, which was the strangest thing. I started to lose weight. I lost 30 pounds in a month. My extremities and my face started to go numb. I was having a hard time communicating and understanding what I read. All of a sudden my life turned upside down, and it became this seven-year battle, and six months of it was spent going to every doctor we could imagine, “Please, help me understand what’s going on,” and they would test me for anything and everything. Tell me, “Well, prepare for the worst, make sure your affairs are in order,” I had a terrible experience. Or they would say, “I think it’s all in your head. You need to see a psychiatrist.”

I was either dying or I was nuts. But either way, at the six-month mark, I had finally gotten into the Cleveland Clinic, and after about 127 vials of blood, we realized, “Hey, it’s Lyme disease and 36 other infections that no one else had caught.” Now we start the process. Of course, the Cleveland Clinic said, “We don’t treat Lyme disease because of all the political aspects to it,” I don’t know if your listeners are aware that Lyme disease, according to the medical institutions in America, is treated with two weeks of antibiotics, and anything past those two weeks is considered long Lyme or chronic Lyme, which basically means, “We don’t know what the hell’s wrong with you, but good luck.”

Fred Diamond: Actually, I’ve spoken to so many Lyme survivors after publishing both books, and there’s basically two parts to the journey for almost all of them. One is, like you were just describing, I have all these medical issues. I don’t understand it. I’ve gone to 10 doctors and almost invariably the 11th one will say, “We’ve tested for everything. It’s not Lyme. It’s in your head. Maybe you should check yourself into a mental institution.” I also do a podcast called The Love, Hope, Lyme podcast. Then the challenge becomes your family says, “Well, the doctor said it’s in your head, so why are you still complaining about these?” Then the second stage that most Lyme survivors talk about is, “Yes, I’m finally diagnosed. A doctor, who I trust, finally has said, ‘I think you have Lyme disease.’” Then it’s like, “Great. I’ll take a couple pills and I’ll be good over the weekend.” Then there’s the journey, because like you mentioned, you said you had 36 other infections.

Talk about how you were able to operate as a sales professional. One thing that I do want to talk about as well is, you talked about what you’re doing to help sales organizations reach quota, but one thing that you also like to say is you also help sales professionals create happier, more fulfilled lives. That’s something a lot of people are struggling with. We’re doing today’s interview in the fall of 2023 with Cara Pacific Campbell. Coming out of the last three years of the pandemic, a lot of people have questioned the value of their lives, and their time, and their focus, and especially with being at home and hybrid, there’s a lot of challenging thoughts going through. But tell us how you were able to operate. Were you able to work in the sales world while you were in those two stages of Lyme?

Cara Pacific Campbell: Yeah, I actually worked for the first 10 years, and in fact, for that entire time, I was a direct account manager. I was a major account manager. I became a regional sales manager and a regional sales director, and I was working on my fourth promotion within four years. I was fortunate in that I was good at what I did, and I was able to manage a lot of my symptoms. I made number every year, and that’s all that counts. My diseases, my symptoms, whatever they were at the time, were really treated as eccentricities by my managers. Like, “Here’s Cara, she’s going to make her number. You just have to deal with her being a little off. She might have really bad headaches today.” Or, “You just have to know that after you go out to eat with a customer with Cara, she’s probably going to have to go throw everything up.” Or, “After she travels a whole lot, she’s probably going to have to sleep for two days.”

Everyone I worked with, and everyone who I reported to was amazingly supportive, and they were like, “Well, we don’t really know what’s wrong with you, but whatever it is, we never catch it. We’re happy to help you accommodate it.” It was really just until the last year where I was traveling 75% of the time. Previously I had worked from home, traveling 25% to 50%. When you work from home, as everybody knows now, it’s a little easier to show up in jammies. This is back in the day when you didn’t have to turn your video camera on. I just put a tape over my camera, told everybody it was broken. Everybody was fine with that. The tricks of the trade. But that last year of traveling 75%, I just couldn’t keep up. There weren’t enough days to put a buffer in for rest.

When I got sick, it was terrible, of course, when I got really sick, but it was also this opening where I went, “Whew, all right, I’m at least getting a little break. This was unsustainable.” Now, when I’m working with people, my goal is to help them find something that feels sustainable in their bodies and for their life, because the deal is that happy people sell more than people who are struggling. We always think that happiness comes on the other side of that, but it’s untrue. It’s become part of my mission then to take everything that I’ve learned and struggled through to help others.

Fred Diamond: It’s really good that you mentioned that the people that you worked with, your coworkers and your management, they didn’t know exactly because you were still trying to figure it out, but they knew that something was going on. What did you sell? Give us a little bit of perspective, when you were out there as a sales professional, what products and/or services did you offer?

Cara Pacific Campbell: I sold predominantly engineering software. It’s software and services, a little bit of enterprise stuff for a while, but for the most part, engineering software. I’m an engineer, so I approach everything with that mindset, which makes it even stranger that I’ve studied reiki and shamanism and life coaching as an engineer, but that was my world.

Fred Diamond: That’s complex. One of the reasons why I bring on Lyme survivors who are successful in sales is we talk all the time at the Sales Game Changers Podcast about the obstacles that you have to get past. Every sales professional is dealing with things, and it might be the customer’s ghosting me, or I haven’t heard back from the customer when I’ve just submitted the proposal which the customer has asked for. Well, when you have Lyme disease and the co-infections, et cetera, those are real solid blocks. Enterprise software, engineering software, that’s not selling cups. That’s pretty complex stuff.

Talk a little bit about, one of the symptoms, and again, you could describe whatever you want to talk about, is there’s something called brain fog, for example. Did that arise when you were selling engineering software? If you’re selling engineering software, you’re selling to engineers, and to CIOs and IT directors, it’s pretty complex stuff. It’s strategic and it’s planned out, and there’s pricing and all these features, et cetera. Talk a little bit about dealing with the complexities of that type of a sale while you’re also managing the Lyme disease.

Cara Pacific Campbell: It was difficult at times. A lot of the sales I did were very high level, so I was mostly with the managers and the CIOs really digging into business problems, which is the most fun for me. I had spent the beginning of my career doing all the engineering work and understanding it. Now it was fun to apply it to like, “Let’s solve the big problems.” I started to notice, I was doing a lot of work with Ford at the time, and all of a sudden I was losing words. I have never been one to be at a loss for words ever, but I would notice that it would take me a little bit of time to get the next word out. I just couldn’t find it. I knew the words, they just weren’t there, and it didn’t seem to be anything that anyone else knew, but I started to know it. I started to know that it took me a little longer to think things through.

I actually decided I would play a little game with myself. We all have a narrator in our head that narrates our story. Generally, it’s telling us that we’re a victim, we’re going to fail and die alone and be miserable. I decided that I was going to be a hero, and the narrator in my story was going to somehow narrate this really optimistic story. With every obstacle like that, instead of just being like, “Crap, I can’t believe it. What is wrong with me?” I would be like, “Well, this is a fascinating turn of events. She’s a clever girl. What will she come up with next?”

Fred Diamond: That is actually amazing. It’s interesting because obviously we’ve done a lot of shows on storytelling, and basically it’s like, how do you as a sales professional tell pertinent stories to your customers? Usually, it’s about how people have gotten success with their technology. But that’s a really interesting angle too, is your storyboard about yourself and how you were able to overcome some of these obstacles. Did that approach work for you as a technique?

Cara Pacific Campbell: It has kept me alive, quite honestly. Going through seven years of losing so many of my own faculties, having to forfeit a career that I loved, watching so much of my life burn down to ashes in front of me. It’s so easy to get depressed. It’s so easy to feel like you’re a victim and you’ve lost everything, and life will never get better. I just was convinced that this was some avenue of transmutation. I was like, “Wow. Well, this is fascinating. I’m going to really learn my purpose. I’m going to get something out of this. Well, if it’s going to get this bad, imagine how good it can get on the other side.”

Fred Diamond: I have a coach who’s an NLP coach, neuro-linguistic programming, and his big technique is always to say, “What do things look like six months out there?” Tell us a little bit about your transformation. Well, some of the techniques, and tell us the name of your company and tell us what it means, and tell us some of the techniques that you’ve brought into your life. I’m curious, did they come into your life as you were trying to recover from the Lyme disease? Or have you always been a spiritual type of a person as well?

Cara Pacific Campbell: I have always had a little bit of a spiritual bent. I have always gone to yoga. Even early in my career, I had a very plant-based diet. I was in tune with things, and it made me feel like I didn’t really belong in the engineering software world oftentimes, but I love the engineering software world, and it was hard to reconcile the two and try to figure out exactly where and how I fit. Fast forward to me getting sick with Lyme disease, I have the narrator in my head. This is an avenue for transmutation. What does that mean? Let’s take the engineering part of me that says, “All right. Let’s get the books. Let’s study the things. Let’s figure this out. I will be my own champion with the energy that I have.” Quite honestly, sometimes it means reading the same paragraph 17 times. Then the next day doing the same thing. It was a slow process.

I really dedicated everything I had to studying wellness, how do I get myself better? But I also had this predisposition to everything spiritual and energy based, and an absolute fascination with shamanism that had started from the second I had heard of it years and years and years before. I dove into everything. I became a life coach. I studied with Oprah’s life coach to become a life coach. I was like, “I’m being serious about this.” I became a reiki master. I learned how to work with energies. I became a yoga teacher, and then I went to Peru and studied shamanism. I was like, “I am all in it. If there is a tool that I can learn to help myself get better, I’m all in it.”

As you know, when it comes to chronic Lyme disease, nothing is covered by insurance. It’s basically this deal you make with the universe that says, “I’m just going to spend a bunch of money and hope that I get better.” I thought, “Well, while I’m spending a bunch of money and hoping that I get better, this is all stuff I’ve always wanted to know.” I’ve always been fascinated. It lights me up. I can read about this stuff for days. It makes me infinitely happy, and I’m just building to my own tool set as I do it. I find myself in Peru studying shamanism with the third shaman in a row from a different country who tells me, “You’re a shaman. Actually, you have lived the life of a shaman in past lives in Peru.” “Okay, this is fantastic.” “Your job is to take these teachings and bring them out into the greater world.” I thought, “Wow, that’s it. That’s it. Here I am. I love these teachings. I love these different tools, and I love my village of salespeople. It makes me infinitely happy to connect these two.” As I had learned things, all along I kept thinking, “Had I known this when I was working, it would’ve changed my life.”

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about that. Let’s get specific. First of all, if you don’t mind, describe what a shaman is. Then secondly, talk about some of these techniques that sales professionals listening to today’s Sales Game Changers Podcast could begin implementing. Once again, define what a shaman is, and then talk about what you do specifically, or more appropriately, how the sales professionals listening can implement some of your teachings to take their sales career to the next level.

Cara Pacific Campbell: A shaman, there are lots of words that get mixed up with shaman in today’s society. I want to set the record straight that a shaman does not necessarily indicate that there’s plant medicine and ayahuasca and different journeys and things like that. That actually has not been part of my experience at all in all of my time studying it. A shaman, in its purest term, represents someone who sits just on the edge of the village, who’s able to live between the worlds, the worlds of spirit, and the worlds of practical life. That’s really where I feel like I am. I’m on the edge of the sales village now, so I have that distance and perspective, and I’m able to live between those worlds. I have a whole practice of meditation and connecting with Pachamama, Mother Earth, and Father Star every day, and gathering my energies and directing them. It’s really given me much more direction and power than I could’ve ever imagined. I’m so indebted to this practice that actually part of the purpose of my company is to raise money and awareness for the indigenous cultures in Peru. I donate profits to them every year.

Fred Diamond: Let’s get specific now. What are some of the specific things? I know a lot of what you help the sales professionals work on is wellness, brain function, stress management, et cetera, holistic approaches. Let’s get specific, what are some of the things that you can teach them, or what should they know about? Everyone listening here wants to get better at sales. They want to make more money. They want to sell more technology. Most of our customers listening, or most of the listeners, sell complex technology or software or enterprise hospitality solutions. Let’s get real specific.

Cara Pacific Campbell: I have a million things to offer. Instead of doing that, I will offer one huge paradigm shift that has made foundational difference for me. Of course, we can get into lots of things, but this is the big thing. You need to understand that our conscious mind processes 40 bits of information per second. Our body processes 11 million bits of information per second. We as sales professionals tend to live in our minds. Our body is just something that we drag along, that we fill with caffeine, and then maybe some bourbon, because we over-caffeined, and we’re trying to get through the rest of the day. We don’t eat well, we don’t take the best care of ourselves. We exist despite our body.

But when you change the paradigm, you realize that not only is your body your friend and the only place you have to live, it also has so much more information than your conscious mind does. Oftentimes, I’m sure you’ve had the experience where you’re stuck with something, you walk away from it, you go for a walk, get a glass of water, you just shift gears, you make dinner, and all of a sudden you have the answer to your problem. Things are starting to make sense to you. Well, what’s happening is you’re creating that space that allows you to process the information that your body has already absorbed. It’s now coming into your conscious awareness. That’s a difference maker. When you give yourself consciously time, breaks, little breaks, a little walk, stopping for a few breaths before you do something, feeling into your body, noticing when you get chills, noticing when something just doesn’t sit right. We as sales professionals are always using our gut, but there’s so much more information than just that initial gut instinct that we can access.

Then you start to look at, well, how do I calm my nervous system? I know you had talked about this in your conversations with Carrie, and I thought they were fascinating. How do I calm my nervous system so I can access this information that’s in my body more easily? Then there’s a ton of different techniques there. Even as simple as just touching your hands together, or taking some deep breaths, just getting recentered where you can go, “Oh, I didn’t realize that.” It’s this shift where the body is no longer something that you’re fighting or pulling along with you, but in fact, the body is leading the information gathering. The body is the source of knowledge.

Fred Diamond: What do you tell sales leaders and sales managers to do to guide their people? As you’re talking to them, a lot of times they have to be the ones that motivate and instruct. Especially right now, again, we’re doing today’s show in the fall of 2023, a lot of companies are bringing on new salespeople out of college, et cetera. What is some of your advice for the sales leaders to implement some of the ideas that you’re talking about in their organizations?

Cara Pacific Campbell: The big thing, and what the really innovative sales leaders are doing right now is offloading a lot of the sales work that could be automated by AI or could be given to inside salespeople. Sales teams, especially sales teams who are selling complicated solutions, need to have enough time to dig into those solutions and to really feel into those solutions. The goal is to give your sellers as much time as possible. McKinsey had just done a wonderful study on this, showing that elite teams, the leaders were able to give their sales teams 30% more customer-facing time. In that customer-facing time, can you imagine if you’re not doing all these other things, and you’re able to control your nervous system? You’re able to get so much more data in your interactions, and you’re able to ask better questions, because the path forward to growth for a lot of our customers is bigger deals.

Bigger deals happen by understanding not only all the business nuances, but all the personal nuances. You pick that up from the personal interactions, but if you’re going too fast in those personal interactions, you completely sacrifice all emotional intelligence. You completely sacrifice your deep listening. It’s this combination thing of if you clear the space for the salespeople, and then teach them how to control their nervous systems, teach them how to listen, oftentimes also helps them increase their standard sales acumen… I still find that our sales teams are going so fast that they just repeat the same mistakes over and over. Instead of learning from them, you just do what you can do. You throw a Band-Aid on it.

It’s actually addressing where those gaps are. Even in some of our most senior salespeople, they’ve just been making the same mistake over and over, and they know how to compensate for it. But there are things to teach them to tweak in their process that can make them so much more effective when we slow down a little bit and take a little space.

Fred Diamond: You have to be so focused on the customer especially now. We talk about this all the time, but the sales professionals who are being successful right now are truly bringing unique value to their customers about how the customer can achieve more with all the challenges that they’re facing. One of the reasons why this is so important is because our customers, because of the last couple of years, are now more challenged with what their customers are struggling with and what their customers’ customers are struggling with. The sales professionals who are successful right now have that clarity to understand, “How can I bring value to my customer because of what they’re dealing with?” There’s still too many salespeople who are all about them. “Here’s what my solution can do for you, and I want you to know this because I have a quota that I need to achieve.”

That’s the way it was done for 30 years. Then over the last 15, 20 years, the customer has taken over and the customer has taken over so much more quickly that the sales professionals who are really making it about them… Not just from a, “I know you want more productivity.” Everybody wants more productivity. Every customer wants to make more money, every customer wants more effectiveness in what they’re bringing and clarity of message. That’s a brilliant answer. This has been a great conversation.

Again, I applaud you. I’ve done probably close to two dozen Sales Game Changers Podcast episodes with people who have a chronic illness, specifically Lyme, and the way you describe what you went through, it’s, as I like to say, no human being should have to deal with this particular disease. It’s something I’ve learned over the last couple of years and how you’ve addressed it. You gave us great answers. I know the journey that you’ve had to go on. You said you went to Peru to try to find a solution.

One thing you mentioned too, I want to remind people, insurance doesn’t cover this. Insurance companies don’t want to pay for an illness that there’s “no cure for”. Like you just said, if you Google, “How do I treat Lyme?” It says two to four weeks of antibiotics. Like you said, what if you’ve had it for seven years until finally was diagnosed? Then you take the antibiotics, you’re way gone, it’s taken over your body, et cetera. I also want to acknowledge and applaud you for what you’re now doing, taking these lessons and helping sales organizations get more, I hate to use the word mindful, but more mindful about what they’re doing for their customers so that they can be more effective. That’s really the mission that the Institute for Excellence in Sales is on, and in many ways too, our Sales Game Changers Podcast. I just want to acknowledge you for that and congratulate you on shifting and transforming to the person who’s bringing so much value to so many people.

Cara, you’ve given us so many great ideas. Give us one more specific thing, something that salespeople should do right now after listening to today’s show, or reading the transcript, to take their sales career to the next level.

Cara Pacific Campbell: I think the first thing, and I mentioned it before, but I think it’s really important, is to meet your narrator and to make a conscious decision about what voice you’re using, and realizing that you have that power. This is something you’re telling yourself. You have control over what you tell yourself, and you have control over how you describe your obstacles and how you experience what’s happening to you. We can immediately change the conversation and drop complaining about how ridiculous our quota is and how we’ll never hit it, and how stupid our customers are, and how tired we are, and how dumb everything is, and how we never get enough help. All of a sudden, those are fantastic challenges for this amazing hero who somehow always manages to thrive despite ridiculousness thrown his way.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk about that for one second. Usually we end the show here, but I want to follow up on that, because that was such a brilliant idea. We’ve spoken in the past about self-talk, and I remember, I’ll give you my example. I went back and read a whole bunch of journals and listened to a whole bunch of voice memos I did for myself. I would say things like, “Hey, congratulations. You just got IBM as a customer. How come you didn’t get Microsoft and Oracle? What’s wrong with you?” I kept reading that, when I went back about two years ago and reviewed all my journals and a whole bunch of voice memos, I kept listening to it over and over again. I was like, “God, that isn’t very motivating,” because that didn’t lead me to get Microsoft and Oracle as customers, although ironically, Microsoft and Oracle are now partners of the institute. But talk about, if you don’t mind one more time, just a little bit. Did you show yourself kindness? Were you conscious about, “I’m the hero, and there’s going to be things I’m going to get past, but not because I’m a bad person or I’m a failure, it’s because they’re in my way and I have this mission and I have my vision of where I want to get to”?

Cara Pacific Campbell: It’s self-kindness. It’s deciding that every one of us has a tendency for negativity and self-doubt. We have all internalized critical voices from somewhere in our childhood, and we all carry shame with us. It’s really the matter of deciding whether or not you’re going to identify or not. I had the good fortune of doing seven years of deep healing work and picking up every little piece of shame and self-doubt that I’ve had in my being and going, “Wow, do I want to carry that forward with me or not?” But even if you don’t have the luxury of chronic Lyme disease, even if you have to be a normal person, you can still make that conscious decision. Take a half an hour one day, take a morning, write yourself a letter, see how it feels, start to play with where the sticky parts are and start to make a conscious decision that, “Yeah, you know what? The thing is that sometimes you are not amazing, but also you are always amazing. You’re made of the same things of stars. You’re a one-time miracle.”

Fred Diamond: If you gave yourself the last 35 minutes to listen to today’s show with Cara Pacific Campbell, then you have proven that you are committed to yourself. Cara, once again, thank you so much for the great content. I appreciate you. For all of our listeners, again, my name is Fred Diamond and this is the Sales Game Changers Podcast.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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