EPISODE 574: Mental Toughness for Sales Success Mantras with Chris Dorris

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast, sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, featured an interview with mental toughness coach Chris Dorris. Check out his new The Book of Mental Toughness Mantras.]

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CHRIS’ TIP: “Stop complaining. Start right now. As of right now, start reducing the frequency with which you complain. I’m not joking. This is a life changer because complaining is stupid. Complaining makes us stupid. Whatever minuscule value we get out of it is completely outweighed by the expense. It’s just a dumb investment of psychic and mental energy.”


Fred Diamond: We’re talking about mental toughness for the corporate sales athlete. Today we got Chris Dorris, he’s the author of Creating Your Dream: Confidently Stepping into Your Own Brilliance. Of course, he’s also the publisher of The Daily Dose morning email blasts, comes out every morning. Little burst of mental toughness to get you going on the course for the day.

Chris, it’s great to see you. Now, I do need to remind our listeners, since you are from Philadelphia like me, I am probably going to shift into the Philadelphia dialect. People say to me, “Fred, when you talk to someone north of Wilmington, your vernacular shifts,” but you’re a Philly guy too. You got a new book coming out. Tell us about that.

Chris Dorris: Yeah, it might be out now as this goes live. It’s called The Book of Mental Toughness Mantras. Over the years in my work as a mental coach I’ve used, created, stolen tons of these mantras. Like create the state, don’t wait. I’m sure that’s going to come up in our conversation today. Ain’t bad, just is, living above the O-Line, complaining is stupid. There’s gillions of these, I just chose 50 of them to list and explain in this book.

What the mantras do is they’re short, concise, “Create the state, don’t wait” is an example. One of the things we’ll talk about is creating certain states instead of waiting for good things to occur, creating the states that you’re in when good things occur first. It’s all these great reminders, these short, cool phrases that have volumes of value packed within them and they’re tools that we use to get our heads right throughout the day. You have this list of mantras on your desk. When something happens that you’re not particularly psyched about, you go to the mantras list, and they help you upgrade your stake like that.

Fred Diamond: Let’s put this in context. So you were a therapist, then you shifted into a coach. You now coach athletes, you coach business leaders all around the globe on mental toughness. Let’s get started here. Give us a definition. Do people understand what mental toughness means? You just mentioned mantras. Tell us what mental toughness means and then we’re going to be talking about how the sales leaders listening today can implement some of your ideas.

Chris Dorris: Mental toughness is, there’s a million definitions. First of all, I’ll say this, we all had gym class at the earliest levels of education, Phys Ed, which taught us the importance of physical activity and fitness. What we did not have was the psychological equivalent of Phys Ed. We didn’t have mental Ed. We didn’t have emotional mastery training. We didn’t have any education, most of us have had no education on how to strengthen the way that we use our minds.

Here’s a definition of mental toughness. Mental toughness is the result of practicing psychological techniques so that you’re training yourself to respond to all of life skillfully, so that the creation of excellence is easier and faster for you. Mental toughness is the ability to respond to all of life with mastery, with grace, with discipline, with enthusiasm, with creative genius, with all the things that are going to lead us badassery.

Fred Diamond: I want to bring up a scenario, you have the new book which is coming out with the 50 mantras. I agree on the concept that mental toughness, the same way you talked about gym class, there should be mental tough classes. I’ll tell you a quick example and we’ll get your perspective on this. I worked at Apple Computer for a long time in the beginning of my career. I remember this was back in the 1990s. We had a consultant come in, he wrote a book called Mentally Tough. It was a great book. It was life changing and we were all motivated. It was a sales office at Apple.

One of the things about mental toughness was nutrition and the food. What we would have is we would have the administrative assistants would go every other day and they would buy fruit, and they would bring in apples and citrus and bananas. People would come down in the snack room and get that and some water. Three weeks later, a bag of chips made their way. I remember very clearly when I saw the bag of chips, and then the next day, dozen doughnuts, and then next week, there was no fruit. It was back to the usual crap that we didn’t want to be eating. Why does that happen even with the best intentions?

Chris Dorris: Here’s a sentence that I want people to memorize. I want you to remember this because this is huge, and this is the answer to your question. The nature of commitment is that it goes away. There’s the answer. That’s why so many people get divorced. I said my vows, it was like 30 years ago. When’s the last time you actually recommitted as if for the first time?

One of the things we’re going to talk about, Fred, is a very unique state. In fact, it’s the emotional state, psychological state, that is the most effective psychological state to access in order to get stuff done. It’s called the all-in state. You guys were all in for a minute and then it decayed, because everything is impermanent, including commitment. That’s not a problem unless you don’t know it.

Then your commitment fades and you don’t even know that that’s happening, and then you go back to the default, which is the thing you’ve practiced more. Because whatever you practice, you’ll get very good at it, so we have routines and those are it. Thank God that the human brain creates habit and routine, but part of mental toughness training is analyzing the routines, are they working for me? And if they aren’t, reprogramming them. Part of the reprogramming process is getting all in about a thousand times a day.

If you guys are really committed to upping your nutrition game, you would have had to have made the same choice that you made that first day when you’re all amped up. This is why I say I’m not a motivational speaker, I’m a damn trainer. Because that motivation, poof, gone tomorrow. Where’s it come from? Getting all in again. So say, “I commit today as if for the first time to my health. I commit again this afternoon. I’ll commit again tonight.” It’s not hard, it’s profound and it’s easy to skip.

Fred Diamond: That’s brilliant, actually. One of the expressions we like is the expression, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and second-best time is right now.” As human beings, and sales professionals, we can change things in a second. Let’s get to the sales side of mental toughness. Chris, I talk to sales leaders around the globe every day, multiple ones. I’ve talked to sales leaders from companies as big as IBM and five person sales companies and you know what they’re doing? They’re all pivoting. They’re all thinking about, we need to constantly be pivoting, and no one thought in 2020 that they would have to pivot.

Let’s talk about the mental toughness. People have been struggling to hit their quotas. There are some stats that say only 30% of salespeople hit their quotas to begin with, but it’s even gotten harder because people have been distracted. Everybody’s supply chain has been affected, so it’s tough. What is the most mentally tough way to deal with not just hitting your quota, but not being as successful as you want to be or not being as successful as you were?

Chris Dorris: Interpretation. At the core of mental toughness is the ability to interpret reality skillfully and that was the definition. The great ones – in any discipline, not just sales, in everything, because there was a period of my career, a long one, where I worked exclusively with elite athletes around the planet. It’s the same song, just observing how the badass be. How they’re being.

Let me just give you a story, okay? Let’s take Dr. Jay as an example, Julius Erving, my basketball hero. Dr. Jay had what we call the shooter’s mentality. Shoot a basketball. I wish this was signed by Dr. Jay. This is signed by Kareem. It’s about basketball, the shooter’s mentality, shooting the hoop, shooting baskets. So doc goes out one night and he makes his first 10 shots in a row, swish. What’s he thinking to himself? He’s thinking something like this. “This is perfect. This couldn’t be better. The fact that the first 10 went in means the next one’s going too, give me a rock. Let’s go. Come on, give me the ball.” Now, let’s slow that down. Statistically, that’s total BS. You think he cares about that? You think the great ones give a crap about having their thoughts be statistically accurate or historically accurate? They don’t give a damn. All they care about is that it amps them up because they know the better they feel, the better they play. That right there, that’s a key.

That’s a big takeaway. The better we feel, the better we are. But only always and only in everything. Next night doc goes out and he bricks his first 10 shots in a row. Stone cold bricks, dink, dink, airball. What’s he thinking to himself? He’s got the shooters mentality, which means he only chooses to think stuff that makes him feel pumped. He’s thinking this, “This is perfect. This couldn’t be better, because the fact that I missed the first 10 guarantees the next one’s going in. Give me the damn ball, Moses.” Somebody’s first time they’re hearing they’re like, “Wait a minute, how do you have it both ways?” You have it any way you want.

Fred Diamond: Did you ever come across Alan Stein Jr.? He wrote a great book. He was an elite basketball coach. He wrote a book called Raise Your Game, and he tells a great story about how he spent some time with the late Kobe Bryant. He agreed to meet him at four o’clock in the morning. Alan got there at three o’clock in the morning and he was practicing already, Kobe Bryant. But the point that he brought up was next play, which goes back to your Dr. Jay analogy. We talk about that a lot in the Sales Game Changers podcast. Yeah, missed a shot. Give me the ball, next one.

Chris Dorris: He never did that in a game, though.

Fred Diamond: No. He analyzed the shots he missed.

Chris Dorris: He practiced for eight hours. When game is on, when it’s game time, you got no time to let your state go down. How do you control it? That’s how you’re choosing to interpret or think in that moment. You got to be a thought warrior. These days, this is a rough time. I do a lot of work in enterprise software sales industry, and it’s arguably one of the most competitive industries on earth of anything. Company stocks are plummeting.

Now the whole pandemic, everything’s changing, companies, because of the stocks are going down, they’re cutting budget and all this like, all this crap is going on. All this crap that would make it really easy to go south in your brain. Circumstances right now are ripe for crappy thinking. So game on. Now is when we need to have mental toughness. In other words, how am I choosing to interpret these circumstances? Am I interpreting reality right now in a way that’s inspiring me? That is activating creative genius? I want to talk to myself the way the best coach in the world would be screaming at me and encouraging me.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about that with sales professionals. Again, most sales professionals right now in this space as you talked about, tech, enterprise software, etc. Most of our listeners are in that particular space. There’s a lot of zoom calls going on still. Let’s talk about what your suggestion is to get your mind right, let’s say before you’re about to hit the start broadcast button on a sales call or a presentation or a pitch. What are some of your recommendations? Because customers will detect. Kind of like when Dr. Jay’s defenders would say, “Oh my God, I can’t defend this guy,” Dr. Jay would take advantage of that. Talk about what your suggestions would be for them would be to ensure they get to the right mental toughness level.

Chris Dorris: We’re recruiting this during Shark Week, I’m big fan of that stuff. So in Shark, as you mention, they detect the fear. You’re right. We’re always vibing and this isn’t like Sedona woo-woo crap, get out the crystals. I’m talking science here. People say it all the time. “Yeah, I get a bad vibe from that guy.” They think they’re being metaphorical. They are not.

There are machines that measure the vibrational expressions of our thinking and that’s what the sharks are detecting. That’s what the people are getting pitched from somebody who’s scared or full of doubt, that’s what they’re doing. Like, “This guy doesn’t even believe in himself. How the hell am I going to buy from him?” The pregame is what you’re asking me about.

Pregame, huge tool. That was one of the most important tools that I use when I was working with professional athletes. There was a guy named Doug Weight. He was a hockey player, superstar. He was captain for the St. Louis Blues. He won a Stanley Cup in Carolina. He played on the Olympic team. He was the coach recently of the Islanders, badass. Back in the day when he was killing it, he was playing, he calls me up. I never met him and he says, “I want you to coach me.” I said, “What the hell for? You’re amazing.” He goes, “I appreciate that, thanks. But if you look at my numbers, you’ll see I score all my points in the third period. I have to get my face smashed up against the boards and I’m pissed.” What we worked on was his pregame. We got him inside. I said to him, “If you get your face smashed and it’s a third period, what are you like that you weren’t like in the pregame or first period or second period even?”

He described it. You know what you just described to me? You just described to me your game face and it’s on. You’re just talking about it as you be in it. I’m like, “How do you feel right now?” He’s like, “I feel like I’m going to go play.” Don’t wait, create the state. What state? Game face. Before you get on a call, create a ritual. Here’s the first step is answer this question. What are you like when you are at your best? Come up with three descriptors. Three, no more, no less. Keep it simple.

My game face was a warrior expert Buddha. Before I give keynote, before I get on a call, if I’m going to talk to a decision maker about a new corporate contract, before I coach the salespeople, I’m taking at least five minutes before that call starts to get my head into the peak performance mentality, into the perfect place. Which is different for certain circumstances.

Like if I’m going to go play in a golf tournament, I’m really emphasizing the warrior, the bloodthirsty competitor. If I’m going into a negotiation for a new contract, I will probably de-emphasize the warrior a little bit and totally focus on expert and the Buddha. But you come up with yours because everybody’s got one. We’re born with it. You’re not making it up. You’re simply acknowledging it. It’s like a thumbprint. Everybody’s got one, none are identical.

Okay, so you got yours, let’s go get it. Let’s go identify it. Come up with three words that accurately capture the unique essence of the mood that you’re in when you’re at your best and before you get on a call, put yourself in that state. Read those words to yourself. Think about why you chose those words. That’s step one. Then step two, and this only takes a moment, is remember a time when you were killing it.

That’s another suggestion, by the way, is to have a list of all your best ever performances, and everything in life, not just sales and sales pitches and business. I’m talking about games, recitals, musical performance, anything, everything. Have a list handy right in front of you. Like I got lists all over, I got an important list right here, it’s laminated. I need this in my face, in my line of sight so you can access. The two steps again are first, you got to clarify what’s your game face? What’s the mood you’re in when you’re at your best?

Put it on in your pregame before you get on a call or before you do anything important in your life that you give a shit about. Then the first step is to go through your words individually and activate each one like a warrior. Blood thirsty competitor, I’m going to step on your neck, you’re going down, I got it. Oh yeah, warriors is in the house, okay, expert. I’m infinitely confident, infinitely competent, homeboy’s got mad skills, I got to game, it’s on.

Then Buddha, I’ve done so much work on my mind and I’m needless. There is not a problem. There are no problems in the universe and everything’s unfolding exactly as it should. I’ve activated all three of those. Right now just talking to you, having done that, I’m like, “Woo!” Then I’ll think about a time that’s like relevant, like if I’m going onto a stage to give a keynote.

I remember Chicago, killed it. Somebody was talking to me just yesterday, somebody who was there in that room, and they said, “Man, that was amazing. You had 1,400 people standing up screaming, ‘we are the best sales force on the planet, TB SF OTP.’” I got goose bumps right now just telling you this, man. That’s why I’m saying. Have that list handy. Fill your mind with the content that has it be easy to feel your most amazing possible state.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about that for a second. You mentioned Dr. Jay. You’ve worked with other elite athletes as well. Does Dr. Jay look at a list every day before he goes to play? Does he look at his, “I was the MVP in 1977 and I averaged 27.4 points”? How does that apply?

Chris Dorris: A master craftsman has a lot of tools. A lot of the tools are very similar, but they’re just not identical. He’s got like 50 different saws. Fundamentally, they all serve the same purpose. They cut stuff, but not the same stuff, not the same way. Same thing with these mental toughness tools. A similar but not identical tool to the one I just shared with you, which is the game face and having a list of your best-evers is called the convincing argument.

If your life depended on convincing a panel of judges that this is going to be the best year of your career, that you’re going to kill it, and these people don’t know you, they don’t know jack about you. They don’t know nothing about your trade, your company, what you’re selling. They don’t care. They’re just checking you out and listening. They’re looking and listening. Do you believe this? I do, I believe this guy. What are you writing down? What are you saying? Write down your convincing argument. You’re going through your entire life of every shred of compelling evidence that you are a total badass.

Fred Diamond: I got a question for you. We talk about this a lot. We have over 550 Sales Game Changers podcast episodes and I’ve interviewed so many amazing sales leaders, it’s been a gift that led to the book, Insights for Sales Game Changers and some people said to me, “God, I could not do a podcast. I cannot speak the way you do, how do you do it? I’d be scared to death.”

I’m like, you know what? The audience isn’t thinking about you as a failure. Talk talk about that for a little bit. It was interesting point you said before, you said, sometimes a thousand times a day, you have to remind yourself how great you are and things like that but unless it’s a Seinfeld episode or something, the audience isn’t sitting around saying, “This guy sucks. He’s a loser. He failed chemistry when he was in 8th grade.” They’re thinking about, “Okay, I’m going to give you some time. How are you going to help me? I’m going to give you some time on your podcast, I’m not going to listen until you say, um. I’m going to give you 20, 25 minutes, because I want to get something from you.” Talk a little bit about that side of view that people may not think about.

Chris Dorris: Right behind me, you can’t see it, but I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a picture, it was the last live gig that I spoke at. It was a sales kickoff for Salesforce pre-pandemic. It was in Vegas at the Wynn. They put me up in this beautiful room, we’re looking over the golf course. Did you know the Wynn has its own golf course? It’s amazing. I didn’t know that. Smack dab in the middle of the damn thin city is this ridiculously beautiful golf course. I’m sitting up in this room, and it’s the day that I’m presenting and I’ve got all day, flew in the day before and I’m just looking out at this amazing view. I’m going to be presenting some new content. I presented this stuff a million times, but I felt like introducing some new stuff because these people knew me.

It wasn’t the first time I was with most of them. I was taking some stuff, taking it to the next level kind of stuff. I had never done it in that format. I’ve done it a gillion times with my coaching clients one-on-one but that’s a totally different game, standing on stage with lights in your face and all that. You’re not interacting. For giving a keynote like that, that’s a performance. That’s not a conversation.

I noticed, I started getting nervous. I’m sitting in my room preparing and I’m getting nervous. I came up with a mantra, it’s one of the mantras in the book to combat that. Before I even tell you what it is, this is the work I did in that moment. I feel nervous. I don’t like nervous. I remember saying, that’s not helping me right now and it ain’t going to work for me. I’m like, well, why am I nervous? The answer is, because I’m thinking like a fool. I’m actually thinking like an arrogant fool. I’m thinking that anything is about me. I’m a freaking servant here being hired to deliver some goods, for God’s sake, get off your egoic horse, chill the hell out and go deliver some goods for these people that are struggling unnecessarily, for God’s sake.

Fred Diamond: I love that. Actually, we talk a lot about sales being a service.

Chris Dorris: I got to give you the mantra, though.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, please go.

Chris Dorris: Nervous can’t exist in service. When I’m in service, I feel warm-hearted.

Fred Diamond: But you know what? The great sales professionals that we deal with here at the Institute for Excellence in Sales, they believe that they are in service. I am in service of the customer. A lot of them, Chris, have been selling to the same markets for 15, 20, 30 years, like government and public sector. I’ll ask them, “Why have you devoted your career to that market?” They’ll say, “Because I believe in the mission, and I am a servant leader. Yeah, I want to sell a lot of things because I want to have a great life, but that’s not why I’m doing it. The reason I’m so successful is because I’m so passionate about being of service to them.” We have conflicts because of what you said in the very beginning, because commitment goes away and we constantly have to remind ourselves of our commitments.

Chris Dorris: What’s the name of your book that just came out? because I want to get it.

Fred Diamond: It’s called Insights for Sales Game Changers. I can tell you a story. I also have a second book that just came out, it’s on Lyme Disease Awareness, which everybody who listens to this has heard me talk about that many, many times. But I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to speak to over 550 great sales leaders.

Chris Dorris: Great, that’s what I want, man. I want to get that book. It’s great. I recommend another one. It’s called The Go Giver. Have you read this book by any chance?

Fred Diamond: Yeah, I have, and I’ve had him on the show as well. Bob was on my show two years ago.

Chris Dorris: What a sweetheart of a human being. I love that guy.

Fred Diamond: He’s a gem.

Chris Dorris: Unreal. He wrote a testimonial for my book that is coming out. Connect with that guy on LinkedIn. I’ll tell you what, he uses that platform as good as anybody I know. Every day he’s dropping gems. Like brief, concise, consumable, relevant gems.

Fred Diamond: No, he’s definitely a unique human being. I have some friends who are actually in his Mastermind.

Chris Dorris: Yeah, the Go Giver Movement.

Fred Diamond: Today we talked to Chris Dorris. I could talk to you for another two hours, Chris, because this is a topic that I love talking about. Also, you being from Philly, we could continue to throw. We did a Dave Zinkoff reference before, we did Mo Cheeks reference and Moses Malone reference.

Chris Dorris: Andrew Tony.

Fred Diamond: When Charles Barkley went to the Sixers, he said that Tony was the best player on the team. He said that when he played, he said someone asked him, of course, he had Dr. Jay and Moses, he said, Tony was a stone-cold killer, only played for five years.

Chris Dorris: That’s so cool. Someone just sent me a thank you gift, a basketball signed by the answer, Allen Iverson. It was just this week. I’m pumped.

Fred Diamond: I got to say one quick thing about Allen Iverson and then I’ll ask you for your final action step. Everybody knows practice, that whole thing. I watched the entire press conference this week, which I never did before. His best friend had been killed seven months prior, and he said, “I’m living in the space of my best friend having been murdered.” He said, “There’s a lot of things on my mind.” He said, “All you want to talk about is practice.”

That’s what people think about, practice, man. I encourage people if they’re basketball fans, go watch the entire press conference. I’ve always loved Iverson. Before I ask you for your final action step, Chris, I just want to acknowledge you. I forget who it was who said you got to get Chris Dorris on the show.

Chris Dorris: Maybe it’s Doug Bloom.

Fred Diamond: Oh, right. Yeah, great guy. I just want to acknowledge you for all the work you’ve done for so many people, helping them raise their game, take their mental toughness to the next level to be more successful in business or sports or sales. Today, of course, we’re talking specifically about sales. I just want to acknowledge you from that. Being from Philly, even more impressive. Give us a final actions step. You’ve given us 10, 15 great ideas. Give us one thing specific right now that people listening to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast should implement right now.

Chris Dorris: Stop complaining. Start right now. As of right now, start reducing the frequency with which you complain. I’m not joking. This is a life changer because complaining is stupid. Complaining makes us stupid. Whatever minuscule value we get out of it is completely outweighed by the expense. It’s just a dumb investment of psychic energy, mental energy. Basically complaint, bottom line, me practicing having a problem with what is. Deactivating all forms of creative genius, paralyzing myself virtually from great action. So stop it. Start stopping it.

Scientists have done research on the frequency with which we complain. One group came up with that we complain once every 11 seconds. Let’s start getting in the reps as if you’re doing push-ups of converting complaints into – it takes work, all great things do, do the work – converting your complaints into genuine expressions of gratitude for the very thing that you’re complaining about. Do that work. It ain’t easy and it’s profound.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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