EPISODE 473: How to Give Yourself Permission to Ask for What You Want with Dr. Cindy McGovern

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Women in Sales virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on February 10. 2022. It featured an interview with “The First Lady of Sales” Dr. Cindy McGovern. She is the author of “Every Job is a Sales Job.”

Find Dr. Cindy on LinkedIn.

DR. CINDY’S TIP: “Truly ask for what you want today. Whether it’s French fries instead of a salad, that you want somebody else to pick up your kids from school versus you do it, ask for what you want. Just try it in those little areas where there’s not such a huge impact where it feels like, “Oh my gosh. If I ask for this promotion and I don’t get it, the world will fall,” but allow yourself to start asking for what you want and give yourself permission to do that. It will become easier and easier over time. I’d love to hear the success stories.”


Gina Stracuzzi: Welcome. My guest is Dr. Cindy McGovern, and Dr. Cindy is going to be talking to us about her book, Every Job is a Sales Job. It goes to really the heart of what we always say, that even if you aren’t in sales, you’re in sales. Our audience actually is in sales and they revel in it, but we always can improve, and that’s what this conversation is about. Dr. Cindy’s energy and slant on this is one that I truly appreciate. Welcome, Dr. Cindy, and why don’t you tell us all about yourself?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: Thank you so much, Gina, I’m excited to be here. I am Dr. Cindy. I’m also known as the First Lady of Sales, and I help people to use sales skills to get what they want, both work and in life. I’m super excited to talk to the women in sales here because you are my people. I literally spent my career trying to help folks to be able to elevate their sales game. In particular, I have a soft spot in my heart for women because I became known as a First Lady of Sales. Sadly, I was the only lady a lot of times. I am thrilled to be among these amazing ladies today and helping them to up their game.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s true that it’s still dominated predominantly by men. We are making headway, we are making ground, and I try to concern myself too with getting more women into sales leadership. That leads perfectly into your topic, which is giving yourself permission to go for what you want, ask for that raise, ask for that promotion, go for those big accounts. Yet, for some reason, we don’t always do that. I know this is a topic that you like to speak, and you’ve gotten to the point where you’re the First Lady of Sales. Take us to through what holds us back and why you think that is.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: I’m on this permission mission, if you will, where I want to help women in particular, and men too, we’re not going to leave them out, but in particular women to give ourselves permission to truly go after what we want. Even for those of us that are in sales, we sell other people all day long. But the hardest sell is actually to sell ourselves on the fact that you deserve it, that you are worth what you think you are in your mind, and really claiming the value that you provide to your organization. It’s a lot of internal work more than anything. That internal sell is quite possibly the hardest one you’re going to do. That’s what I want to help women in particular, is to really own the fact that you do deserve to be there, you’ve got the seat at the table. Are you truly sitting down though? What’s holding you back from that?

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s something that comes up in the Women in Sales Leadership Forum all the time. Some of it’s mired in socialization and others it’s just this nagging self-doubt, and it’s aligned with this idea that we have to be perfect in order to even try. As we know, perfection is a myth for anybody anywhere. I can see how all of these things could converge and we don’t give ourselves permission, as you say, to go after what we want. I probably just hit on some of those things, but is that where you see women talking about the idea that they don’t deserve it or it’s maybe they’re right, their time hasn’t come yet?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny because the story that I tell when I work with women, whether through coaching or whether I’m doing a keynote or a workshop is think of it like this. You’re wanting to walk into the spotlight in your own life. You’re on a stage, you’re the performer, and you have these backup singers. I don’t know about you, but sometimes those voices in my head are pretty loud. They bring up things like feeling imposter syndrome. My goal for the women that are listening is to be able to put those singers to sing in harmony so that you can walk into the spotlight in your own life. Those voices all have a place, truly. My grandma’s voice is one of them. She taught me to cross the street and look both ways. That was a valuable voice when I was five, but do I still give her a solo in the choir in my head on a daily basis? No. Her experience was different. Her socialization was different.

When my grandmother was alive, she still didn’t understand that I had an actual job because I didn’t punch a time card. She’s like, “Well, when are you going to get a job?” I’m like, “I have one. I’m a business consultant.” “Yeah. But what do you do?” I didn’t make something in a factory. Again, it’s honoring those voices and saying, “Thank you. I see you. I hear you. I appreciate you. You don’t get a solo today. No, no. You have to step back.” That’s what I think it really boils down to and recognizing why they’re popping up at that time.

Usually, and I would love to hear from some of the women as we post this today and through the social media chats is, what is it that happens that triggers that voice? It’s typically when you’re at the edge of your familiar zone. I don’t call it a comfort zone because there’s discomfort and comfort. It’s like when it’s the familiar, is usually when that voice goes, “Who do you think you are? Why do you think you do that?” Why is that voice popping up? Thank it, honor it, and put it in its place in the choir so you can take one more step forward towards the spotlight.

Gina Stracuzzi: The idea of the familiar, you’re right. Often there are things that are quite familiar to us, but they’re not at all comfortable. Yet, we keep giving them solo time, as you say. I love that analogy. I’m just thinking, “I need my backup choir,” because if you ever heard me sing, you would not want to listen to it [laughs]. But it’s a beautiful analogy. How do you help women get by this? Because sometimes that chorus, as you call it, can be quite loud, and it’s all well and good to know that you shouldn’t be listening so hard, yet they can be drowning out.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: It’s so true. It’s also recognizing that there are supportive voices in the choir, and those are the ones you need to bring to the forefront. When you’re feeling that imposter syndrome and you’re at that edge of the familiar zone going, “Do I really belong in this room? Wait a second, I’m the only woman here. I don’t see anybody else.” That’s when you want to bring up those voices of the really encouraging ones, and we have them. We have those in our minds. It’s funny, when I was first starting to do video on social media, it freaked me out. I’ll be totally honest with the audience, everybody goes, “You speak to thousands of people live and you can’t speak to a camera?” I’m like, “No!” It was totally different.

Gina Stracuzzi: I can’t either. I need people.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: You get that energy from the crowd. I was working with a video coach and she said, “Through the camera, not on the other side, but through the lens, visualize one of your fans, one of your chorus people that is really just rooting for you.” I had that vision in my mind. That’s who I would speak to when I was working on camera in the very beginning. You come up with these – for lack of a better term – coping mechanisms to help you overcome, but it does start with you giving yourself permission. Because there was a ton of negative talk. I’m like, “Who do you think you are? Why do you think people want to see you do a walk to work Wednesday with Dr. Cindy?” All of that stuff still comes up. It’s about going, “Wait a second. I can impact somebody today. That’s a bigger mission. Okay, Cindy, put your big girl pants on, get out there and do this,” and truly giving yourself that permission. Like I said, that’s a lot of internal work.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, listening to you, it reminds me of middle school, “Who do you think you are?” We have left that negativity, that ridiculous whatever it is we do to each other in middle school behind, and yet it’s the same attitude in there talking to us. We give those “people” time, yet we would walk away from the others. It is interesting that some things stick with you.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: It’s funny because the mean girls, they’re the ones in our head. We are giving them that power. It’s us that’s doing it. We’re our own mean girl now.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s so interesting that we don’t actually see it that way, but it is that. It’s exactly that. Certainly, having a daughter that went through it just a couple of years ago, I could hear myself saying, “Don’t pay any attention to them.” Yet I could turn around and get onto a call and that same mean girl’s right there and I’m giving her time. That’s a great analogy. I love that. One of the things that you talk about a lot is gratitude. Talk to us where you think gratitude comes in and how you can use that on a daily basis.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: I choose to come from a place of gratitude. I start my morning with it, my coffee mug says gratitude, it’s sort of my thing. But I really do feel strongly that if you come from that place, you choose to come from a place of abundance versus scarcity, which is always great in sales. All the salespeople know that, right? Because when we come from scarcity, you have desperation. When you come from abundance, you come from a place of curiosity and really examining and going, “Can I help this person? Is this a good fit? How do I do that?” and looking for solutions. That’s the first thing.

But truly with regard to gratitude, especially as it pertains to the permission mission, is being grateful for the things that worked out and the things that didn’t work out. I’ll just pose this one. We all had that person we dated that we’re like, “Thank goodness we didn’t marry them.” [Laughs] But at the time, we thought that was the be-all, end-all. It’s showing gratitude of what you learned in that experience, even though it was a closed door. Door not closed, you wouldn’t be on the path that you’re on now.

I really do believe that closed doors are the best thing, because like we say in sales, fail fast. Don’t waste your time. It’s not worth your return on time invested. It’s the same thing when you’re giving yourself permission. Figure out why the door closed, be grateful that you got an answer, and take a step forward. I think sometimes we talk ourselves out of that because we think, “Well, it should have worked out.” Stop should-ing on yourself. Stay focused on where you are and take a step.

Gina Stracuzzi: Thinking about the permission mission, giving yourself permission to try and fail, and then not allow the mean girls back in is a huge piece of it. It is hard. If you’re somebody that is hesitant and maybe has very loud voices, or maybe just is a little more introverted, so every day getting out there as a salesperson is a little bit harder. When you fail, it probably stings just a little bit more. What do you tell people who have to work twice as hard to get out there? What advice do you give them when they fail?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: I would tell them to give the same advice they would to a 10-year-old. Literally, if you were talking to a 10-year-old and the 10-year-old put themselves out there and failed at it, you wouldn’t sit there and beat them up. You would build them up. We have to trade that in our own minds and stop beating yourself up for the same thing. It’s funny because we talk about our inner child and all these things. I think that’s harder to do than if you actually take it out of your mind and go, “Okay. If I were giving feedback to a child that I know, someone I care about,” a daughter, a niece, a nephew, something, some kind of child, you would never use the words that you use on yourself. Yet somehow do, and it somehow is okay in our mind.

Part of this is giving yourself permission to even do some of your own mental counseling around, “All right. Little 10-year-old Cindy, that didn’t work. But you tried, you put yourself out there, and be grateful that it was a no now so you know where to go from here.” That’s really also where the gratitude comes back in, is being grateful for the opportunities and being grateful for the failures, because they keep you on the right path.

Gina Stracuzzi: I’m thinking now too, we have a lot of sales leaders or people who are in leadership and they have teams to motivate. I can imagine that a lot of what you’re saying could be applied to motivating your team and choosing your words carefully. Do you deal with teams at all?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: Gosh, yes. In our consulting at work, that’s a ton of our work and I do a lot of executive coaching of sales leaders. But one thing I do want to say about the permission mission is for sales leaders, sometimes we don’t even give ourselves permission to lead. Sometimes we struggle with that, and holding people accountable, and we think, “Well, I shouldn’t come down on them.” Maybe you should, actually. Maybe there is an accountability piece there. The way that you deliver that message, you don’t have to be the mean girl, but really it’s not doing them any good if you’re not holding them accountable and trying to help them elevate their game. So much of the work that we’re doing as sales leaders sometimes is giving yourself permission to actually step into the leader/manager role and have the tough conversations.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, that makes me wonder, if you’ve got someone on your team who just you can’t motivate for some reason, or they just continue to get down on themselves, regardless of your efforts to prop them up, what would your advice be to a manager in that respect?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: Sometimes we have those, I call them Eeyores. No matter what you do, Eeyore is, “The sky is going to fall and it’s going to be terrible. Woe is me.” Recognize that they’re finding comfort in victimizing themselves. That’s their failure zone. It feels safe to them to stay there. Part of it is a self-sabotage because of the voices in their own head. Part of it is also not knowing their self-worth. But there does come a point too where you have to recognize it’s not your responsibility to build them up.

As women leaders, I think we feel responsible, it’s like their failure is our failure. You give them the tools, they still have a choice to take them or not. That’s the first thing I’d say, is make sure you have a boundary on that as a sales leader that I absolutely think you invest in your people. I think you try everything you can, but at the end of the day, sometimes that dog won’t hunt, and recognize that happens.

But then the flip side is, see where they’re coming from. This is so much of the executive coaching that I do with sales leaders, is helping them to recognize where that person’s coming from, why they’re stuck there, and that literally those voices in their head that are turning them into a victim is what’s kept them safe in their life, whatever happened. You’re literally changing the script with them, so you have to start with baby steps. You have to start with helping them to see if they take one step out of that familiar, the sky is not going to fall. They take a second step.

One of the terms that I use a lot is, “Okay. Let’s just do 10% effort.” What would 10% look like? I’m not asking you to go and make 50 cold calls, but what if you made one? What would that look like? What would it feel like? What would happen when they say this? What would happen when they say that? It’s much of the coaching that I’m sure everybody listening today already does, but it’s the technique in which you recognize where they’re starting from.

I think a lot of times another mistake that leaders in general make, not just sales leaders, is we try to coach them where we’re at, or where we want to go. Instead, start with where they are and recognize that that is a happy place for them. As unfortunate as it may be for our bottom line, they’re okay there. Then you have to decide, “Are the scales worth it to push them and try to elevate them?” Or sometimes, like I said, that dog won’t hunt.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, while you were talking, it made me think about, I’ve read so much, and I’m sure you have too. Sometimes people come from a fear of failure, but sometimes they come from a fear of success too. It’s really interesting how they can show up as the same thing, but figuring out which is which can be really quite difficult.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: I work with a lot of women executives in transition. You’ve stepped into this role or you’re in a more visible role, and that feels vulnerable for most women, because you’re visible. More eyes are on you. More people are, let’s be honest, judging you. More people are seeing your successes and failures. Part of it is recognizing you deserve to be there or else you wouldn’t be in that position, so giving yourself permission to fully embrace the role that you’re in. But then the second part is also that fear of success, examine where it comes from. It’s one of the mean girls in there. I guarantee you, it’s one of the mean girls that’s telling you that, but usually it is about that visibility, and sometimes visibility feels unsafe to us, for whatever reason.

It’s one of those things where I kind of giggle where if you’re on social media, you have to recognize that you’re visible to the world in a lot of ways. We don’t think about that. There’s a feeling of anonymity because I do it behind my phone or behind my keyboard, but that is the most visible that you’re going to be. You literally are visible to the world. I can Google you and find you.

When you recognize that you’re already out there, and by you stepping into this leader role, you’re choosing the narrative, where you can’t choose the narrative that other people are interpreting on your LinkedIn posts or your profile or whatever. You can choose the narrative of how you show up in this role. That’s where you’re creating your personal brand. It starts with giving yourself that permission and saying, “Do I want to be known as the woman who second guesses herself?” Of course not. Nobody wants to be known as that. But then how do you get past it?

I think there’s a level of vulnerability too with women where it makes us approachable that we can see ourselves in one another. Sometimes vulnerability is strength. It is being able to say, “Look, I struggled with this. This was hard for me when I first stepped into this role.” I always believe in sending the elevator back down for the next generation too so we’re still breaking through glass ceilings and paving the path.

Gina Stracuzzi: Something you just said there makes me wonder. You can’t say anything these days without somebody judging you. It doesn’t matter if it’s on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Nextdoor. You don’t like where the trash cans are, everybody’s on your back, but what do you care about trash cans? I’m wondering how this is playing out when they get those new opportunities, when they are in transition, and now more eyes are on them. These fears are playing into everything we do, whether we’re conscious of it or not. It’s like, “Oh, I’m not going to say anything over there.” But still, this idea that people are coming for us all the time, that’s what it can feel like. That, I would imagine, has to impact people in the willingness to put themselves out there. Have you been seeing that?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: 100%, and I’ve experienced it. As I’ve become more visible just in my own career, and writing a book, and then doing book press and things like that, it can be very scary. But what I would say is, where the permission strength comes from is that you’re tied to the mission. What’s your real mission? Why are you doing this? That’s partially why I call it the permission mission, is because there’s a purpose, or else you wouldn’t have put yourself out there. You wouldn’t have gone for that job. You wouldn’t have pushed for that promotion. You wouldn’t have accepted it. There’s a reason that you’re sitting there. Why? Be sure that you’re tied to that mission very specifically and very personally, or else those voices will gain hold in your mind, and the negative ones will start to outweigh the positive ones.

It’s funny. When I think about writing this book, I had no business writing a book at the beginning of this. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how you went about getting a publisher, an agent, or anything, but the mission of trying to help turn sales into a life skill, not just a business skill, was more important to me than the fear that I felt. I have three degrees in communication and I wasn’t taught what was in that book. I went, “I have to help people with this.” My mission was what drove me. My mission was a bit of what gave me the permission to be able to say, “I’m going to go do this.” People are going to be critics and I’ve had my fair share of critics online in social media posts and my hair is a topic of conversation.

Gina Stracuzzi: [Laughs] I love your hair.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: Thanks, but it’s very funny. It’s the topic of a lot of criticism. It’s very funny to me because it’s like, “Okay. If that’s what you’re going to criticize, fine, but I’m doing something more important. I’m helping people to get what they want in their lives and at work. If you need to bag on my hair, go for it.”

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, it just floors me that we are still talking about women’s hair or what they wear. I’ve seen guys come into meetings with their hair all over the place, and nobody thinks anything. It is unfortunate that we’re still having those conversations, but I think I applaud your strength in not responding to that, because really if that’s all someone has to do is comment on somebody else’s hair, then they’re really missing the point of giving themselves permission to do something besides comment on other people’s hair. It really goes to the complicated world we live in now.

I was reading just a report the other day that a lot of people feel like they no longer know how to network, and how to make even small talk, and how we’re going to have to ease back into this idea of putting ourselves in front of human beings where there’s not a camera in between us. I think we’ve gotten a little lazy in our social skills. I think that this is probably impacting the way people feel about their visibility in the workplace. I love everything that you’ve got to say about giving oneself permission to stay on their own mission. I think you’re right. It’s not the company’s mission or anything else. What is your mission? Knowing that, just like with you, and knowing that you had a mission to write this book, regardless of your hair [laughs], is what kept you on track.

Can you speak to that a little bit? This will be my last question and then we’ll ask you for your tip for people to put to work right now. Can you speak to the importance of having a self-mission or a why, which is really what that is, and how it impacts one’s ability to sell themself?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: It’s incredibly important. It’s probably the most important part. I know a lot of women who we struggle with figuring out what we want because we’re so preoccupied with what everybody else wants. We’re constantly delivering for others. If you really stop and you pause and you go, “Whose life am I living? Where did this come from? Where did these voices come from?” You almost have to stop and take a little bit of inventory. Again, you’re being very grateful for the path that you were on. Is it still the right place for you is the first thing. That’s where you reinvigorate yourself with your why, because you remember why you did this in the first place.

Maybe you do this to provide for your family. Maybe you do this to get a message to the world. Maybe you do this because you like to be seen. There is no wrong answer, but it’s about staying connected to that, and not letting these – I call them gnats – not letting the gnats get in your way. To be very honest with you, the comments on here, it’s very funny because I’m grateful for them, because it tells me that’s not my target audience. They don’t get it. If you watched a two-minute video on YouTube and that was your takeaway, you missed the point. Thank you very much. You’re no longer my target audience. I will keep talking to people who want to hear the message. It’s really connecting back to your why. That’s where permission begins in a lot of ways. Give yourself some head space to go back to that.

Women, we are multitaskers, we are doing 20,000 things at once. Well, when’s the last time you actually gave yourself just head space? Just straight up head space, and literally sitting and just thinking or journaling with no actual purpose. You’ll get reconnected to that. I’ve been working on my second book, and it’s funny because I pulled out pen and paper, and I’m always typing on a laptop when I’m writing. I said, “You know what? I want to sit and I want to actually just brainstorm.” The medium changing changed what had happened. Maybe you change it up.

Maybe you’re used to walking and thinking. Maybe you need to sit and think. There’s lots of things, but it’s giving yourself, first of all, permission to create head space so you can reconnect. Those little voices will pop up, I guarantee it. “Thank you very much. I hear you.” Move on. Stay focused and you will get some of that clarity about why you wake up every day, and why you get out of bed, and why you go to work.

Gina Stracuzzi: I can’t wait to hear about your next book. Do you want to give us a little glimpse of what it’s about?

Dr. Cindy McGovern: It’s actually on personal branding. It’s about how you sell yourself, and it’ll be out this fall. It’ll be out in October.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, I hope you’ll come back and talk to us about that book too.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: I would love to.

Gina Stracuzzi: Let’s hear what you would give the audience as a final tip, something they can start working on right now, and that will help take their career, or their life, or just give them a little perspective.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: A lot of times with permission, we hesitate to ask for what we want. The final action that I would invite everyone to do is to truly ask for what you want today. Whether it’s the fact that you want French fries instead of a salad, that you want somebody else to pick up your kids from school versus you do it, ask for what you want. Just try it in those little areas where there’s not such a huge impact where it feels like, “Oh my gosh. If I ask for this promotion and I don’t get it, the world will fall,” but allow yourself to start asking for what you want and give yourself permission to do that. It will become easier and easier over time. I’d love to hear the success stories.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, definitely. You can reach Dr. Cindy on LinkedIn. I highly advise you to get her book. It’s a great read. I look forward to seeing Dr. Cindy back here at some point and seeing all of you next Tuesday. Thanks very much, everyone.

Dr. Cindy McGovern: Thank you so much.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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