EPISODE 493: Removing Blocks that Stop Your Sales Success with Heather Hansen O’Neill

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Optimal Sales Mindset virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on January 21, 20212 It featured an interview with Find Your Fire’s Heather Hansen O’Neill, the author of “Where’s the Office: Moving Today’s Leaders from What IS to What CAN BE!

Find Heather on LinkedIn.

HEATHER’S TIP: “I’m going to encourage everyone to not give up their power of choice. Because bad things happen every day. Things outside of us, external situations will arise that are difficult, that are very challenging, but you get to choose how you think about it, how you feel about it, and how you respond to it. Don’t give up your power.”


Fred Diamond: Heather, it’s great to see you. You’re the host of the Choices LIVE on LinkedIn, and Choices is one of my favorite words because I think everything comes down to a choice and everybody could choose. Maybe there are some things in the way of making the choices easy, but at the end of the day, everything is a choice. We’re going to be talking about that a little bit today, but first we’re going to be talking about blocks, things that are in the way for people being successful.

Heather, we’re doing today’s show in early January, it’s January 13th, and I’ve gotten some sales professionals who’ve reached out to me and said that they are encountering blocks and it’s like two weeks into the year. First off, it’s great to have you here. I’m very, very excited. You’re an expert on getting past your blocks. What are some of the most common ones that you think that hold back salespeople?

Heather Hansen O’Neill: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me here. I really appreciate that, Fred. It’s great to be here. I always love our conversations and I love talking to salespeople. I talk to leaders across different industries, but I just love talking to salespeople. Now, when it comes to blocks, yes, I’m one of those weird people who spent a lot of time in that arena, because I believe that when we want real success, no matter what that looks like for you, there’s always something typically within us that can hold us back. When we know what it is, when we become aware of it and then learn to release it, the pathway opens and everything changes.

When you’re asking about specifically, what are some of the ones that hold back salespeople? They typically fall under four categories, either judgements, assumptions, fears, or some type of belief. But then we narrow it down, and salespeople are lucky because they get a whole host of them that can come up. It could be fear of rejection, it could be fear of failure, it could be embarrassment, fear of success. Some people have trouble with cold calling. Maybe there’s issues with change, losing jobs, quotas, losing yourself, or am I being too pushy, not being able to deliver, not feeling like you’re enough. I could go on. There are so many different things that can keep us from optimizing everything that we have within us already. That doesn’t mean that we should be disheartened. Just because there’s a host of things that could be blocking us, it doesn’t mean that any of them are, and if they are, we know how to fix it.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about the awareness of the block. You just listed a whole bunch of ways that blocks can appear. You then throw on a pandemic, which kind of gets in the way for everybody and the continuing uncertainty, of course. But one of the cool things about the Sales Game Changers Podcast audience is that we’re all aspirational for the most part. We’re the organization that is helping our companies come through the challenges that we faced over the last couple of years. Nothing happens until a sales happens. Talk a little bit about how you become aware of some of the ways. We all know the expression blind spots. Talk about some of the ways that the people watching or listening today can be aware of some of the blocks that are holding them back from their best results.

Heather Hansen O’Neill: I love the fact that you used the word awareness. It is so, so important because when we are self-aware – and that comes specifically from quieting the external noise. There’s so much that’s going on. What you were talking about, certainly pandemics, uncertainty in moving forward, having to completely change how we sell in this type of an environment can cause a lot of stress. It can cause any subconscious blocks to rear their ugly heads during times of uncertainty and stress. But simply quieting all of that external noise, taking time to become aware of how you are feeling, aware of what your body is telling you, that stress will manifest in your body.

It will lead to maybe a neck ache that you didn’t have in the past. It will lead to clenching of your jaw. It will lead to maybe not being energized enough to want to pick up the phone or get on a Zoom, let alone go get in the car, if you’re able, in a place where you can go and meet somebody. It stops us, it keeps us. Listening, we have to stop the noise and the incessant madness long enough to hear what our body is telling us, what the underlying blocks are telling us, trying to keep us safe.

I think the first thing, Fred, that people need to understand is that we all have them, that you’re not alone. A lot of times when people are feeling, and salespeople in particular, there’s this pressure to be confident to produce results. When you have that added pressure and you’re feeling like, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t know how to move forward. I’m feeling like I’m stuck,” it’s so very important to get in touch with ourselves and how we feel.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about that for a second. We have a question that comes in from Josie. Josie says, “Could she tell us specifically how she suggests we do that?” We do shows every day, Heather Hansen O’Neill, and we ask for similar advice. A lot of times people say, “You need to be mindful. You need to meditate.” I like that you used the word stillness, because I don’t use the word meditate, I use the word stillness. I know they’re technically different, but they’re both about finding that thing within yourself. Give us some specific advice on when people should do it, how they should do it, what is a best practice? This may help them with a tactic that they can deploy today.

Heather Hansen O’Neill: There’s a lot of different things that you can do, but in the moment of it, stopping. When you’re feeling those shoulders creep up, when you’re feeling anxiety, when you’re feeling stuck and not able to take action, that’s when you know that you have to breathe into your body. That word, that breath, three to five deep breaths to calm the mind. I love that you use the word stillness. I think that sometimes the word meditation can let people, send them running, to be honest. If you’re not used to meditating, if you don’t have a yoga background or whatever, meditation can be a hard concept to wrap your head around. But breathing, we all do that. But to be conscious of our breath, to calm the body, that allows your mind to get in touch with your body so that you can access what you already know.

There are a lot of things, different ways that we can shift our focus, different questions that we can ask, but we can’t get to those specific tactics if we’re in that high stress state. That breath is the first thing, to focus on that, calming the body, getting in touch with your emotions, so that you can bring it up into the mind and use the tactics that you know.

Fred Diamond: Actually, that’s something that’s very basic, especially during challenging times. A lot of the salespeople, not to go into the whole debate, introvert versus extrovert, but you have to have energy. You got to have vibrancy to be successful in sales, even if it’s a quiet sound type of energy. You need to have that. Then you need to get centered. We’ve been all involved with a lot of change, and the sales profession has dramatically changed over the last couple of years. Of course, everything is now like this, it’s now virtual. We thought we were going to be back in offices in January, but of course the new variant of the COVID has emerged. More and more people are staying back in the office where they were. We actually have a virtual assistant who’s based in another country who just let us know that her whole family has COVID. From a sales perspective, everybody is still waiting for change, and you’re having to deal with all the change.

You help companies through change and you help sales leaders and sales professionals. What are some of the tips? Again, you talked about stillness, meditation, grounding, asking the right question to yourself, but give us some more tips that might be able to help this group.

Heather Hansen O’Neill: I love this question about change, but I’m going to ask you, Fred, to remind me after this question to come back to your point about energy, because I have something that you might find interesting. About change, I do work a lot with organizations. In particular, I spend the majority of my time working with salespeople within companies. Everything that I’m talking about pertains to the people who are out there right now listening. Here’s the thing, the most consistent thing that you are going to be experiencing from here on out is change. Now I know you hear this all the time, “Okay. Change is the way it is. I got to just deal with it,” but you want to know how. Just being told, “You got to deal with it,” isn’t helpful. Yes, it is consistent, it is something that we have to learn to deal with. How do we do that?

I do this across the board, but I’ll give you an example of one company that I worked with recently. It’s a tech company. They had a very distinct difference between different styles within the sales team. There were some people who were like, “Okay. I know, this stinks, it’s change. I want to be able to do things the way that I used to do them, but I can’t. What can I do differently? How can I solve this problem? How can I learn a new technology? What can I do personally to own this and make a different response and move forward more successfully?” Then there was a certain percentage of the same sales team who was like, “You know what? I’m just going to wait this out. I know this is going to be over soon. I’m just really uncomfortable with this new technology. I don’t believe it’s going to work for me. I don’t think that I can sell in a remote atmosphere. I know that I have to make my relationships in person.”

What happened though is that the people who were willing to accept the reality of what is were the ones that were able to adjust, adapt, move forward, and get results, actually greater results than they had gotten in prior years. It’s the ones who wanted to climb under the covers, pull them up over their head and say, “I’m just waiting this out, I believe certain things about the way that we need to sell in this industry, and I’m going to hold so tight to those beliefs that I’m not going to open my mind to change.” They struggled a lot. This is not one situation, I see this all day long. That’s one element. That’s the first one.

The second one is I believe that there’s a spectrum of change. People in general, naturally, reside somewhere on the spectrum of change. It’s really how they respond to it. Some people really like change, they incorporate change into their life on purpose, and yet with everything going on in the world, they may still feel some resistance. Then there are other people who are naturally very resistant to change. We have to understand that we are somewhere on the spectrum, that people on our team reside on the spectrum, that the people we are selling to reside on the spectrum. If we don’t understand where we are and where these other people are, we can’t help guide them, because the first thing is the understanding that if someone that we’re selling to, someone that we are interacting with, that we need on our team or ourselves, if we are in that element, that position on the spectrum that is resistant to change, that that’s okay. Wherever we are is okay. It’s the amount of time that we spend there that causes the problem.

We need to recognize it, allow for the resistance, breathe through it, and find as quickly as possible the why, the reasons, the way that we can make our way forward in how we are emotionally connected to that change. How will the change help my family? How will the change help this team, help this company, help my community? That will help you move out of it faster. But if you’re constantly in resistance, you’re not going to get out of it as fast. You have to allow that first.

Fred Diamond: One thing we talk a lot about, Heather, we always say in sales that you need to understand your customer, and even more than ever. We started having conversations a couple of months ago about The Great Resignation. We spent a lot of time talking about how do you, as a sales leader, how does your company overcome The Great Resignation? Someone made the observation, “The biggest problem of The Great Resignation isn’t with you. It’s in the fact that your customer is also dealing with The Great Resignation. Your customer’s customer is also dealing with The Great Resignation.”

Somewhere through that pipeline, if you will, the continuum, is that you’re probably going to be dealing with companies that are really being affected by it. Restaurants, retail operations, that are just getting killed, hotel, hospitality, because people don’t want to be taking those jobs. That’s going to affect your customer, which is going to affect your customer. Then, of course, it’s also going to affect you as well.

I know we want to talk about energy. Before we talk about that, I know you have a new book coming out on leadership. I want to make sure that we get to that as well. Why don’t you address that? Tell us a little bit about the new book, if it’s out yet, and we’ll have a link in the show notes to how people can order it. But tell us about the book that you just wrote, how it applies to sales leaders. Then we’ll talk about energy. By the way, energy is one of my favorite topics to talk about. I’m excited to get to that as well.

Heather Hansen O’Neill: We’re giving them a little teaser there about energy, but in the meantime, yes, I’ll give you a little information. I am very excited to let everyone know that Where’s the Office?: Moving Today’s Leaders from What Is to What Can Be, it has officially launched. It’s made bestseller list for Amazon. It’s with my co-author, it’s the first book that I’ve written with a co-author, his name is Will Lewis. He’s amazing. He’s 92. He has an exceptional amount of experience in the corporate world and some great strategies that he created years ago, and that we validated recently to make sure that they’re very timely for today’s world. I will tell you that there’s the element of conscious leadership within it, but then we dive into very specific strategies that people can use right now in a changing world.

One is called mind space, because we’re moving from physical space to mind space. It is how we can lead in remote, in-person, hybrid, whatever format that we need to today. But the other one that I want to bring up that may be particularly relevant for our sales folks out there is the seven levels of communication. This is a tool that has seven levels of how we interact with people. Now, all of the levels we may fall into at some point. We may find ourselves more comfortable in one or two of the levels, and we spend a lot of time there, but this acknowledgement of the levels can help us to communicate more effectively with people who have different styles than us, to help us recognize where our clients are most communicating, so that we can start there, and then elevate them up the levels of communication. Let me give you an example.

Some of the lower levels are, there’s turf. If you’re working with somebody who is in an organization that’s maybe siloed and they’re holding onto their best practice, we all know situations like this. Then there’s data, where you’re only talking about the numbers. Then we have the information stage, there’s knowledge, there’s a lot of different levels. But if you have someone that you’re talking to that is fully immersed in say, the data or information communication style, and you start out talking about vision and all of this fun, fluffy stuff, you’re going to lose them. You have to start where they are, understanding where they are. Start where they are, give them what they need, and then you can bring them to where you can help them best. That might be in a higher level of communication. It’s in the book.

Fred Diamond: Very good. Congratulations on the book. Now, energy is such a critical topic, because one thing that we talk a lot about on the Sales Game Changers Podcast is the concept that everything is energy. How you interact with your customers, how you interact with your team, it always shows up a certain way. I’m interested in your perspective here about energy, and not just in general, but how does it apply to getting through some of the blocks that we’ve been talking about over the last 15, 20 minutes, and how can the people, the sales professionals, either watching today or listening today, apply that to helping them achieve more from their sales output?

Heather Hansen O’Neill: Thank you, I love this, this is an excellent question and I’m also like you, Fred, someone who’s a big fan of it. I’ve been in this business for over 25 years. I’ve had my business for 25 years. In the past, when I started talking about energy, people literally would be like, “What? No.” But now the scientific research shows how absolutely viable and valid this is in our world today. It is something we can now talk about.

When I talk about energy for salespeople out there, I want you to recognize a couple of things. There is energy that you are projecting, whether you are aware of it or not. That energy is either attracting people to you, or it is repelling people from you, and you may not even know. If you are a salesperson, this awareness is imperative. To understand what energy you are exuding, and to be able to adjust it, honor it and then adjust it to a more attractive energy, you will bring more people into your field.

Let’s say you’re in a networking situation, whether it’s online or whether it’s in-person, you will know immediately. Let’s take in-person, for instance. You will know immediately when you walk into the room before you hear what anyone is saying, by their energy, by their body language, whether you want to go over and talk to that person or not. If they’re discussing something negative, if they’re angry about something, if they’re resentful, if they’re just in a bad state, you will feel it and you will not want to go talk to them. It’s important that you recognize, “Is that me?”

Then you’ll also run into other people who are like a beacon of light. Their energy, their smile is sincere. There is a light shining from their eyes. They seem interested in you, in the conversation. That is an active energy that draws you to them like a magnet. You want to figure out, as a salesperson, how to cultivate more of that. You do not have to be charismatic. You do not have to be extroverted to be able to harness your energy and use it in a way that can attract potential sales.

Fred Diamond: We had a guest on in 2020, his name is David Morelli, he used to host a very popular podcast called Everything is Energy. We talk about that a lot. We have a question from Neil. Neil says, “Can Heather talk about how to get past the imposter syndrome?” It’s an interesting question. I had a conversation last week with a sales professional at one of the member companies of the Institute for Excellence in Sales. He said, “It never occurred to me, but I think I have the imposter syndrome.”

This is somebody who’s very successful. I know this person has worked for some big brands, you mentioned tech before, in the technology space. I asked him, “Why is this?” He said, “Because I’m not as engaged in making conversations or making calls as I used to be.” Hopefully you have some answers for this, but this is something that you would think sales professionals wouldn’t have, because you do need to have the passion, the confidence, and the energy. But is this something you could talk to, about a possible block?

Heather Hansen O’Neill: 100%. Neil, thank you so much for this question, because I guarantee you you’re not the only one thinking it. Imposter syndrome, first of all, I want to let people know that it can rear its head even after years and years of successful sales, and it just can come upon you and you’re surprised by it. You’re like, “Wait a minute. I’ve been successful. I’ve been doing a great job of this. Why do I now suddenly feel like I don’t fit in this role? Like I’m not supposed to be here? Like someone else should be doing this. That I’m not in some capacity up to par with what people perceive me to be.”

This is normal, especially if you have acquired success at a more rapid rate than you have taken the time to acknowledge the beliefs, and the fears, and the judgements, and the assumptions we started this call talking about. Because those are the heaviness, that’s the weight, those are the under-the-surface blocks that keep us from being able to embrace the reality of our skills that we have, or you wouldn’t have gotten to where you are.

You have the skills, but we don’t believe them because we have another belief that is more powerful that may have been given to us from someone else. Parents, peers, teachers, coaches, somebody who told us that we weren’t good enough. Someone who said that we shouldn’t follow this road. Someone who told us that you should be seen, not heard, that money is bad, that sales are negative. There are things all around us that we have picked up in our journey and then incorporated into our world. I am going to give you a tool.

This is a takeaway that I believe can help transform anyone who is listening. If you become aware of what you’re believing, what you’re thinking in this moment that is holding you back, it could be, “I’m not good enough.” It could be, “I’m afraid.” It could be, “I’m not good at numbers.” Or, “People can’t sell in this industry at this moment in time,” whatever it might be. You look at that one particular belief that you have and you ask these three questions. Is this belief true? Is it a fact or do you believe it to be true? Then it’s an opinion. A belief. Not a fact. You have to find out if it’s true, and if other people are selling in this industry and this environment, it’s not true.

The second question is, “Is it mine? Is this belief mine or was it given to me?” This is where bias and judgment come in that have been passed down from generation to generation. We need to take a look at this and answer that question honestly. The third one, “Is it serving me? Is this belief serving me or might a shift, a new belief, serve me better?”

Fred Diamond: That’s tremendous. Neil says thank you so much. By the way, are you a fan of Byron Katie? Are you a student of hers at all, Loving What Is?

Heather Hansen O’Neill: Yes.

Fred Diamond: The question she just asked, obviously she asked four questions, but the first two were very, very similar. For some reason, Byron Katie has appeared many, many times over the last couple of months on some of our shows, and particularly the Women in Sales show. Heather, I just want to acknowledge you, again, for the book and for all the work that you do with sales and business leaders across the globe. I know you’re going to be getting back out onto the road, finally doing some keynotes and some speaking, which you excel about. I just want to acknowledge you for the thousands, if not tens of thousands of business and sales professionals that you have helped to get past these blocks and to get to where they want to get to. Give us your final action step. Again, we like to end every Sales Game Changers virtual learning session and podcast with something specific. You’ve given us 15 to 20 great ideas that people can implement. Now, give us one that they should do right away this moment.

Heather Hansen O’Neill: I’m just going to encourage everyone to not give up their power. The power is the power of choice. Because bad things happen every day. Things outside of us, external situations will arise that are difficult, that are very challenging, but you get to choose how you think about it, how you feel about it, and how you respond to it. Don’t give up your power.

Fred Diamond: That’s very, very powerful. Once again, I want to thank everybody. My name is Fred Diamond and thank you to Heather Hansen O’Neill for being on today’s show.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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