EPISODE 416: Sheri Traxler Offers Women in Sales Ways to Avoid the Confidence Killer Trap

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Women in Sales Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on September 29, 2021. It featured health, mindset and nutrition expert Sheri Traxler.]

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SHERI’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Embrace that your actions teach you what to believe. When you listen to your body’s cues about food, you teach yourself you can be trusted. When you exercise, you change physiology, but you also increase your confidence because you’re saying, “I’m a person of integrity.” When you prioritize your sleep, you show yourself, “I’m worth taking care of. I matter.” With that leading to an action where over the next week, pick something, experiment with it, whether it is walking outside in the sunshine before your sales calls, or if it’s something bigger, like, “All right. I’m drawing a line in the sand. I’m going to be done with this diet mentality and start discovering how to intuitively eat.”


Gina Stracuzzi: I’d like to welcome my guest, Sheri Traxler. I love the thing that you do is you bring in the health and wellbeing piece into how it impacts our confidence, because it does. So welcome, Sheri. I always like to start off with having my guest tell us a little bit about themselves and how they got to where they are today.

Sheri Traxler: I am super blessed that from childhood, even by, strange as it sounds, third grade, I knew at least in general what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be in the health and wellness field. It didn’t really exist at that time the way it does now, but I knew I wanted to help people stay well, live their full potential. But unfortunately, around my teen years and college years, I started seeing both the negative impact and the positive impact in my own life of what I was doing for or against my health.

That started a whole journey of not just from a health standpoint, but also how does it impact my energy, my productivity, my confidence? I worked at Vanderbilt Medical Center for 12 years and one of my roles there, Gina, was in corporate training. Going out into companies and doing training with teams, going out into companies and training sales teams, and training them on healthy living habits and how that impacted energy and productivity, and today’s topic, confidence.

I’ve seen my own confidence increase and decrease depending on where I am in these habits. I don’t have to tell you this, Gina, and everybody listening, we know that sales is about transferring confidence. That’s the essence in my mind of what it is. I loved, and I did not ask you if I could do this, so I’m just going to do this confidently, is that one of the episodes that you had a few months back, Angela Rakis did four levels of selling confidence. That was such a great episode talking about there’s this sweet spot and you want to build your level of self-confidence.

My goal and what we do today is give you even more tools in your toolbox, give you even a bigger arsenal to build your self-confidence in things that are part of our lives anyway, or could be part of our lives anyway, and how to use that to build our confidence.

Gina Stracuzzi: One thing I failed to tell you, and you’ll appreciate this, is that I am a certified health coach as well.

Sheri Traxler: You just made my day.

Gina Stracuzzi: [Laughs] I’m always eager to speak with other health coaches. I’ve got into that just because I had the same kind of driving love for health and wellness. But I’ve always been in sales and business development my whole career and I did this more out of my own personal interest. Although at some point, I hope to make it a retirement career or something. I love having you on the show and I’m so eager to hear what you have to say in relationship to confidence, and health, and wellbeing. Let’s start right at the very beginning though. What do you consider the confidence killers to be and how do we and why do we get trapped by them?

Sheri Traxler: Within health and wellness, the three lifestyle habits that either kill your confidence or create your confidence, two of these are going to make sense right off the bat. Your exercise and movement, physical activity are related to that, and I’ll talk you through that how, sleep as well. The third one is counterintuitive, I’m going to challenge some folks listening on this to really dig deep. The third one is dieting. Dieting is a confidence killer and we stay trapped in it. The reasons that we stay trapped in these, there’s a myriad of reasons. There’s the media giving us this shiny new promise of the next diet. “These last 20 failed, but this next one’s going to work.”

The cultural messages that we have, even still subtle, but pervasive in our workplaces of, “Look how hard they worked. They worked through lunch. They skipped their gym time to get these things done,” or the big one, “They sacrificed sleep.” Those verbal atta-girls of how hard somebody’s working shown by sacrificing self-care. In exercise, one of the things that keeps us trapped is the all-or-none thinking, that it’s got to be a high intensity workout, or it’s got to be two hours or it doesn’t count.

With sleep, we stay trapped in that, partly because of the cultural message, but even if you don’t buy into the cultural message, there is a trap that we fall into of a stress cycle, or for us as women, hormones. The premenstrual hormones, or perimenopause/menopausal shifts that drastically impact your sleep. Those are at a high level what they are and some of the reasons that we stay trapped.

Gina Stracuzzi: I couldn’t agree more. One of the things that you said about dieting, which as a mother of a teen daughter, you want them to eat better but I really try to steer her away from the idea of dieting. Just make better choices about food and we don’t have to diet. Something else that you said, it put me in mind of Brené brown, the shame that gets leveled in the workplace because you left at 6:00 and Mary stayed till 10:00. “Wow. Look how hard Mary works. Mary’s killing herself.” I agree with all of these things. Now what do we do about it?

Sheri Traxler: Well, one is to wrap our head around and accept the truth about these things. That’s the first step, is just awareness and acceptance of it. Well, actually with diet and exercise, those of you taking notes, write this down. Your actions teach you what to believe. Talking about the diets a little bit, we know that, research is very clear. Independent of weight, so Gina, you mentioned your daughter, independent of weight. If she’s normal weight, slightly overweight, if somebody’s morbidly obese, it does not matter. Dieting itself, the act of dieting, erodes self-confidence. It erodes self-trust. It increases social anxiety. It increases feelings of failure. That is not how you want to walk into a sales meeting.

Anybody right now listening that you’re saying, “I’m thinking about going on this next diet,” or you’re in the middle of some type of external plan, and that’s what I’m calling a diet, I’m really challenging you to think different about them. Too often we get excited about what this next new thing is, thinking it will increase our confidence, but the opposite is actually true.

I had mentioned working at Vanderbilt. This is a funny story. It’s funny now, it wasn’t funny then. It was a work Christmas party, I was in the restroom and I was terrified. Gina, I was in there and I was coaching myself. This was when I still had a diet mentality and was dieting. I was coaching myself that, “Sheri, you can go out there and just have the veggies. You can avoid the cookies that Sally brought. Or if you have one, you can just have one and not binge on them.”

When I walked out of that restroom, I promise you, I was not owning that room. I was smiling and interacting and in kind of a surfacey level I was confident. I was a leader at that time, I could not lead, I could not interact and own the room the way I needed to when I’d just been in the restroom berating myself. With that, I started realizing your self-confidence does not live in a silo. Lack of confidence is going to leak out even if on the surface you feel like you’re acting confident.

The big thing and I want to really drill this into anybody’s mind that’s still thinking about, “I want to go into diets,” is your actions teach you what to believe. You’re sending yourself an internal message that you’re not acceptable, that you’re not good enough. For teenagers, Gina, you mentioned your daughter, it’s so critical that our daughters not get those messages put into themselves. You’re teaching yourself you can’t trust the most basic area of life, which is your body telling you what it needs and how much it needs, because diets are designed to fight physiology. You’re going hungry or you’re limiting certain grams of this or grams of that that your body may need otherwise, and you’re also dealing with psychological things, a fear of deprivation. Diets are designed to fail. When you fail, you are teaching yourself, “I can’t trust myself.”

The flip to dieting, I don’t want to leave everybody going, “Okay. Well, if I don’t diet, what do I do?” The flip to dieting is how we were all born. It’s called intuitive eating. I’m a certified intuitive eating counselor, and I’ve put together four letters that I’ll give you right now that will help you begin thinking differently about how you eat. H-W-S-S. The first letter H, am I physically hungry? If you’re not physically hungry and you’re wanting to eat, it means something else is going on that we need to deal with. The W is what do I really want? Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever it is you really want. That’s what do my taste buds want, as well as how do I want to feel two hours from now?

The first S is slow and savor. That’s where we’re not multitasking and checking our emails and watching social media or watching movies or whatever during a meal. We’re focused on the food. We do know that when you don’t eat slow and savor, when you eat distracted, you eat 10% more calories than when you focus on your meal. You’re eating 10% more food than you actually need. Then stopping when you’re satisfied. That’s just a real quick letters configuration to help you with it. I do have on my YouTube channel, anybody who wants to go deeper, I’ve got several videos to walk you through how to do that. That’s the dieting piece in a nutshell.

Gina Stracuzzi: I love that you’ve come up with an acronym, and it’s interesting too, the part about stopping when you’re full. This is what I used to tell my clients, too, and it goes to the slow and savor. When you’re inhaling food, you inhale so much more and you haven’t given your body a chance to tell you it’s full. By the time you feel full, you have eaten way too much. I love this.

Sheri Traxler: Absolutely, and it all works in tandem, because if you’re not eating what you really want, you’re going to keep munching until you eventually get to what you want. It definitely works together. On the exercise, this and your confidence. I’ll tell you a story for this one. There’s a gentleman up in Canada that came to me specifically about confidence issues. He came to me saying, “I am not walking into sales meetings as confident as I used to. I’m not negotiating at the same level.” The reason he said for him was he had gotten out of shape, put on some weight, and he just didn’t feel as confident, and so he wasn’t being as assertive and so forth.

Well, I knew from having done this for over 30 years now, it’s probably not that, but it’s related, but I was like, “We’re going to go with this.” We got him on an exercise program, and he executed. I normally see it quickly, but not as quickly as what he experienced this. Gina, he texts me the day of his first workout saying, “I’m back. I walked into a sales meeting today and I nailed it,” just all of this stuff because he had done one workout. It wasn’t because he had lost the weight he wanted to lose, obviously not in one workout, but it was that flip of confidence that, “I’m coming through for myself.” Going back to what I said earlier, your actions teach you what to believe. Now he had a plan, he was executing it, his confidence went back through the roof.

The American Psychological Association, they’ve had some studies that show components of self-confidence such as positive thoughts and mood. Those markers in confidence usually shift within five minutes of a workout. You do not have to go do a long workout. It can be something as simple as, “All right. I’m about to do some sales calls. I’m going to go outside and walk for 10 minutes.” That is going to give you an immediate boost to your confidence. It also showed that long term self-esteem increases. Even if you haven’t worked out that day, if you’ve been working out regularly, your confidence is going to be boosted.

Journal of Sport Psychology had some studies showing the exact same thing, how regular physical activity is highly effective in building self-confidence. The reasons for that are it increases your ability to focus on what’s in your control, increases blood to the brain. One of the biggest things that happens is within the brain, the limbic stem, the hippocampus, all the things related to endorphins and the feel-good hormones and the neurotransmitters, all of those things that increase mood and motivation and confidence are positively impacted in the brain when you just move. Thoughts on that before I go into how much exercise?

Gina Stracuzzi: People get caught up in the idea like, “I have to lose 20 pounds, and if I just take a walk, that’s not going to help,” so they don’t do anything. It is the action of taking an action, that you alluded to, that is exactly it. If you take action, and even if the action is just moving your body, taking a walk, getting some air, it changes everything. It’s a start. I highly recommend that people listen to what you’re saying and take heed because little things can be the start of big things.

Sheri Traxler: I completely agree and I’m going to bounce onto that with little things can be the start of big things, but don’t be intimidated by that, because sometimes the little things are enough. Little things don’t have to go to big things. As an example of that is, let’s say you’re going to say, “Okay, I’m going to start on a 30-minute walking exercise program,” or something like that, and you’re thinking, “Well, but down the road I’m supposed to do more.” Well, it depends on what your goal is. I talked about how the self-esteem has increased with long-term regular physical activity. If somebody has in their mind that, “Well, I’ve eventually got to do an hour and a half,” or, “I’m going to start with doing an hour and a half,” or high intensity exercise.

If we have that in our mind, we are falling into that all-or-none that I mentioned at the beginning, and then we’re not likely to do it. If we don’t do it, long-term, we’re not going to get that self-esteem boost from it. It only takes about five minutes, some of the research showed, to get a little bit of a boost, 30 minutes really triggers the release of endorphins. You get an even bigger boost at 30 minutes of brisk, not high intensity, just a nice brisk walk. One of the things that I want to point out on the how much is enough, and Gina, you as a health coach, you’re going to recognize these terms.

You have both dose response and diminishing returns. Here’s what I mean by that. If you are thinking, “All right. I’m going to start exercising to get a boost on my confidence.” Zero to 30 minutes, you’re going to get a certain level of boost. 30 minutes to 60 minutes, you’re going to get even more boost. 60 to 90 minutes, you’re going to get even more boost. It is dose response. The more you do, the higher your confidence. The more you do, the better you feel.

However, there’s also diminishing returns, that zero to 30 minutes you get a certain level of boost, but 30 to 60 minutes, you’re not getting twice as much, or 30 to 90 minutes, you’re not getting three times as much. You are getting more, but not three times as much. I’m saying this so you don’t feel like, “If I start this, I’ve got to build up to do this massive workout and I don’t have two hours to go to the gym every day.” You don’t have to. You can even accumulate this in 10-minute blocks.

Get out of the all-or-none thinking, everybody, as you’re thinking about your exercise, and realize five minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes is going to boost your confidence, and certainly your health. You mentioned weight loss. I have clients who have boosted their confidence, lost weight, lowered their cholesterol, all these kinds of things, and they are not doing long or intense workouts.

Gina Stracuzzi: I want to talk about sleep a little bit. Because I know that, for myself, if I don’t sleep well, it’s all over. It’s true for everybody. We all go through periods where we just don’t sleep well. If it doesn’t wreck your confidence, it certainly just wrecks your ability to do pretty much anything. Let’s talk about that a little bit. What do you recommend and what are some of the tips that you share with your clients?

Sheri Traxler: This one is very personal to me as well, just like the dieting not so much because I bought into the culture of, “Hey, I work until midnight.” You mentioned seasons. I’m not going to be Pollyanna and say that, “For the rest of your life, you’re never going to have to work late again.” No, there might be one night here and there, but it’s the lifestyle that we’re talking about. One quick quote from, this is from Charles Czeisler. He is a Harvard researcher that I just love. His research has found that a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%. We would never say, “This person is a great worker. She’s drunk all the time.” Yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep for work. That’s from him and I’ve always loved that quote.

A friend of mine, Mollie McGlocklin, she’s a sleep expert, hosts a podcast, Sleep Is A Skill, she says that a key to confidence is feeling able to take on anything that comes your way. If you’re looking to cultivate reliable levels of confidence, you have to know you’re able to get great sleep. Sleep is the first thing pushed aside when life gets busy, and the problem is life is always busy. That’s the way it is. I want to give you a study and then some of the tips. There are several studies, but I’ll just give you one of them. This was from the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2,000 adults. It’s a high sample study, a large sample.

They saw that less than six hours of sleep decreased optimism, confidence, emotional intelligence, empathy toward others – those two key things for sales – positive thinking, assertiveness, and self-regard. Those last three, positive thinking, assertiveness, and self-regard, are components of confidence. If you have been struggling with sleep, for whatever the reason, and you’ve been saying, “I’ll just deal with this,” or, “I’ll just live with this,” stop. Take control of your sleep. Some ways to do that. One is following the basics of sleep hygiene. This is in my book, Go Forward. Basics are making sure that an hour or two before bed, you’re putting down the screens. You don’t have screen light, blue light. During the day, getting that natural daytime light and exercise. Going for that walk before sales calls, outside, gives you that boost, helps you sleep better that night, setting up a calm and cool bedroom.

Meditating, even for five minutes, meditating during the day to lower those adrenaline and cortisol, and also near your bedtime to lower your adrenaline and cortisol. No alcohol or heavy meals right before bed. Taking care of that sleep routine, and if that is not enough, if you’re dealing with premenstrual sleep deprivation when progesterone drops, if you’re dealing with perimenopause or menopause and hormones being off, please, I beg you as a woman who has gone through that, get help. Get your hormones dealt with. Go to a certified herbalist to help you. There are sleep coaches. You all believe it, there are coaches for everything. There are sleep coaches who specialize in just sleep that can help you through that.

Gina Stracuzzi: That is great advice. We have all been there. Especially as women, we take our sleeplessness as just something we have to deal with, for whatever reason, at whatever point in our lives, and that really shouldn’t be that way, because if anybody needs the extra sleep, it’s us. I love all of this. We sadly are quickly running out of time. I would like you to leave us with one final thought, tip, advice that people can put into play today. Then I’d like you to tell us how people can get ahold of you.

Sheri Traxler: Final thought and tip would be embracing that your actions teach you what to believe. When you listen to your body’s cues about food, you teach yourself you can be trusted. When you exercise, you change physiology, but you also increase your confidence because you’re saying, “I’m a person of integrity.” When you prioritize your sleep, you show yourself, “I’m worth taking care of. I matter.” With that leading to an action where over the next week, pick something, experiment with it, whether it is walking outside in the sunshine before your sales calls, or if it’s something bigger, like, “All right. I’m drawing a line in the sand. I’m going to be done with this diet mentality and start discovering how to intuitively eat.”

As far as getting in touch with me, yes, I do have a Create Your Confidence mini course, it is free. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn, if you would like that. You can email me sheri@thevireolife.com, and just put confidence, put Women in Sales and confidence, and I will know what you’re talking about, and I will get that course over to you for free.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, that’s wonderful. I hope people will take you up on that, because that’s a heck of an offer. I hope you’ll come back and talk to us again, Sheri, this went way too fast and it is critical information. With everything that’s happened, so many people have put on weight and just feel pudgy after all this time in confinement. Even as it’s opened up, getting your groove back, it’s been hard, and even I have struggled with it and I know all these things. This is really good information for people to have because selling does take confidence, and it takes energy, and it takes cognitive thinking about the strategy you’re going to use, all of which suffer if you’re not feeling well.

Sheri Traxler: That I could not agree with more.

Gina Stracuzzi: Wonderful. I do hope you’ll come back and I hope everyone else will come back next Tuesday. Thank you all for your time and thank you, Sheri. Take care, everybody, and get out there and walk.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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