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Psychological Selling: Motivating the MLS

By Amy B. Garvey

From Freud to Dr. Phil, throughout history psychoanalysts have tried to understand what motivates human behavior. According to educational psychologist W. Huitt in "Motivation to Learn: An Overview," motivation is "an internal state or condition (sometimes described as a need, desire or want) that serves to activate or energize behavior and give it direction."

Motivation is important, especially in the merchant services industry. As a merchant level salesperson (MLS), you can attend seminars, conferences and training classes until you become an expert. However, until you apply these learned skills, you'll never earn a living selling your services.

We all know that as an independent, self-employed MLS, a tough obstacle to overcome is lack of motivation. Unlike others with nine-to-five jobs and the same place to be each morning, we have little accountability, flexible schedules and self-assigned tasks. While this is freeing, it also creates quite a challenge in staying motivated.

NAOPP posted the following on GS Online's MLS Forum:

What motivates you to go out there and sell every day? Is it the carrot/stick mentality, meaning is it the carrot, the potential to reach your goals, or the stick, the pile of bills on the corner of your desk?

Is it your enthusiasm for meeting and talking with new and different people every day? How do you handle days when you're exhausted from being up all night with a crying baby? Where do you get the juice to stay upbeat and excited about your work? Tell us what motivates you.

The responses to this post were varied and fascinating (view them at MLS Forum member Hipoint wrote "physical conditioning plays a big part in this for me. I try to get in at least 30 minutes of some type of aerobics in the mornings (usually treadmill), and I can definitely tell the difference when I don't begin my day this way."

Hipoint has a good point. Many would agree that mind and body affect each other. While this seems logical, it is a connection often downplayed or even ignored. Thoughts and feelings affect the body more than outside influences such as temperature, sound and light.

For example, if you've ever walked alone through a parking garage at night and had the chilling sensation of being followed, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Even if no one is there, your body responds as if someone were. Your pulse quickens, breath shortens, palms sweat and you may walk faster or even run toward your car.

Once safely in the car you may realize the silliness of your response, but the truth is that your body has real, physical reactions to your thoughts, however unrealistic they may be. Why couldn't we use this to our advantage in terms of motivating ourselves?

The nervous system is the core of your experience. It consists of the brain and spinal column and contains a written record of everything you've ever experienced.

Many believe these experiences translate into your future actions. The nervous system will also record all future experiences, and it has the capacity, similar to a computer's hard-drive, to be overwritten.

That is, you can re-encode your nervous system with thoughts and ideas that will spur action, leading you in a positive direction.

If you break out in a cold sweat because you think someone is following you, why couldn't you break sales records by simply believing that you can?

I know, it sounds hokey. Everyone jokes that no one can possibly stay as upbeat as someone like Anthony Robbins.

However, the power of his enthusiasm is contagious; you can get caught up in it just as easily as the next guy. According to Robbins, "Your nervous system is something you train. You can train yourself to be fat, or frustrated, or depressed, or you can train yourself to be certain, hopeful, committed, dedicated or loving, whatever the case may be."

Following are some tips1 to help you improve your level of motivation:

Know What You Want to Achieve

Set goals; that's simple, right? We've all read motivational books and attended seminars, but how many of us have effective, workable goals in the forefront of our minds most of the time?

In order for goals to be effective, they must be positive. I don't mean sunshine and roses; I mean they must be stated in positive, not negative terms. The goals must be what you want, not what you don't want to happen.

The goals or desired outcomes also must be testable and measurable. They should fall in consecutive steps so that you will know whether you're making progress. For example, a clearly stated goal is "I sign 20 new accounts each month for a total of at least $500,000 in new processing volume.

This will lead to a monthly residual increase of at least $75." Each month, you can review your residual report to determine if you're on target.

An unclear goal statement is that you want to have $10,000 per month in residuals in 10 years. This may be realistic, and you may get there, but with no way to measure the steps between now and then, you won't know until 10 years have lapsed whether you have made it.

Wouldn't it stink to work hard for 10 years but then realize that you haven't met your goal because you failed to measure your progress? You wouldn't go on a 400-mile road trip without consulting a map along the way, so why not apply this to your career?

Your desired outcome also must be sensory specific, self-initiated and maintained. In other words, by picturing what you look like, what scents surround you and what you feel like when you reach the goal, it won't hinge on someone else's actions. Also, include no "if's" in your goal statement. For example, do not use something such as, "If the company grows, my income will grow."

Instead, use a self-initiated and maintained goal such as "I will help the company grow by doing X, Y and Z, and therefore my income will grow."

Outcomes must be appropriate and explicit. They should not contain words such as "always" and "never," which are unrealistic for goals. To reach your desired outcome, respond appropriately to the circumstances; do not force yourself into a corner by saying you'll "always" or "never" do something.

Goals should be ecologically sound, bearing in mind the consequences for yourself and others. Desired outcomes that lead to harming others or yourself only sabotage positive progress.

Use Your Senses

Observe whether you're progressing toward the goal. It's not always easy to step outside of ourselves and critique our own actions. To gauge forward momentum, be aware of your emotional and physical states and compare them to your desired outcomes.

It's just as important to note when you reach a goal as it is to be aware that you're not headed in the right direction. You wouldn't drive 100 miles on the interstate, see your exit and intentionally keep on driving. (Perhaps you've done this by mistake by not paying attention. This is what I'm talking about.)

When you achieve the desired state, stop and maintain the growth accomplished in that area. This will help you later improve other areas that will lead you toward your goals.

MLS Forum member Johnmckee realizes this. He wrote, "It's the independent lifestyle that I currently enjoy that keeps me motivated. I don't want this feeling of freedom to go away!" By realizing his desired state, he is aware that he is exactly where he wants to be; he is therefore motivated to stay in that place.

Vary Your Behavior

Using sensory acuity, determine if what you do is leading you in the desired direction. If it is not, vary your behavior until you get the desired response.

This doesn't mean trying two different ways and then giving up. It means trying something different until you get it right. A one-year-old learning to walk has no concept of not being able to do it. She simply accepts that she will one day walk, and she will try every possible method until she finds the one that gets her upright. We can learn a lot from our children.

Take Action Now

You probably already have all the resources you need to make the changes you want, so what are you waiting for? One of my favorite sayings is, "Do something, even if it's wrong." Act now, vary your actions, keep at it and recognize when you reach a goal. You will get there.

If you're lacking motivation, I hope the information provided in this article helps you overcome it. It should serve as the carrot: how to work toward a desired outcome. In subsequent articles, I will address the proverbial stick. Thanks for reading, and keep selling.

Amy B. Garvey is Secretary of NAOPP. She works in the Upstate of South Carolina as a sales agent for New York-based BPS. Call her at 864-901-8722 or e-mail her at .

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