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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California


Most of the sales leaders I've had the opportunity to work with are not the types who act in haste. They tend to find out the facts, look at options, and then act in a considered manner. Their composure leads others to feel a similar level of confidence. They don't overreact. They don't underreact. They tend not to fly off the handle, saying things that they know they would come to regret or that could seriously undermine their credibility with customers.

Different people react differently to the same problem, depending on what they think or feel about it. Most of the sales leaders I've met exemplified the best of all possible attitudes: unafraid of challenges, not put off by circumstances they didn't like, and respectful of their customers. Sales leaders must unhesitatingly demonstrate the attitude they expect from others on their team. They thrive on crises because they are opportunities to model the right attitude.

Sales leaders strive to rise to the occasion. They know that when times are at their worst, they have to be their best. Stability helps them be their best. While they may be composed and in control, they are not without emotions. Those emotions can galvanize them into action and help them persuade others to follow suit.

Their emotions may relate to the work at hand (getting the best quality or meeting a deadline, for example) or the people involved in the situation (being empathetic and supportive, for example). Stability helps a ship stay afloat when buffeted by high winds and seas. Effective leaders call on a similar strength.

" When I have to make an important decision, I've learned to ask myself two questions: ‘What is in my best interests?' and ‘What is in the best interests of my family?'"

—Stuart Rosenstein, Ph.D.

Frank Digioia is the president of FORT Productions, a multimillion-dollar video production company. His company has grown dramatically. When I asked him what he's learned about success over the decade that he has had his company, he said, "One important thing I've learned about success is that when you think you've arrived and you think it's going to get easier, you're going to work just as hard to maintain it. It's just that the work is different. It might be customer service; it might be team issues."

I also asked him what advice he would give to people who would like to increase their sales by a quantum leap. He said, "They can't expect it to happen overnight. It happens from a series of fundamentals executed over time. I constantly see new salespeople who go into sales and see the money someone made but don't see what the person did to get there. Salespeople need to overcome the ‘biorhythms of sales.' The winners plough through the slump. When they are at the top of their game, they are out working with the customers. When they are not at the top of their game, they are getting ready to be."

How to Lead During a Crisis

It is most important to maintain your composure. People are looking to you as the role model. Despite whatever concerns you might have, you need to remain calm. People will use your tone of voice and your body language to assess how composed you are. Give them reasons to be confident.

Communicate with people firsthand, whether that entails group or individual meetings. Candidly answer questions, but don't convey a sense of panic. Instead, work to convey assurance. Assess the situation. Ask others for their assessment and recommendations. Avoid knee-jerk reactions. Be measured in your responses. Work with your team to develop a plan. Look at options and assumptions.

Don't procrastinate making a decision if one is needed. Move ahead and then, if necessary, revise your strategy as more information becomes known. Decide whether the situation calls for a unilateral decision on your part or for a consensus approach. You may need to move between both types of decisions—for example, by unilaterally deciding to ask a team to use a consensus approach in arriving at a decision.

Be empathetic. If you don't feel the same concern that others do, at least try to understand in your own way what they are feeling and let them know that their feelings are valid. It's human to have emotions, and you can show them in an appropriate way.

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