SAY THE WORD ‘resilient’ and many of us will think of the incredible achievements of yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur. MacArthur recently completed 27,354 miles in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds to become the fastest person to solo circumnavigate the globe. Hearing MacArthur talk about her journey, it was clear that she had to draw upon all her inner strengths to meet every challenge that the elements could pit against her from icebergs to hailstorms to becalmed seas. As an 18-year-old MacArthur sailed alone around Britain. By the age of 24 she was competing in the Vendée Globe, the toughest single-handed race, finishing second after overcoming two near-disasters. In the seventh week of her latest global race, MacArthur had to climb the 100ft mast of her trimaran to repair a damaged hoist mechanism. The repair work and the necessity of turning back away from the wind in order to steady the boat cost her time and also stretched her physically to the limit. Yet she continued. MacArthur demonstrates that she has the resilience to handle setbacks and keep fighting to reach her goals. Resilience is the ability of people to bounce back quickly in the face of the many pressures and adversities they may encounter in today’s world. Studies show that the more resilient you become the harder you will try when things get difficult and the more likely you are to succeed. Resilience is not just important for athletes, think of businessman Stelios Haji-Ioannou who despite being told that his concept of a no frills airline would never fly now has a burgeoning empire ranging from pizzas to male grooming products. Now can you think of somebody you know that is resilient – do they display similar traits to MacArthur and Haji-Ioannou. Faced with setbacks – such as changed market economics or a day filled with disappointing meetings – how do they deal with the obstacles they face? Healthcare sales is a highly competitive pressured market which has seen R&D costs spiral while some patents have expired, enabling new companies to enter the market offering cheaper generic products without the overheads of product research. Merck, for example, will see its patent on Zocor expire in 2006. As a professional pharmaceutical sales representative this can mean competing on an uneven playing field. By the same token, the tender process for high value equipment contracts can last for several years, so companies who have not been effective in the sales process can find themselves out of the picture for a long period of time. Time with doctors, consultants and purchasing managers is at a premium and securing a meeting can be a hurdle in itself. Mario Monella, a medical sales representative with specialist sales organisation, In2Focus, comments: “The colleagues I have observed who are successful, are the ones who are highly motivated and demonstrate high levels of innovation in finding ways to get in to see potential clients. They also have good communication skills and are able to talk to the Doctors and consultants on the same level.” Sales professionals within the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry faced with this myriad of obstacles and setbacks need to be just like Ellen MacArthur and utilise their resources and their resilient traits in order to succeed. So how resilient are you? Research conducted by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman (University of Pennsylvania Professor of Psychology) and other top psychologists worldwide explored the thought process of successful people. This research found that it is resilience above anything else that determines who succeeds and who fails when faced with the day-to-day obstacles and setbacks. Further work carried out by renowned psychologist Andrew Shatte and Karen Reivich PhD’s in to resilience showed that there are seven behaviours or ‘inner strengths’, which can be measured and developed. These inner strengths are not rocket science, but are thoughts and feelings that you will recognise as part of your own make-up. Firstly, Emotion Regulation, this is the ability to control your emotions in the midst of an adversity so that you are able to accomplish your goals. So for example, a newly recruited sales representative making four unsuccessful calls in a row needs to not allow him/herself to feel anxious approaching the fifth call. Impulse Control, in the midst of an adversity it is important to be able to control our impulses – resilient people are able to control these. In the example above, the first thought may be to give up for the day; by controlling these impulses the resilient person will overcome the earlier setbacks. The ability to accurately and comprehensively identify the causes of your problem, and then identify and enact solutions that solve the problem is termed Causal Analysis. This is closely linked with Self-efficacy, the extent to which you believe in yourself and your ability to take care of most of the obstacles and setbacks you face daily. We all want to be optimistic, but optimism needs to be realistic. One of the skills is Realistic Optimism – this is about maintaining a realistic view of your world. Optimism is something we all need in order to be motivated and charged. Empathy is the ability to decode the nonverbal cues that people use to communicate such as facial expressions, body language and tones of voice. This is closely linked to the final behaviour, Reaching Out, the ability to take on new opportunities and challenges in order to maximise your potential, and to deepen your relationships with those important in not just in your business but also family life. These skills and abilities are crucial to you as part of an industry that is built on personal relationships requiring in-depth knowledge and trust. Once an individual has a better understanding of their levels of resilience they can then develop the skills that enable them to change the way they approach and handle situations. In doing so they can boost their abilities to maximise the potential of opportunities and not allow setbacks to become obstacles to success. Monella adds: “If I experience a series of unsuccessful calls, I am motivated to get a positive outcome with the next call.” Thinking about his own resilience, Monella concludes that having survived as a passenger in a serious car crash as a teenager, he was motivated to see major setbacks as challenges. When told he would never run again he strove to prove doctors wrong and went on to play football, attend university and captain his boxing team. He has carried these resilient thought processes in to a very successful career. Whether you are new or have been in the business for several years, or if you have the responsibility of managing others, a key element of your success will be how resilient you and your colleagues are. Clearly, not everyone can sail single-handed around the world, but by arming yourselves with the skills that you need to succeed you will be able to achieve your targets and goals. This will result in more successful sales calls and higher earnings. Now you can learn to develop those resilient skills that are necessary to achieve success just like Stelios and MacArthur.
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