Winning the Inner Game of Business

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Successful team athletes know that they face two opponents in every game: the other team and an inner opponent—the little voice in their head. Similarly, successful financial advisers know that most sales are won from the inside out, as growing a business is really about having a strong mental skillset to create and then maintain steady successes.

Joe, a financial adviser with 15 years of experience, is a current coaching client of mine. When he initially contacted me to discuss his challenges I quickly realized that this was a man whose inner opponent was clearly defeating him. So I explained that the solution was to increase his mental skillset for winning his Inner Game of Business. Once he could master that, he would be back at the top of his game. Let’s take a look at how he (and you) can make a comeback.

I was curious to know more about Joe and the evolution of his business to get a better idea of his situation, so I simply asked him to share what happened during the first five-year period of his career.

He explained to me that in his first five years he was consistently having record years. As a result, he loved the business and had a positive attitude toward his future. He went on to say that his business plateaued from years six through 10 and he later realized that it was because he was comfortable and complacent. Unfortunately, that resulted in a decrease in his business each year for the past several years until he found himself doubting whether he should continue on or move into another career field altogether.

I commented that typically when a professional athlete is in a mental slump they don’t throw in the towel but instead they may seek out a sports psychologist who would work with them on what’s known as a performance pyramid, which has three levels to sharpen metal skillsets. Below are three tips to win against your inner opponent.

1.) Increase your basic mental skillsets: Sometimes the hardest thing for anyone to do to make a comeback is to accept that they need to get back to the basics. In other words, a professional football player doesn’t want to be told how to hold a football properly. Similarly, advisers in a slump don’t want to be told to change their attitude toward prospecting.

However, the first level of the performance pyramid is about rebuilding a strong mental foundation by focusing on essential mental skillsets such as having a positive attitude, finding motivation, setting goals, establishing accountability, making a commitment and increasing communication. Joe needed to get back to the basics in order to get his head back in the game. So we clearly defined what successful outcomes would look like for each of the aforementioned mental skillsets and then we went to work on putting a plan into action.

2.) Increase your preparatory skills: It didn’t take long for Joe to start feeling better about himself. I decided we needed to go to the next level by sharpening his preparatory skills, the mental skillsets that athletes use immediately before they perform. Examples of that would be a professional golfer taking practice swings or a professional basketball player taking easy shots. The two most important activities at this tier are positive self-talk and mental imagery. For a financial adviser, that may include telling yourself you will get the new client and mentally picturing the prospect signing the paperwork.

Joe quickly embraced the process but was admittedly amazed at how taking five minutes before a meeting with a prospect made him feel much more confident.

3.) Increase your performance skills: The third level of the performance pyramid focuses on what an athlete (or in Joe’s case an adviser) does during the big game. Joe’s “big game” happened when he had a second meeting with a million-dollar referral. To help him close I explained that there are three ways to increase performance skills: focus on managing anxiety, emotions and concentration. In order for Joe to accomplish this, I knew he needed to not only prepare for the appointment but to role play every step of it so that he was conditioned to successfully close!

The Final Score
Joe went into the meeting with a new level of confidence. He was focused, calm and genuinely excited to help the prospect. He asked the right types of questions, made a great connection and effortlessly closed.

The next time you step onto your business playing field, be sure to tap your inner game by preparing for it and sharpening your mental skillsets. That way you are on the road heading toward victory.

If this blog post has resonated with you and you are struggling with your inner opponent, take the next step and email me at to discuss what to change first.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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