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The Mindset Required to Deal Effectively With Disruptive Change

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
August 3, 2010

The world is changing more rapidly than at any time in human history. It isn’t only the disruptive nature of the changes that are occurring, but it is the exponential speed at which change is occurring that makes this change more dramatic and more noticeable.

These changes are decimating whole businesses and whole business models (think the newspaper industry, the music industry, the Yellow Pages, etc.) It is easy to make a list of these changes and the disruptions that have occurred (societal changes, political changes, the Great Recession, wars, etc.), and it is pretty easy to guess that future disruptive change is coming. What isn’t talked about enough is what this change means for you. What isn’t talked about is what you need to do to deal with these changes.

Here is the mindset that will allow you to survive and thrive in what I promise will be a future of great change.

Adherence to the Fundamentals

Change is disruptive. It can throw you off your game, especially when the changes impact both your personal life and your business life. The Great Recession of the last couple years managed to do both, and do so in a dramatic and unforgiving way.

This kind of disruptive change must be addressed by adhering to the fundamental attributes and behaviors that lead to success. There is a reason that the attributes that lead to success are so widely known and so widely studied and written about; they have stood the test of time. They have stood the test of time for all of recorded history because they have always and invariably allowed those who employed them to succeed.

Committing to improving yourself in the skills and the attributes that have always lead to success in sales—and in everything else—produces outsized results.

If you believed that self-discipline was important in the past, it is more important now by an order of magnitude. If you believed that prospecting and obtaining commitments were critical skill sets before the last big disruption, wait until you discover how important it will be after the next big, exponential change (whatever that may be).

The fundamentals have always produced an outsized return on the investment of time and energy spent developing them. But in a time of great change, while many salespeople struggle bouncing from fad to fad, from gimmick to gimmick, from tips to tricks, only those who adhere to the fundamentals will do more than simply survive, having built their capacity to succeed and to create value for others.

Go here and here for an action plan on developing the fundamentals.

Greater Resilience and a Greater Ability to Adapt

A time of great change requires that you possess a greater resilience. Being resilient means that you retain a sense of optimism, not allowing setbacks to set you back. It requires that you not attach more meaning to anything than it deserves-even when it feels like it deserves a great big meaning.

But resilience isn’t found in your words or your thoughts, it is found in your actions and your behaviors. Adaptability means that you use your resilience to take new actions. Adaptability means that you become a lifelong learner, gathering new ideas, new skills, and new behaviors faster than at any time before. It requires that you learning new ideas, you learn new skills, and you take new actions that give life to your resilience.

Being resilient and adaptable means finding a way to do more than survive—it means finding a way to take advantage of disruptive change.

Engagement and Exploration

There have rarely been times in recent history where there wasn’t substantial changes occurring. During those times, no one has ever succeeded by sitting it out. No one has ever succeeded by not taking actions to adapt to—and profit from—change.

This requires that you engage with the changes. You explore the change and what it might mean for you and your business and your sales results. Then you get engaged in it.

Even though I am critical of the Sales 2.0 advocates that taut it as a replacement for the skills and attributes that have always been necessary to succeed in sales, I am doubly critical of those who are sitting sales 2.0 out. I often remind them that at one point in time, the telephone was a revolutionary device and only half jokingly ask if they would have sat that one out, too—while buggy-whipping their horse to get from sales call to call.

The ability to engage with change, exploring how you might use it to your benefit ensures that your do more than simply survive. It often gives you the ability to leapfrog your competitors who are slow to recognize and act on change.

Explore the change, and find a way to engage with it to your benefit. It isn’t easy, but you can do it.

A Short Note on Staying the Course and the Meaning of Change

Yesterday I received an email from a reader. His young daughter, Morgan, has recently been diagnosed with a genetic illness that she will carry throughout her life. It has been the kind of dramatic change that can paralyze a parent. It is something that a parent dreads hearing, and that few are prepared for.

My reader has been consumed with this diagnosis.  Naturally, he is concerned and wishes for his daughter to have a happy and healthy life. He is so consumed, in fact, that his work is suffering. He is having trouble maintaining his sales activities.

I am flattered that he reached out to me to request that I address the subject of change and staying on course when major disruptions occur—and this is as serious a disruption as a parent can imagine.

I pointed him first to this post: Who Is Counting On You? But I had to add a note, having been through a number of surgeries, one in which I had a piece of the right front temporal lobe of brain removed.

alt text image of my brain mri

The note that I added had much to do with the meaning that we attach to what life throws at us. We can choose to interpret the events as negative. In my reader’s case, the interpretation might be: “I am too worried and sad to focus on my work.” Or, alternatively, he might tell himself: “I am so worried and consumed with this that the best thing I can do is to work even harder to make sure that I always give her the care that she might need to have the best, happiest life she can have. I can do that by producing the results that secure my job and ensure I have the income an the freedom I need.”

The choice might also be between being consumed with fear and sadness (which may inform how his daughter believes how she is supposed to feel about her condition) or being filled with the strength and resolve to handle the challenges in a way that provides her with a very normal life (something that would likely inform her belief that her genetic condition isn’t something that limits her abilities or her dreams).

I am not suggesting that any of this easy—having had to make this choice for myself. I know first hand that the decision isn’t easy, and there were times when I wasn’t as strong as I wanted to be. But the choice has to be made, nonetheless, despite falling off the decision from time to time.

How you handle disruptive change is informed by who you are and what meaning you attach to change. If you believe that change can means only negative consequences, it will be true for you. If you believe that change means opportunity—even when it is extremely difficult to identify the opportunity, it will bring opportunity for you.

I wish my friend and his daughter the best, and I have a strong suspicion that he will yet be surprised by how all of the turns out. I also wish him a safe return to his work, knowing that he wants nothing more than to do what is necessary for his family who, now more than ever, are counting on him.


    1. What meaning to you attach to disruptive changes?
    1. What are the fundamental skills and attributes that allow one to capitalize on disruptive changes? How does an adherence to the fundamentals enable to you to survive and thrive during disruptive change?
    1. Why is it is critical that you are resilient during disruptive changes? How are you required to behave in order to be resilient? What does it mean to be adaptable? What actions are required of you to demonstrate that you are adaptable and resilient?
  1. How do you explore the changes that are occurring all around you and their impact on your business? What can you do today to engage with the changes going on around you and to bend them to your advantage? How do you ensure that you don’t sit out the tectonic shifts that are occurring in our business, our economy, and our society?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

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Mindset 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on August 3, 2010
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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