The Stoic Presenter: Sales Training and Stoicism

The Stoic Presenter: Sales Training and Stoicism

Who is the Stoic Presenter and what does sales training based on Stoicism look like? What would Marcus Aurelius know about better SaaS Demos?? If you have been following our blog, you will notice that Demo Solutions does not shy away from applying new philosophies (or really old) and frameworks to sales training and demo and presentation coaching. To the contrary, we are always on the lookout for creative ways to upskill and present ideas in the field of sales, coaching, and professional development. We came across some content on Stoicism in parenting and thought, what if……… It turns out that the fundamentals and principles of Stoicism are completely in line with our recent content, so we would like to share more incites. 

If you are interested in contributing to our body of knowledge or putting your own frameworks into training, please contact us! We would love to discuss it. 

What is Stoicism? 

The central tenets of Stoicism are based on writings of the big three Roman philosophers and founders Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus. The Stoicism philosophies support mindfulness movements and Eastern religions and focus on personal agency. A wise man is in charge of his own agency. There are four fundamentals and virtues that we will apply to sales and presentations here. 

4 Fundamentals 

“You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” -Outkast 

The four fundamentals of Stoicism are backdrops for the writings on Stoicism and Modern Stoics each espouse these values. These fundamentals are in stark contrast to a lot of the motivators and fundamentals in sales training motivation or presentation skill building. Underlying many sales training and coaching are motivations of making more money, not being subject to poor performance reviews, and simply trying to manipulate your audience into a sale. Stoicism focuses instead on personal agency, autonomy, rejection of the emotions in potential failure or success and satisfaction in just outcomes of deals, with mutual understanding. 

  1. Value: The pursuit of anything other than a rational mental state is meaningless. Money, success, fame, never bring happiness, what brings happiness is a rational and balanced mind.
  2. Emotions: Emotions are projections of our judgments about a situation. They result from anticipation of an event, that something bad or good is about to happen. You are ultimately in control of your emotions because they are your own judgments. 
  3. Nature: Live in harmony with nature, and let go things that are completely out of your control. 
  4. Control: We have control of certain things and no control of other things. Unhappiness results from confusing the two bins. 

4 Virtues of Stoicism 

The four virtues of Stoicism are the methods and conduct in which you should follow in applying principles of Stoicism to your life, to ultimately achieve mental balance. Unlike the modern use of the word Stoic that renounces emotion, Stoicism really is about balancing your thoughts and understanding your emotions as projections or judgements on situations. These four virtues are what Stoics are striving towards. 

  • Wisdom
  • Justice 
  • Courage 
  • Moderation 

In sales and presenting, fostering each of these virtues and investing in training to become more effective in mastering these will yield rewards. Some of these seem pretty lofty for a 3 hour sales training or prolonged coaching even, but we can apply these with some latitude, after all ancient Roman philosophers would have wanted more Modern applications. Let’s go through these with filters for sales and presentations. 

We think the wisdom element in your sales process is acquired after research and understanding of your client, industry, and their needs. Justice applies in how you conduct your sales and relationship building. Ever walk away from a meeting or sign a contract that leaves you feeling not so great? Chances are you haven’t kept certain boundaries. Maintaining boundaries, closing deals, embarking on new goals and clients, take courage. Lastly, moderation. There are many applications of moderation in a sales process or demo. We can leave that to your discretion and how you interpret it. For us, it refers to not spelling out our value for our clients. A light touch and prove value, no more. 

Sales Training and Stoicism quote from Epictetus

Sales Training and Stoicism

So how to apply some of the principles of Stoicism to sales and presentations. These are our practical takeaways from Stoicism and some of the wise words from Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. 

Realize Anxiety is Self Made 

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everyone experiences jitters or nervousness prior to presenting. Some people are debilitated by these nerves and rely heavily on their decks and scripts, and others rely on their instincts in reading audiences or using a rehearsed script based on an identity they assume in business. Both of these approaches are completely normal responses to anxiety, but neither deliver consistent results with closed deals. Demo Solutions has a battery of exercises to combat anxiety and help regulate unhelpful emotions prior to, during, and following your presentation. See Demo Identities and Contact us about coaching. 

Get out of Your Head 

Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfill itself? So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 

Do not waste time predicting your future or dooming scrolling through bombed presentations when you are approaching a presentation or pitch. Be present and practice self control and moderation in your thoughts. A good mantra is that we are all trying to solve common problems. There are going to be audience members who are rooting for you and those who will be bored, and those that have things on their minds other than your presentation or your product and that has ZERO to do with you, so do not let it affect your delivery. 

Become Aware of What you CAN Control 

A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.’ This remark of Epicurus’ is to me a very good one. For a person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right. You have to catch yourself doing it before you can reform. Some people boast about their failings: can you imagine someone who counts his faults as merits ever giving thought to their cure? So — to the best of your ability — demonstrate your own guilt, conduct inquiries of your own into all the evidence against yourself. Play the first part of prosecutor, then of judge and finally of pleader in mitigation. Be harsh with yourself at times.

Seneca, Letters From a Stoic 

We offer countless pieces of content that recount what you can and cannot control. There are some defaults that are also possible to unlearn. Learning diversity, inclusion, and equity principles and unlearning bias are both excellent ways of increasing the effectiveness of your presentations by focusing on what you CAN control. Additionally, becoming a better listener is something you can control. You would be really surprised to learn that many of our clients have team members that do not listen because they are distracted or nervous and miss critical pieces of information that make deals better OR that are clues to abandon deals altogether. 
If you are interested in more of our content, please follow along! Are you as fascinated as we are? Take a look here to learn more about Modern Stoicism. We really encourage feedback, positive and negative. Drop us a line or give us a call!

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