How to Overcome Adversity, Plus Corporate Sales Tips

I recently spoke with Elinor Stutz, bestselling author, speaker and founder of

In a time when women were limited in the sales and business worlds, Elinor launched her career. She has broken barriers to become a top producing salesperson in every company she has worked for.

Eventually, she became a world-renown trainer for sales leaders and a bestselling author on the topic of sales.

Elinor started her sales teaching career after an accident left her diagnosed as paralyzed for life. She used sales techniques and positive thinking to overcome that near disability and heal completely, and she has continued to use advanced sales and psychology tactics to overcome many other obstacles.

According to Elinor, the worst lessons to bear are the best lesson for the future.

Today, in addition to being an author and speaker, Elinor writes a popular blog that can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Elinor has grown her audience and been asked to be a part of Tony Robbins’s and HubSpot’s affiliate programs.

In this article, you can expect to learn

  • Why personalization is key in sales
  • Common errors, mistakes, and pitfalls in corporate sales and sales leadership
  • Asking good questions
  • Creating a culture around personal development
  • Breaking through barriers both in personal and business with grit

Personalization is key

“It’s about people not thinking about the other person with whom they are trying to sell.” – Elinor Stutz

Personalization is often lost in sales. It comes down to thoughtlessness. Many people fire off emails that begin with “Hey there” and don’t include any personalization or address a specific person.

This isn’t a great way to capture someone’s attention when you are trying to sell to them.

What You Should Do to Capture Attention

  • Use the person’s name when emailing or calling them
  • Be personal
  • Think about the other person

Common errors, mistakes, pitfalls in corporate sales and sales leadership

Software and technology make things so convenient and fast that personalization is often lost. Some people believe the art of sales is losing out as a profession because of automated calls and modern technology.

Personalization is what gets the sale every time. You are selling to humans–be human! Better sales representatives who are successful today are doing exceptionally well because they’ve figured out how to personalize their approach.

That human element is what really counts.

Asking Good Questions

When Elinor was doing door to door sales, she made it a point to ask the right questions. She wasn’t provided with any formal sales training, so she took it upon herself to figure out how she could become better.

After knocking on doors and hearing no after no, she would eventually get invited in. When speaking with prospects, she always made it a point to ask them questions. She collected tailored information from each client.

She would ask questions like:

  • “What motivated you to invite me in?”
  • “What is your interest?”
  • “How do you buy?”
  • “What do I need to know?”
  • “What would put me over the edge to have you buy from me over someone else?”

Elinor explained to me how she had fun conversations with these individuals and they kept inviting her back. Many salespeople don’t do that these days. They don’t take time to establish a connection and build rapport. By the 4th month in Elinor’s first job, she was the top salesperson with no formal sales training.

Dealing with Adversity

Elinor was the victim of two terrible accidents. It was the kind of near-death experience you read about but never think will happen to you. She was told the best-case scenario would be paralysis and the worst would be that she wouldn’t make it.

While on a stretcher at Stanford Hospital, she had two very distinct visions that changed her life.

She claims she had the first vision and saw a report card of her life. She had high marks on the career side but on the right-hand side under “Community Service,” it was completely blank. At that moment she promised to give back to communities. She pledged to do so under the conditions she would have a full recovery and be able to walk out of the hospital on her own.

Her second vision pictured her being a speaker far and wide, helping audiences. In that instant, she said:

“Yes, that is what I have always wanted to do. I promise to do that. That’s what I am going to do as soon as I heal and walk out of this hospital. I will start helping my communities.”

As strange as it may seem, the mind is a powerful tool and influences everything. As sales leaders, we have to listen to our mind and keep a positive attitude through every situation.

Elinor had 90 seconds with a surgeon the next morning. She expected words of encouragement, but the opposite was true.

He told her the best-case scenario would be paralysis. Elinor used the mirroring technique to copy his vocabulary, tone of voice and look on his face. With every ounce of energy in her body, she said:

“Doctor, when I wake up, I fully expect to be well. It’s the belief you will have a good outcome.”

After surgery, the surgeon was there and told her there was no rhyme or reason, but she would walk out of the hospital in four days. The entire staff started calling her the walking miracle.

It took Elinor a long time to understand what they meant truly. She now finally realizes what they were referring to.

“What I learned from sales honestly saved my life.” –Elinor Stutz.

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How to Make It Through Adversity

To succeed, you have to work well with adversity. Some people deal with it positively, and some people don’t.

To deal with adversity, you have to focus on personal development. You have to know how to stand up for yourself. You can decide at any point to be negative or positive, even if you come from a negative household.

Once you choose to be positive, it makes the most significant difference in the world.

Elinor had to stand up for herself throughout her childhood. There were many times she didn’t feel she fit in, so she turned to reading. Reading changed the way she dealt with life. She also began to travel. She had an interest in different cultures and archeology.

“Each decision you make affects your future outcome.” – Elinor Stutz

Tips for Getting Your Mind in The Right Place

  • Focus on your goals and long-term vision.
  • Be diligent about what you want to accomplish the next day.
  • Tell yourself you can do it. Eventually, you start believing you can do it.

Finding What You Are Good At

“I think that young people should figure out what you’re good at first and go do that. Everybody was born with gifts, go figure out what your gift is, use it and use that to build confidence, and then you’ll find your passion.”

Don’t be discouraged if you feel you haven’t found your passion.

Sometimes we feel so much pressure to find our passion that we miss it. Start by finding what you are good at, do it and see if it’s something you enjoy.

You have to take time to find your passions. You also might have more than one passion, but you need experience first.

Creating A Culture of Personal Development

As we’ve discussed before, creating culture starts from the top down. You have to live it if you expect others to. Here are some tips

  • Be willing to learn from things that went awry
  • Hire a coach
  • When you find one route that works well, leverage it to the best of your ability
  • Have your eye on the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goal

People will put you down for the rest of your life. It’s about using those awful comments as motivation.

Failure is not failure if you learned something. The only people who fail are the ones who quit.

“As we start growing, people are going to put us down for our novel ideas, and what I’ve come to learn later in life is that the very worst snare sentiment hurled at you are awful words. That means you are on to something very very exciting that they never saw coming, and that you should proceed with it.”

How to Choose a Coach

If you choose to hire a coach, make sure you interview that coach as if you were hiring the employee. There are many coaches–some invaluable and others worthless. It’s important to find one that is a good fit for you–one will hold you accountable and will help you reach your goals.

When hiring a coach consider the following:

  • Interview different coaches
  • Match values and priorities
  • Are they going to follow up with you to make sure the advice they are doing works?
  • Find a coach that has done it in the past

Elinor follows the philosophy that people think in threes, so she recommends you interview three different coaches before hiring one. Make sure the coach is going to care about you, not just take your money.

It’s important to find a coach that has accomplished what you want to achieve in the past and aren’t just trying to preach something they read in a book to you.

Breaking Through Barriers

For the people starting out–keep trying, your time is coming. On average, it takes 10 no’s to get a yes. Just keep looking for the better fit. Be determined that one day people will take notice. To get to that point, you have to keep going.

You also have to be honest with yourself and willing to put in the work. Where are you lacking? Where are you successful? Are there things you could do to invest in your weaknesses? How can you leverage your strengths?

Elinor saw the opportunity to invest in herself, so she took a Dale Carnegie speaking class. The first day she was shaking and could barely talk. By the end, she was the grand prize winner. The course helped her increase her sales. Her self-awareness and willingness to invest in herself improved her career.

In the end, it comes down to mindset and persistence. Stay positive and don’t give up.

In Summary

From talking with Elinor, it comes down to avoiding common errors, mistakes, and pitfalls; asking good questions; focusing on personal development and breaking through barriers. If you can do these things well, you will be successful in sales and life.

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