Most people suffering from chronic pain and fatigue are still working. And most of us are doing it from home now. Which means a good portion of us are very likely involved in some kind of virtual selling. Chronic pain and fatigue can strike at any time. So, how do we handle this?
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Selling with chronic pain and fatigue can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.
I’m on the phone all the time now. Or Zoom. Or Skype. Or Google Hangouts. Teaching virtually. Coaching others living with chronic illness. Speaking in online seminars. Filming for YouTube and online courses. I also suffer from chronic pain and fatigue.
Nearly all of this is brought on by my MS (primary progressive multiple sclerosis DX 2018). For me, this means migraines, the MS hug (a crushing sensation across the chest), severe muscle spasms, overheating, lassitude (sudden and overwhelming fatigue), short term memory loss, trouble speaking, and a host of other issues. When I learned to accept that this was just my new normal, I started to formulate a plan.
Selling with chronic pain and fatigue requires having a solid plan for how you handle outbreaks or flareups. Let’s face it, none of this is going away anytime soon so we might as well find a way to live with it. And while everyone’s suffering is like a snowflake (unique and personal), what we all share in common is the fight.
I’m not giving up. If I can do anything about it, I won’t let you give up either.
Be Brave & Honest
The first step to selling with chronic pain and fatigue is to own it. Your chronic illness is not a weakness, it’s your superpower. Think about that for a minute. Our lives are difficult (to say the least), but we’re still here. We’re still alive. We’re tough as hell! Don’t be afraid to share your story.
I recommend coming right out with it. Tell all your clients. Don’t make a fuss, just state it. Tell them what you have and how it affects you. Be bold without adding any drama. Just spell it out. Pull no punches.
This shows two things:
(1) You’re brave and confident.
(2) It’s not a big deal.
Of course, it is a big deal. But let’s be fair. It’s a big deal for us. It shouldn’t be for them.
These are our customers. They’re coming to us for a very specific product or service that we promised we can provide. They’re spending money. They shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or uncomfortable. Likewise, we shouldn’t use our illness to fish for compliments or commiseration. When you first start working with them, go over your sitch and your limitations and move the hell on.
Rest & Preparation
Okay, so the workday is starting. Did you get a good night’s rest? Do your stretches and/or exercises? Did you eat? Prepare yourself something to drink? Did you go to the bathroom?
Did you take all your pills? If you require anything like tissues, cough drops, a different set of reading glasses, a heating pad – do you have that all prepared? We’re talking work now, and we don’t want to waste our client’s time.
Most importantly, are you physically and mentally capable of taking care of your client’s needs for an entire work day?
This one is key. If you’re having a bad day (and Lord knows we have lots of them), take the day off. Set up an out-of-office (customized for that day) for your phone, email, chat, or anyplace else clients may try to reach you. Throw in a little humor. In addition, send a more personal message (in their preferred format) to give a more detailed heads-up, if necessary.
If you’re having a bad day and you have clients expecting to hear from you, don’t hide. Don’t just assume they’ll figure it out. Maybe they will. But if you just leave them hanging you risk getting ghosted. I recommend emailing or messaging. Don’t call, unless they absolutely expect you to.
Take Lots of Breaks
Think of how much time most people actually waste at work. Chit chat. Social media. Senseless meetings. Yes, we face these challenges too, but most of this is at least somewhat under our control. That dance routine on TikTok is freaking hilarious. It will still be there when you’ve actually earned some do-re-mi.
With this said, don’t try to be a Marvel superhero either. We get tired easily. No amount of caffeine or energy drinks is going to change that. And when it hits it’s going to all come crashing down.
Our job is to make sure this doesn’t happen in the middle of an important sales meeting or call. We’re not always capable of controlling the nosedive either. It’s better to hold a little bit of energy in reserve than to drain your battery all the way to empty and crash.
Those “Oh Sh*t” Moments
You know what I’m talking about. They happen to us all, and they come without warning. Maybe it’ a migraine. Sudden confusion or trouble speaking. Blurry or double vision. Crushing fatigue. Maybe you just have to go to the bathroom (or accidentally have!). Whatever it is, just make sure you’re clients are adequately prepped.
As weird as this may sound, I suggest a kind of safe word. This could be you simply raising your finger or holding up your hand. It could be a prerecorded message. A button you press on your phone signalling a tone. Whatever it is, just make sure your client knows the signal ahead of time. (Remember all that stuff about being honest?)
Whatever your agreed-upon signal is, use it sparingly. Nobody likes the person who constantly cries wolf.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Above all, don’t worry so much. Selling with chronic pain and fatigue doesn’t have to be so hard. We’re all human (at least for now). I know some of this can seem difficult and overwhelming, especially if you don’t work for yourself like I do, but it’s definitely manageable. It just takes a little honesty, preparation and clear communication.
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Ted Fauster is an author and online business mentor for the chronically ill community. In 2018, Ted was diagnosed with the rarest form of multiple sclerosis (MS) known as primary progressive. Ted now spends his time helping those living with chronic pain and fatigue realize their true calling and develop a powerful online brand.