Selling is stressful, especially when you’re doing it for your own business and even more so if you hate it. When you’re stressed, you act from a place of fear, and in this fearful state, your brain is forced into primal fight-or-flight mode. During client interactions, this fear manifests as pushiness, desperation, and insecurity – characteristics that do not enable trust, empathy, and affability, vital elements of getting someone to buy from you.
Put a cork in the “Me” show
One time I asked a successful sales veteran what he thought selling was. He said, “Convincing someone to give me money to do something I want.” I would never have lasted 18 years in sales had I bought into this definition. Instead, I prefer Zig Ziglar’s approach: “You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough others get what they want.”
The first definition is self-focused; the second is service-focused. I’m not saying my choice is the right way – it’s just that if you’re purpose-fuelled, the idea of selling might not sit right with you. If you’re not comfortable with selling, you will never succeed. Changing your perspective to make sales about others rather than yourself helps you move forward.
Mindfulness and sales: Are you serious?
One coaching client regularly tumbled from one meeting into the next, talking on his phone up to the very last second, hanging up only as he opened the office door to the next prospect. His meetings started out flustered, aimless, and rushed, leaving a poor first impression.
I encouraged him to use the moments waiting in reception as time to get still so that when he entered meetings, he would be fully present rather than dragging the “baggage” of his phone calls into every client engagement.
Meditation is like free drugs
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, defines mindfulness as a “state of being aware by paying attention to the present moment, without judgment … it’s about knowing what’s going on in your mind.” Meditation is one way to access this state. While some religions, like Buddhism, do promote meditation, it is not inherently religious. It’s simply a technique to silence the incessant – often unproductive and negative – chatter of the mind.
Skeptics might think mindfulness is New Age rubbish. But neuroscientists have hard evidence that meditation changes the brain, promoting balance and calm while enhancing your ability to self-regulate.
In a literature review exploring how meditation impacts the brain and our physiology, psychologists at Plattsburgh State University highlight a study where neuroscientists measured the effect of the brain’s electrical activity on the body during meditation. The results show meditation decreases the heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure while increasing dopamine, the brain’s happiness chemical.
During a meeting, when emotion takes over, all reason flies out the window. This is not to say you shouldn’t be emotional. Far from it: You can be passionate and present at the same time. In fact, when you’re truly present, you can’t help but be deeply passionate. But when your emotions run the show, your stress levels increase, reducing vital cognitive functions such as insight, inspiration, and empathy, which reduces your effectiveness.
Two simple exercises to practice mindfulness
Breathe. Inhale deeply while listening to your breath. Then slowly exhale, still listening to your breath. Repeating this exercise for five breaths is enough to calm the chatter in your mind, momentarily silencing the fear you may have in your heart.
Walk. Get up and walk around for a bit. You don’t have to go outside and make an occasion of it. Wherever you are is fine. Walk around the sofa or into the kitchen and back again. With each step, you take, feel each part of your foot as it touches the floor. A minute or two is enough to get started.
Do either of these exercises before a call, a meeting, or a presentation. When all else is said and done, it’s the best preparation you can do.
Why “no” is the first word we learn
A common mistake while selling is entering conversations by talking about your product or service. There’s a perception that this is what selling is; you have a spiel that you say, to persuade someone. Pitching might work in many scenarios, but the intimacy of one-to-one conversations calls for an interactive and nuanced approach.
First, telling isn’t selling. We don’t like being told what to do. Psychologists call it reactance theory. If you tell someone not to do something, they’ll fight back and do the very thing they were denied to regain their freedom. Why do you think “no” is one of the first words we learn?
Second, if you’re doing all the talking, the buyer can easily check out and head off to the races (in their mind). Meanwhile, you’re talking under the illusion you’re “selling.”
Examine first; then diagnose
During the first meeting, respected professionals like architects, tradespeople, or doctors will probe and inquire. What do you want? Why are you here? What’s wrong? What are the symptoms? Then they provide a diagnosis to get the client where they want to be. They don’t launch into a diagnosis or solutions without first hearing from the client.
The same approach applies to expert salespeople. Examine what your client wants, where they’re experiencing pain, and what outcome they hope to achieve before launching into your pitch. As Stephen Covey says in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand before being understood.”
Be of value
Now that you have a deeper understanding of your prospect’s challenges and aspirations, this is your moment to demonstrate how you can create value in their lives with your product or service. When you talk about your product or service, focus on communicating the value it will bring to their lives. This is not just saying what that value is but why it matters in the context of their life. Doing so drives deeper emotional resonance while increasing the stickiness of your message.
Be of service
When you’re about to enter a sales conversation, ask yourself, “How can I make this person successful?” Repeat it like a mantra to flood out all thoughts of selfishness or fear. Doing so instructs your brain, and therefore your body, to kick into gear and be of service. You sidestep the pitfall of being pushy when your intention is to be of service instead of selling.
Anis Qizilbash is a London-based motivational speaker, mindful sales expert, founder of Mindful Sales Training, and author of Grow Your Sales Do What You Love: Mindful Selling for Entrepreneurs and Freelancers. Get her free book How to Turn Strangers into Potential Clients, Without Being Awkward.