I really enjoyed the opportunity to present “Building Mindful Client Relations” at INBOUND19! Here’s a recap of the presentation:
Part 1: Develop Present Moment Awareness to Discover Customer Needs
Present Moment Awareness & STUFF
Present moment awareness is when your attention is in the “here and now,” rather than caught up in judgements, thoughts about the past, or thoughts about the future.
Present moment awareness takes practice to develop, since it’s the nature of the mind to be distracted by STUFF:
The cycling STUFF in the mind not only keeps you from the present moment, it can also create obstacles to the sale. Consider a sales rep who’s meeting with a customer and thinks, “I hope I can close this sale!” The rep is focusing on his STUFF, rather than focusing on the customer—and missing an opportunity to discover customer needs.
Learn to Interrupt Your STUFF
One way you can learn to focus beyond your STUFF is to interrupt it with a simple meditation exercise. Just as a spinning prize wheel is interrupted by a flapper, you can interrupt your STUFF with an “anchor,” which is an object upon which you rest your attention that’s neutral and doesn’t create more STUFF.
Examples of commonly used anchors:
A word or phrase, such as “be here now”
A sound or sounds
A tactile object, such as a smooth stone
You can practice this exercise before you meet with customers—or any other time that fits into your schedule. To start, find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes.
Choose an anchor and bring all your attention to it. As soon as your mind wanders, which may be as often as every second or two for beginners, bring your attention back to your anchor. Keep repeating this process: each time you notice your wandering mind, gently bring your attention back to your anchor. This practice of shifting attention to your anchor again and again will build your mind’s muscle, since you’re training your mind to focus—enabling you to focus on customers as if they’re your anchors.
Another way you can train your mind in present moment awareness is to weave “mindful moments” into your day. These are times when you bring your full attention to what you’re experiencing in the present, i.e., when you wash your hands, bring all your attention to the warmth or coolness of the water; when you eat meals, bring all your attention to the tastes and textures of the foods; or when you take a walk, bring all your attention to what you hear, whether it’s birds chirping, children playing, or the sound of leaves crunching under your feet.
Part 2: Listen Mindfully to Understand Customer Needs
What is Reflective Listening?
Reflective listening is a powerful tool, since it shows customers you hear what they’re saying and you understand them. To listen reflectively, simply repeat back to customers what they just said, using their words or paraphrasing in your own words.
Examples of Reflective Listening:
Customer: It’s important that our systems are monitored 24/7.
Sales Rep: So, it sounds like round-the-clock coverage is essential for you.
Customer: I don’t have time to think about this. I’m very busy!
Sales Rep: Understood! Sounds like you have a full plate with a lot going on.
Paraphrasing a customer objection is an especially good technique, since it takes the focus off the sales rep’s STUFF—for example, the rep could become frustrated when hearing an objection—and keeps the focus on the customer. Another benefit of paraphrasing an objection: it takes customers from a mindset of saying “no” to a mindset of saying “yes.” It’s likely they’ll agree with what you paraphrased, since you’re telling them what they just said.
Use a Variety of Listening Tools
Be sure to use paraphrasing with other listening skills, such as open ended questions, i.e., questions that start with “what” and “how”; minimal encouragers, i.e., listening sounds like “mm-hmms” that encourage speaking; and even silence, i.e., not responding immediately after customers speak—you may find they have more to say.
Conclusion: Learning New Habits
The good news with practicing all these skills is that the mind has neuroplasticity, or the ability to form new neural pathways and new ways of thinking. In terms of clearing your mind with a simple meditation exercise, start small with manageable amounts of time, even a few minutes a day. Setting up a regular practice place in your home or office can help—as can tying in practice with something you do regularly. Wake up in the morning. Brush teeth. Meditate. In terms of mindful listening, try practicing with family and friends. They’ll likely be pleased to receive this sort of attention from you. Remember, the ability to tap into present moment awareness is within every person—all it takes is intention and practice!