While sales can be a stressful profession, it doesn’t have to be. Here are five ways to de-stress in the new year:
1. Get to the appointment early. Park your car and take time to focus on your breath to help quiet your mind, listen to a motivational recording, or engage in any other practice that will help center you before you meet with your prospect.
2. Get a clear picture of the time with the prospect: Imagine the sales call as you’d like it to go. Imagine asking your clients questions about their needs, and listening closely to their responses. Imaging being totally “present” in your time with your client, rather than lost in fears about the past, or anxieties about the future. Imagine explaining the features and benefits of your product as they relate to your clients’ needs. Imagine a partnership forming between you and your client, as you take a consultative role. Imagine the handshake at the end of your time together and a promise for business to come.
3. One calming practice is to use a smooth stone for “grounding.” Prior to the appointment, hold the stone, and imagine the qualities of strength and steadiness, like a mountain. If a sales rep finds anxieties arising on the sales call, simply reaching into a pocket and touching the stone can act as a tangible reminder to remain centered and steadfast, just like the mountain. (Stone meditations can be found in the book “Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind,” as can walking meditations, as described below.)
4. Do a walking meditation around your client’s building before you go in. Walk slowly, bringing all your attention to the soles of your feet as they touch the ground. Whenever your mind wanders to fears about the past or worries about the future, gently bring your awareness back to the soles of your feet, even if it’s as often as every few seconds. This practice will help keep your awareness in the present moment.
5. Use affirmations, or positive statements repeated silently to yourself as if they are already happening. Repeating them often and putting them in positive terms are important. Examples are: “I remain calm and centered when I meet with my client.” “I am able to keep my mind focused on the present moment.”
De-stressing doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as remembering to pause and redirect your attention.
Although this post is written in the context of sales professionals, it applies to people in all walks of life!
Those in sales are used to measuring results to see how they’re doing. One-hundred percent of quota. A million dollar sale. Another million to go for that trip to Aruba. Certainly, in diet and exercise programs, numbers are used to measure progress. Lost two pounds. Benchpressed seventy pounds. Body/mass index of twenty-four.
But in mindfulness and meditation practice you don’t have these metrics to measure your results. I suppose you could use the length of time you’re meditating, but you’d likely be more successful meditating for one minute with a high quality of awareness than for twenty minutes lost in thought, so length of time doesn’t tell the whole story.
To help reduce the frustration that can come by not having metrics to show how you’re progressing in meditation, consider cultivating the intention just to notice. If you have difficulty meditating and it’s challenging for you, notice that. If you have a wonderful experience, notice that (and realize that everything is temporary and that doesn’t mean you’ll have a wonderful experience next time). If you were lost in thought for your entire meditation time, notice that. If you forgot to notice, see if you can notice that.
Here’s how you can bring the practice of noticing your sales calls. Let’s say you’re meeting with a client for the first time. Maybe you’ll notice the pictures on the desk, or the higher education degrees hanging on the wall. Maybe you’ll notice that you have a judgement arising about the client’s ability to purchase—and then notice that you can release that judgement, since it’s getting in the way of your path to the sale.
By noticing that you’re aware that you’re aware, you’ll be on the path to mindfulness. The path can have many twists and turns along the way, but the best way to stay on it is to continue to notice.
William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Here’s a 3-step process to transform negative thinking into positive thinking.
1. Notice your thoughts. Sometimes negative thoughts happen unconsciously, so it’s helpful to bring awareness to them. For instance, let’s say you’re going to see a difficult client. You notice that you’re thinking, “I really dread visiting this customer.” Often the negative thought about what you’re anticipating causes more stress than what is actually happening. Noticing this thought can help you shift it.
2. Shift your thoughts. Now that you’ve identified the negative thought, see if you can shift to a more positive thought, such as “It’s the paying customers who keep my company in business,” or “I take pride in bringing all my loyal customers value and top-notch service—no matter how I feel about them.”
3. Practice positive thinking. Thousands of years ago our ancestors developed negative, habitual thought patterns as survival mechanisms. Vigilant thoughts helped protect them from becoming the tiger’s lunch. Since the brain has neuroplasticity, or the ability to form new neural pathways, you can develop a positive thinking habit simply by practicing—all it takes is willingness and intention.
Consider developing a positive thinking habit for the rest of 2019 and into the new year. You may notice that your thoughts alone can help brighten those long winter nights.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to present “Building Mindful Client Relations” at INBOUND19! For those of you who weren’t there, 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!