Mindful selling: how to sell without being salesy
Selling is a necessary part of running a business but it is especially challenging for budding entrepreneurs. They’ve taken an untrodden path, facing great risk and uncertainty in a sea of established competitors. It is no surprise that they often and inadvertently operate from a space of lack and limitation, desperately clinging to outcomes, like attracting investors or closing deals.
Desperation is client repellent
After perfecting and rehearsing cold-calling techniques, a coaching client of mine fumbled during her prospect call. The words simply didn’t come out right so she launched into a canned pitch, boring and irritating the person on the other end of the phone.
When I asked her what was on her mind she said, “I’ve got this list of 60 leads, and if I mess up, my business is ruined. Where will I find new leads?” She couldn’t possibly make effective calls when she’d overwhelmed her mind with thoughts of the future and past failed attempts. After a few breathing exercises, she came back to the present moment and proceeded to deliver her 20-second hook with ease.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of being. It helps you focus by moving you into the present moment. One way of accessing a mindful state is through meditation. Though some religions do talk about meditation, meditating is not a religious practise. Meditation is nothing more than a technique used to silence the incessant chatter of the mind.
Backed by science
Neuroscientists have demonstrated that meditation decreases the heart and breathing rate, lowers blood pressure, increases dopamine (the brain’s happiness chemical) and boosts productivity and attention span. Research also shows that meditators are more aware of external stimuli but display less anxiety or disturbance towards them, and possess greater self-control.
What does this mean for entrepreneurs selling?
While selling for your new business you will face more rejection than wins. For the inexperienced and experienced alike, this can produce significant stress. Yet that stress affects your behaviour, which could create negative impressions or experiences for prospective clients. However, when you are calm you naturally make different choices, setting off a virtuous chain of events which lead to better outcomes.
Mindfulness doesn’t make buyers automatically want to buy from you but it does change how you react to things. In an article published in The Atlantic, author of Mindful Work, David Gelles said, “Mindfulness can help us heal with our own reactions to negative events, either at the workplace or home, but they’re not going to prevent bad things from happening in the first place.”
How mindfulness could help you sell more
In a former role, I met with a director of a large London advertising agency. It was our first meeting after a one-minute cold call. As soon as we sat down, he berated me. “I’m sick of you salespeople, especially in your company, you guys are the worst. You make my life a living hell, always trying to cut us out. You’re so selfish, and I’m just fed up.”
Taming the monster
For a split second, I was on the verge of a volcanic eruption. “How dare you talk to me like that?” was on the tip of my tongue and I visualised storming out. As I watched my thought process, I refrained from spitting out those words and the anger subsided. Compassion replaced anger and I let his words pass over me without judgment. The director snapped out of his state and apologised.
We had a productive meeting. Three months later he booked £30,000 of business with me. This is an extreme example and it’s not often you come across people like him. But had I let my ego take over, i.e. snapping at him and walking out, I would not have closed that sale.
How to be mindful with conscious breathing
- Sit comfortably with a straight back, not too stiff but don't slouch
- Rest your hands on your lap and close your eyes
- Inhale, listening to and feeling your breath while doing so
- Exhale and relax
- Repeat 5 times, all the while just focusing on the sensation of your breath
Serving instead of selling
When you’re mindful, you eliminate concerns about lack or limitation. From a mindful state you listen actively and suspend your self-interest. This way, you avoid the urge to pitch and push. Instead, you are able to explore the client's needs by asking intelligent questions, positioning yourself to be of real value.
About the author: Anis Qizilbash is founder of Mindful Sales Training and author of Grow Your Sales, Do What You Love: Mindful Selling for Entrepreneurs and Freelancers. Twitter: @AnisQiz