As an entrepreneur or freelancer, acquiring customers is a critical part of the job because you probably don't have a sales department. Initially, many of you might assume the product will speak for itself; it clearly fills a need and you've invested some real effort into a slick website and logo. So where are the customers? The cold reality eventually dawns on you: Oh no, I have to sell this!
Worst is the perception society has for salespeople. Ask anyone - apart from sales professionals - what comes to mind when they think of a salesperson. Of the hundreds of people I've asked during speaking engagements around the UK, most will say something like: pushy, out for themselves, untrustworthy, won't stop talking. It's almost as if society has made "agreements" about what it takes to successfully sell.
If we hold such agreements about what it takes to successfully win customers, how will we ever reach our full potential? These agreements act as an invisible forcefield between you and freedom. So I would like to share with you four agreements you must make to sell mindfully.
Be aware of the present moment
According to Daniel Siegel, author of Mindsight,"when we become survival-driven, we lose any or all of the nine middle prefrontal functions", a part of the brain associated with body regulation, emotional balance, and insight. In other words, self-preservation brings out the sales monster in us; we revert to primal emotions like insecurity, competition, and desperation. Operating from these states deprives you of the critical rapport-building functions necessary to successfully sell and influence.
The first agreement is to be aware of the present moment. Most of the time we are incessantly thinking of the past or future, hardly ever fully "in" the present moment. You can cultivate presence through mindfulness meditation. Harvard researcher Sara Lazar's study on meditation's effect on the brain shows that after 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation, participants experienced thickening in areas of the brain associated with attention, self-regulation and empathy. Practising mindfulness tames the mind, evaporating emotions associated with desperation.
A simple mindfulness exercise is to notice the sounds around you: the fridge humming or cars revving. Next time you're in reception before a meeting, instead of reaching for your phone, listen to the sounds around you. Do the same at your desk before a call. This exercise takes you out of your thoughts bringing you into the present.
Detach from the outcome
One time, my partner and I went to a large department store looking for make-up. Sales assistants flocked around us like vultures circling their prey. One after the other, they asked, "Can I help you?What are you looking for? At the till, tell them Ann / Sarah / Elena served you." Finally I said, "We're just looking" to get rid of them. It worked. Their energy communicated with us before any of them uttered a word, expressing things like: this one's mine or commission! commission!
Five minutes later, as we played with some eye makeup, a sales assistant approached. "Hi, you wanna try that on? Let me help, I do this at least twenty times a say so I've gotten pretty good. You should have seen me before, I was like a kid who couldn't colour inside the lines." She enjoyed helping us match colours, unconcerned whether or not we'd buy. Unlike the other sales assistants, she was detached from the outcome.
The second agreement is to detach from the outcome. Detachment is not indifference, it's simply a way of removing the charged emotions around the need to close a sale. Detachment lays the foundation to cultivate authentic compassion. Next time you're with a prospect, don't be concerned about whether or not they will buy from you.
Be a great listener
Can you tell when someone isn't listening to you? As soon as you finish talking, they jump in with a monologue. They weren't listening, they were simply waiting their turn to talk! Afterwards, you don't feel like listening to them because they couldn't be bothered to listen to you. I've noticed this is what most novice salespeople do. In prospective client meetings, these people wait for an opening to unleash their pitch or position their service rather than understanding the prospect's needs.
The third agreement is to actively listen. Listen with the intent to understand so that you can help them. When you actively listen, you may discover pain points, giving you the opportunity to help alleviate them. You can inquire further about their dreams and ambitions to later create the connections to help them achieve them. The more you actively listen, the more you understand. The more you understand, the more you can help.
Serve, don't sell
Selling conjures up negative connotations but sales is essentially about problem solving and creating value for people. People pay for value. "You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough others get what they want," said sales legend Zig Ziglar. Value is relative, different strokes for different folks, so before you can add value you to need to discover what is of value.
The fourth agreement is to serve instead of sell. Flipping your approach from selling to serving takes the pressure off you and shifts the focus to your customers. When your intention is giving instead of taking, what you say and do will reflect an energy that is distinct from that of pitching and pushing. Your customers will feel you're there to help them.
These four agreements can help you sell your products and services mindfully and without being salesy. Be present so you can show up fully, listen completely and suspend your self-interest. Be detached from the outcome so you can focus on helping your customers. Actively listen so you can really understand their needs, and focus on serving; instead of trying to get what you want, help your customers get what they want.