An inbox full of urgent emails from customers. A long list of prospects to call. Multiple meetings with those in marketing, operations and even the CEO. This can be an average day for many sales people, so it’s no wonder they sometimes feel their mind needs to focus on multiple things at once.
Even if you’re great at juggling tasks, however, it often means you can only devote a fraction of the time you’d like to invest towards achieving your goals. It’s not unlike the challenge of trying to get the attention of customers who are distracted by texts, social media posts and videos. We know intuitively that we tend to make better decisions when we can focus, but it requires deliberate practice -- otherwise known as mindfulness.
Before you start worrying that you can’t sit still for twenty minutes and chant a mantra, recognize that meditation is only one way to think about mindfulness. According to a definition from the online magazine Mindful, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
In other words, rather than try to drive out all thoughts, mindfulness is like visualization in that it is more about paying a particular kind of attention -- more like a pause before acting. And given how quickly many deals can go awry before they’re fully closed, that’s something more sales people might want to learn to do.
Of course, mindfulness has rarely been a part of the standard training programs most sales professionals tend to receive, so here’s how to go about it in a way that hopefully feels like a natural way of continuing to work:
If you know how to breathe, you can be mindful.
Consider this scenario. You finish a sales call that ends with feelings of uncertainty. You have a demo to conduct soon, but there’s some anxiety over who might be in the audience. You have to prepare a report later that will require a daunting level of detail.
Your first instinct might be to plow ahead, but consider starting with mindfulness. You don’t have to close your eyes, but take a moment to take a few deep breaths. This helps settle you into a more mindful state because you have to notice your breath in order to take deeper ones.
Next, let your breath settle back into its normal rhythm, but continue to observe. Notice how the breath coming in is colder, and that the breath going out is a little warmer. Also notice how your breath is felt in the rising and falling of your chest, or perhaps the rising and falling of your belly.
How will this help you sell? It helps because, for a few moments at least, you’re putting aside the feelings that might overwhelm you, that are tied to what happened in the past, or what may happen in the future. Instead, you’re spending a few moments thinking about the here and now -- and that’s what really matters. If you can keep that sensation of living in the present, you’ll be more focused on whatever happens next.
There’s no question technology has brought incredible benefits to both our professional and personal lives, but there’s also no question it can make us a bit more fidgety. We scroll through social feeds in between or even sometimes during conversations. We pick up our smartphones the moment we see an alert or notification. We sit in meetings with laptops open, even when there might not be a need.
When possible, try to disconnect -- not just from technology, but from other kinds of leg-jiggling, toe tapping or squeezing of stress balls. Just sit. You don’t have to be completely rigid. It’s more about settling into a comfortable but upright posture and just focusing on the other senses.
You might find your eyes settle on a spot on the wall or an object in the room. At the same time, you might start to notice things in your peripheral vision that would otherwise go unobserved. Your ears might also pick up on sounds that usually slip straight past your conscious attention. Don’t judge any of these sights, sounds (or smells). Just notice them.
Then, try to do something similar (in a subtle way) when you’re talking to a customer. Listen without constantly thinking about your next point. Notice their body language, or the tone of their voice. You don’t have to act on any of it at the time, but it might help you to develop a deeper relationship with them as a person, rather than simply a buyer.
When we use tools like CRM, it’s tempting to try to figure out ways to act on the data as quickly as possible. Think about how you could apply your mindfulness practice here, too.
Delay the process of analysis just for a moment and pause. What information tends to really stick out, and why? What do you notice about the way you approach data, whether it’s the way it’s presented or the time you take to absorb it?
Do the same thing in how you contribute data to tools like Sales Cloud. Are you primarily focused on quantitative or more numbers-oriented kinds of information? Are there other, more qualitative details that selling more mindfully have unearthed? Notice your feelings as you’re entering data -- are you hurriedly trying to get it over with, or are there ways to bring a sense of excitement or even joy into the process?
Remember that mindfulness is referred to as a “practice” for a reason. It’s not something you can necessarily perfect. Just like you have to continue exercising to maintain fitness even after losing weight and gaining strength, mindfulness is like a muscle you’re working over time. And much like exercising can give you more energy for everyday life, a commitment to mindfulness can only make you a better sales person.