A sales manager recently expressed his frustration to me:
My Wealth Advisors are commission only. They eat what they kill. So, what I see happening all the time is that as soon as the client mentions something that links to a possible sale, they jump on it and stop listening. They’re no longer present.
There are obvious consequences.
- hears only the ‘what’, not the client’s feelings or opinion about it, and then alienates the client with an inappropriate response
- jumps to pitching a product that isn’t actually what the client wants
- misses clues and opportunities for other ways to help, because they have tunnel vision about a possible sale
This is a trap we can all fall into, whether in a sales context or not.
A friend is sharing a story and we drift and think about needing to get an oil change or pick up groceries.
We’re at a networking event and while someone is making introductions, we’re so busy thinking about how they could help our career, that we forget their name the second they’ve said it.
Part of the challenge to being fully present is our biological wiring. Human brains work significantly faster than humans can speak. We have to consciously work against this predisposition in order to remain present.
Meditation is a great way to develop the skill of being present.
The practice of Zen has wisdom that can be leveraged in sales.
While its practitioners caution us that Zen cannot be explained but must be experienced to be known, a short-form attempt to describe it is this:
Zen is the experience of living from moment to moment, in the here and now, the consistent practice of which leads to enlightenment.
My meditation habits are sporadic at best. But in the periods where I am more consistent, I notice almost immediately an improvement in my ability to be more present. This feels amazing!
Whether you’re interested in meditation or not, you can still enjoy the advantages of being present, with a little practice during your sales interactions.
Here are three tips:
Jot down some notes beforehand
As part of your preparation, bullet-point some notes on questions you want to ask, and a short list of offerings that may be suitable. Now that you have some crib notes, you can relax. They are there to refer to if you need them. That should free you up to be fully present without the worry of forgetting something.
When you ‘eat what you kill’, it’s hard to forget about sales targets and commission and bills coming due. And yet, all of those concerns pull your focus away from the conversation at hand. As soon as you notice a stress response kicking in (tight stomach or shoulders, shallow breathing, busy brain, sweaty hands, rapid pulse), take a few slow, deep breaths. This simple tool stops the cycle of reacting. It calms you down and brings you back to the present moment.
Maintain eye contact
Eye contact creates a feedback loop that helps us stay present. It communicates true interest. When your client sees that you are really listening, they give you more. That in turn motivates you to stay with them in that moment, and the next, and the next. A powerful connection is made.
Of course, you want to avoid boring into their eyes with a creepy, unrelenting stare. Aim for comfortable, consistent eye contact while occasionally glancing away to make a note, if you need to.
It’s perfectly normal for our thoughts to drift. The challenge is to catch yourself at it and come back to being present with your client.
The rewards are significant. The more present you are, the more you will
- catch all the obvious opportunities to make a sale
- pick up on subtext to understand what they really care about
- catch the signals that tell you the right moment to ask a question or make an offer
When you are fully there with them in the moment, selling doesn’t feel like selling at all. It’s simply a natural unfolding of the conversation.
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Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach serving the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business booked. Click here to find out more about Kira.