Much has been made of mindfulness for managers in organisations of late. Very little has been written about how mindfulness could help sales professionals. We catch up with one of our specialist associates in this area, Brodie. With an MSc in coaching, Brodie is not one to be swayed by the latest fad in thinking. So is mindfulness a valuable approach for sales, or is it just for the ‘others’?
Which areas of sales performance do you think mindfulness has the most to offer?
This is a great question, to be clear mindfulness can mean different things to different people. My experience and approach to mindfulness is using regular meditation techniques to understand and notice when our bodies react subconsciously, to build new neural pathways ¹ and develop greater awareness of ourselves and others around us.
So back to the question, I believe mindfulness can support sales people in the following ways;
And, more importantly research has identified these as benefits of regular mindfulness meditation.
How might it help sales people form better relationships with customers?
As a sales person you have access to lots of great sales training, learning very important skills, these can generally be quite transactional approaches, such as mirroring someone’s gestures, asking great questions, re-phrasing and paraphrasing. Imagine if you had the skills to pay your full attention to what is happening in the room, rather than ‘mirroring’ the person in front of you. Having the self-awareness to understand the impact you are having in the conversation as well as having awareness of how others are feeling, responding and participating.
Sales is all about the ability to connect with others, build relationships quickly and authentically. Developing a clear understanding of their needs and objectives and being able to co-develop excellent solutions and build relationships. Mindfulness lies at the core of these qualities.
Could it really make a difference to achievement of targets?
I guess my first response is, what behaviours do you believe need to be improved to make a difference to achieving targets? My thoughts are, if you run sales meetings pre-occupied by your needs to ‘seal the deal’ to hit your monthly target, or frustrations about the slowness of the process, or generally being absent minded by external factors, you will have little awareness of the other persons needs and wants. The chances are you are being driven by a reactive mind. Or as some psychologists call it the ‘monkey mind’ or ‘hidden chimp’. You might not even realise your brain is doing this. How often do you speak before you’ve even thought about what you are going to say? Driven by the autopilot of your mind or the normal sales language you always use. Having this lack of self-awareness and the awareness of your client’s needs means you are missing important clues about what is happening for your customer.
Let’s take a look at a few Olympic medallists and professional sports personalities such as Novak Djokovic, Michael Jordan, Jonny Wilkinson, Tom Daley and Laura Trott to name a few. They practice being mindful to develop their present moment awareness and deliver high performance. They are not being side tracked by their ‘monkey minds’, which can offer a turmoil of distracting thoughts and feelings such as ‘you are not good enough’, or ‘x can run / cycle faster than you’ or ‘you are going to miss’. Jonny Wilkinson used mindfulness to plant his feet on the ground, breathe deeply and bring himself powerfully to the present moment. Not being overwhelmed by thoughts or the crowd and the enormity of the moment. I guess, if they believe it makes a difference to performance then my answer is yes, with regular practice mindfulness can make a difference.
The sales job can be a stressful one. What can sales people learn from mindfulness techniques that will help?
There has been significant research by Jon Kabat-Zinn in to how mindfulness can support people in stressful situations and help with their anxiety, amongst other benefits. Having the ability to bring mindfulness to the sales environment is the simple act of being present in the moment. Not being distracted by many thoughts racing through your mind, an example would be, how often whilst reading this has your mind offered ‘thoughts’ or ‘distractions’ to do something else or making judgements. In stressful situations you can easily be distracted by the ‘thought train’ of untruths. This can play havoc with our minds and bodies, which easily react subconsciously with a flurry of hormone release, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, creating tension all within microseconds.
By developing the skill to become aware of your thoughts, opinions, emotions or feelings, can momentarily stop the constant flow. You can then make a choice to let them pass rather than allowing them to cloud the moment or react instantaneously without consideration of the impact on yourself or the person in front of you.
What is your recommendation about how sales managers can help introduce mindfulness to their teams?
I think many people can be turned off by the term mindfulness, it can be seen as a bit fluffy or spiritual. Really it is more about developing a heightened state of mental attention towards current internal and external stimuli, giving full attention to the present moment and choosing to respond rather than react. As there is so much science and research about mindfulness, I believe it has far more rigour and should be offered as such. When there are so many professional people both in sport and business that recommend practising mindfulness for enhancing performance, then sharing the benefits and offering mindfulness courses would be a great start. It is a skill that can be learned but, is not for everyone.
The caveat is, like learning any new skill it takes practise to develop just like building muscles at the gym. You need to visit the gym regularly to have significant change.
If you are motivated to support your team using mindfulness practices, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org