Mindful Sales: Stress or Strategy?

Most sales professionals hope to know at the end of their presentation whether the customer wants to move forward. Yet, the timing doesn’t always work out that way due to reasons beyond the rep’s control, i.e., although they’d prefer to be the last vendor presenting, there might be presentations following theirs—or although they’d like to be the one to present to the board for final approval, they don’t always get the opportunity to do so.

In that waiting period between presentation and customer response, the sales representative can still reach out to the customer with a thank you note, with additional supporting material, or with anything else that makes sense. Yet, there still may be a short period of time where they’ll simply need to wait for an answer. Some sales professionals find that their minds fill with worried thoughts during this waiting period. They may think: What if they don’t accept my proposal? I need this sale to make my quota this month. If I don’t get this sale, my job is on the line. All these thoughts will do is cause stress; they won’t change the outcome of the sale. Sales professionals can only control their own actions and put their best foot forward. After they’ve explored the customer’s needs, wants and challenges—and offered their best solution—the next move is the customer’s.

Instead of stressing while waiting for an answer—remember, worrying won’t change the outcome— try strategizing instead. Consider that your customer will have a finite number of responses. Let’s take a look at four likely categories of responses.

1. The customer will say let’s move forward.
2. The customer will have an objection.
3. The customer will decide not to make a decision now, as they’re not ready.
4. The customer will tell you they’re going with someone else.

What would you do in each case?
Number one is easy: Process the sale.
Number two: Can you address the objection?
Number three: Can you explore the reasons for not being ready? If the customer is truly not ready, make sure you cycle back at a later date.
Number four: Did you miss something in the discovery process? Is there still time to go back? If not, are there other opportunities either now or in the future? Are there other departments or individuals within the organization that may have a need for your product or service?

Once you have your strategies in place, it’s time to sit back, let go of your stress, and contact a new prospect during this waiting period. Keep your energy moving, and keep your sales pipeline full.

Identify Customer Needs with Mindful Listening

Listening closely to your prospects and customers can be challenging, especially since the mind can process words at a rate of approximately 500 words per minute, but people talk at a rate of approximately 150 words per minute. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of listening to a customer and realizing your attention has been pulled away by distracting thoughts. You can use mindful listening skills to help you focus on customers, encourage them to talk, and identify their needs and challenges.

One effective mindful listening skill is the technique of paraphrasing what your customers say. I learned about this important skill while in college, working on a telephone crisis intervention hotline. During my training for the job, the supervisor’s instruction to “repeat what the callers say back to them” was confusing. I said, “You want me to repeat what the callers say back to them? Wouldn’t that be awkward?” The supervisor looked at me with a twinkle in her eye. “You think it would be awkward to repeat what the callers say back to them?” I nodded emphatically. “Yes, I do! (pause) Oooh. Now I get it.”

When you repeat your customer’s messages back, it creates understanding and shows the customer you’re listening. It also leaves room for a customer to say, “I didn’t exactly mean that, what I really meant was this.” You can either paraphrase the customer’s words throughout your conversation, or when your customer is finished answering your questions, by saying, “Just so I can make sure I understand . . .,” and then summarize what you just heard.

People love to have someone take an interest in what they say. The more you listen, the more you can learn, and the more you learn, the greater the probability of uncovering a need your product or service can fulfill. You can even practice mindful listening skills with family and friends—they’ll likely appreciate your attention to them!

Focusing on the Task at Hand

One of the divers in the Thai cave rescue of 12 soccer players and their coach spoke of the importance of focus, saying, “You cannot let your mind slip out of focus, because when you start thinking, ‘I’m going to get stuck,’ that’s when you panic. You cannot think about anything else besides the task at hand.” The whole world watched the skill and focus these divers brought to the task at hand—and let out a collective sigh of relief as the last boys were rescued.

While few, if any, people reading this post have the experience of cave diving, most people still need to bring focus to their tasks at hand. A proven way to develop this focus is through the practice of meditation. Contrary to what some might believe, meditation is not a practice of suppressing thoughts, but it’s a process of coming into awareness of them—and then shifting your attention to a neutral object of awareness (such as your breath) each time another thought grabs your attention. Essentially, it’s like you’re taking your mind out of drive and shifting it to neutral–again and again and again, sometimes as often as every second or two. Just as the repetitive motion of doing abdominal crunches builds core strength, this continual shifting of awareness helps build your mind’s muscle—and develop your ability to focus.

People often tell me they can’t meditate, saying that their minds won’t settle down. Like starting any new practice, be patient and give yourself time to learn. It’s best to start small until you get used to meditating, and then you can gradually increase your practice time. You can find a selection of free, three-minute guided meditations here: https://soundcloud.com/joyrains.

You can also weave “mindful moments” into your day to help develop focus. For instance, try a walking meditation by bringing all your attention to the soles of your feet as they connect with the ground. Any time your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the feeling of the soles of your feet. Meditation practice doesn’t have to take a long time; sometimes it can be as simple as remembering to pause—if only for a few moments.

Tips for Turbulence

Whether you experience turbulence on an airplane, in your work life, or in your home life—meditation can help see you through times that are challenging. You can practice meditating by shifting your attention from your thoughts to something neutral, such as your breath or the feeling of your feet on the ground.

If you’re traveling in an airplane that starts to pitch and shake—your imagination may kick into high gear. The scenarios you imagine are dire: the plane dropping thousands of feet, crashing into the ocean, and your family members grieving your demise. Pretty soon you are in a full-blown stress response.

WAIT. Consider that your stress response is more in response to your thoughts than in response to what’s actually happening with the plane. You don’t know that the plane is going to drop, or that you’ll crash into the ocean, or that this will be the end of life as you know it.

CONSIDER. All you know is that you are experiencing turbulence. That’s it. See if you can stop making predictions about a dire future outcome.

CONNECT. Plant your feet on the floor beneath your seat. Feel the connection between the soles of your feet and the carpet. This will help keep your attention in your body, rather than lost in anxious thoughts.

BREATHE. Bring your attention to your breath moving in and out of your body. Perhaps you can notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breathe out. Notice your chest rising and falling. You can even silently say to yourself, “rising, falling” with each inhale and exhale to help keep your attention on your breath.

Every time you notice another anxious thought arising, see if you can release it, and gently bring your attention back to your feet and your breath. Bring your attention back as often as needed, even if it’s every second or two.

Remember, turbulence is not a permanent condition, and this, too, shall pass.

Mindful Selling: Changing the “Rejection” Story

Top baseball players don’t get a hit every time they’re up to bat. If they get 3 hits out of 10 at-bats, they’re doing great.

Same with top salespeople. They don’t close 100% of their sales. They get a certain number of “no’s.”

Hearing the word “no” is part of the selling process. If customers said “yes” all the time, companies wouldn’t need salespeople; they’d only need order-takers.

But some salespeople can feel rejected and become despondent when hearing “no” all day.

Research out of The University of Michigan suggests that the brain processes rejection the same way it processes physical injury. No wonder people can become despondent!

As a career sales professional and a mindfulness instructor, I’d like to put a different spin on the idea of rejection in sales.

One of the concepts I teach in mindfulness is to become aware of the stories you tell yourself. When a prospect says no, do you tell yourself a story that you were rejected?

Consider instead that the prospect simply is not in a place to engage with you at this time.

Maybe you caught the prospect on a bad day.

Maybe the prospect buys from her brother-in-law.

Maybe anything.

If you’re a sales professional, encountering prospects who are not ready to engage is part of your job.

I recommend meeting each prospect or customer with the expectation of moving the sale forward. However, if you meet resistance, know that it’s part of your job. See if you can understand it, so you can figure out your next step.

Note that I said if you meet resistance, not if you meet rejection. Resistance is about the customer’s state of mind.

And that’s what sales is all about. Focusing on your customer’s state of mind: understanding your customers, discovering their needs, and seeing if you can serve them.

Power Your Sales with Awareness


Developing your power of awareness can help power your sales results.

Awareness can help you recognize your internal experiences, such as negative thoughts that could impede your success. For instance, if you hear the economy is in a slump, do you tell yourself a story that your sales will collapse as well? Once you realize you might be harboring a negative thought, you can release it—and replace it with a positive thought, such as “My sales remain strong in all economic conditions.”

Awareness can also help you clear your mind, so you can focus on your external experience—in a sales situation, that would be what your customers are communicating. As your customers talk, pay close attention to verbal and non-verbal cues to help you build rapport, identify needs, and recognize opportunities.

A great way to develop your power of awareness is through practicing meditation, even for short periods of time. Meditation is like taking time out from chopping the tree to sharpen the axe. Your mind is your main selling tool, so it’s vital to keep it sharp, whether through meditation or other techniques. You can find a variety of 3-minute meditations on: https://soundcloud.com/joyrains. Hope you enjoy!

Meditation at Work

managing stress at work

Nine-to-five jobs are no longer the norm. Employees send and receive work-related texts and emails around the clock, as work life spills over into home life. The two aren’t as separate as they used to be.

Since employees spend more hours working, proactive employers give a high priority to employees’ well-being to help prevent job burnout. Companies who want to remain competitive and attract talent are putting practices in place that help create happy, healthy employees.

Take Google, for example. They offer many perks to keep employees happy and healthy: free gourmet cafeterias, nap pods, onsite doctors for free employee checkups—and since 2007, meditation programs. Google management realizes that meditation not only reduces employee stress, but it also improves the company’s bottom line.

This makes perfect sense when you consider the costs of stress in the workplace. The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs American businesses up to $300 billion a year in job turnover costs, healthcare expenditures, and absenteeism.

Companies are wise to take measures to reduce stress. One practice that’s simple to put into place is the ancient practice of meditation. The benefits of meditation can be profound: increased awareness and focus, reduced stress, and enhanced well-being.

Even the scientific journals are weighing in, publishing studies that show meditation in the workplace makes employees more resilient in the face of challenges—and decreases reactivity to stress and the risk of burnout.

If you search online for companies that provide employee meditation programs, you’ll find companies such as Google, Target, General Mills, Intel, and Etsy. These programs show a shift in corporate cultures to more employee-friendly models. For instance, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh places a high value on employee happiness, a model that’s helped his company achieve great success.

Hsieh and other CEO’s realize that a happy, healthy employee is a productive employee. That’s why meditation in the workplace is catching on. Not only is the practice a proven path to happiness and well-being, it’s accessible to anyone, it can be done most anywhere, and best of all, it’s free!

Mindfulness for Sales: How to Use Mindfulness to Accelerate your Sales Success

mindful sales skills training

Mindfulness can help you clear your mind—and increase your sales.

Have you ever been fully engaged with the present moment? Perhaps you’ve experienced present moment awareness when taking a morning jog, or playing fetch with your dog, or watching the ebb and flow of ocean waves. Bringing this quality of awareness to your sales efforts can help you understand your clients and their buying processes—and increase your sales.

Yet, developing present moment awareness can be challenging. People are often pulled away from the present with thoughts that cycle through their minds. Regrets about the past. Worries about the future. Planning. Reminiscing. Ruminating. It’s widely reported that the human mind thinks 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day!

STUFF

I call this mental content “STUFF,” which is an acronym for Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations, and Feelings. People don’t always realize this STUFF is present. It works in the background of the mind like a silent partner, informing and influencing behavior. Although STUFF helps people navigate through life, it can also cloud their thinking.

How STUFF Can Sabotage Sales Success

Imagine a sales call where you’re distracted by thoughts. Maybe you’re worried about meeting your sales quota or landing the account. If your attention is momentarily pulled away, it might be at the moment your client says, “If your software could save us time, that would make a big difference to management.” You could miss this important buying signal if you weren’t fully focused on the present.

Or, imagine being on a call where you have negative preconceived notions, such as I’m probably wasting my time since they don’t have the budget, or I doubt I’ll close this sale. These thoughts won’t serve you. If you’re not conscious of them, they may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, since people will unconsciously match their behavior to their beliefs to create consistency between thought and action.

Even positive preconceived notions can cloud your thinking. For instance, if you’re certain of closing the sale, you could miss important steps in the selling process. Let’s say a client has asked you to stop by their office and it sounds like they’re ready to buy. If you think this sale is a sure thing, you might skip asking important qualifying questions—such as finding out who else is involved in the purchasing decision.

How Mindfulness Helps the Selling Process

Alternatively, imagine approaching the call with present moment awareness. This quality of awareness can help you notice distracting thoughts and refocus your attention. It can also help you notice any preconceived notions, so you can recognize stories you may be telling yourself that aren’t necessarily true. As the old saying goes, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Becoming aware of your STUFF can be a reminder to focus on the present, with a clear, open mind, ready to explore your client’s needs and concerns.

Present moment awareness will also help you notice cues to your client’s thinking. You may become more aware of your client’s body language, such as posture changes, that can signal likes or dislikes. You may become more aware of your client’s audio cues, such as shifts in voice inflection, that can help guide your responses. You may become more aware of subtle, underlying issues as you listen closely to your client’s words.

Simple Ways to Become More Mindful

Clearing the STUFF in your mind will help you develop present moment awareness—also called mindfulness. One effective way to practice being mindful is through the practice of meditation. Meditation is a mental training that is akin to taking your mind out of drive and resting it in neutral, if only for a moment. This training allows you to become aware of your STUFF, so you can respond to situations consciously, rather than react unconsciously.

In meditation, you continually interrupt your STUFF by focusing on a neutral object (called an anchor) that doesn’t stimulate your mind. Examples of commonly used anchors are: your breath; your body’s sensations; a word repeated silently, such as peace; sounds, such as ocean waves; or an object to hold, such as a smooth stone. Every time your mind wanders, gently refocus on your anchor.

Beginning meditators may be surprised at the amount of STUFF they notice. The intent of meditation isn’t to suppress thoughts and feelings. Consider anything that draws attention from your anchor to be like a cloud passing, or like a boat floating by as you watch from the riverbank. Allow it to pass without judgment, and gently refocus on your anchor. The repetitive action of refocusing builds your mind’s muscle and your power of awareness—and trains you to focus on the here and now.

Mindful Prepping for your Sales Meeting

Consider taking time to meditate before your sales call. For example, once your car is parked, sit comfortably and gently lower your eyelids. (Note: don’t attempt meditation while driving!) Start by sitting up straight, without being rigid. Try to release any physical tension, and keep your body relaxed but your mind alert.

Rest your attention on your breathing, without changing anything—just notice. You may notice the pace of your breathing, or the coolness of the air as you inhale and its warmth as you exhale, or the rising and falling of your chest. You could even silently say “rising, falling” with each breath to help you focus. Each time your attention wanders, often each second or two for beginners, gently refocus on your breath. Continue with this practice for a few minutes or more. You may want to set a timer, since it’s not uncommon for beginning meditators to fall asleep when their bodies and minds relax.

Now, imagine going into your client’s office. As you begin your meeting, become aware of the quality of your attention. Notice if you’re able to focus on your client, or if your thoughts are elsewhere. Any time you notice your thoughts wandering away from your client, gently bring them back. Consider your client to be your anchor. Keep your attention on your client’s words, actions, and body language.

A Clear Path to Sales Success

Bringing present moment awareness to your meeting can help you uncover needs, understand objections, and recognize buying signals. Having a clear, open mind will serve both you and your client, as it helps build understanding and can lead to long-term relationships. Instead of focusing on closing the sale, consider focusing on the present moment for a clear path to sales success.

Creative Wellness Ideas for Meetings

Here’s an out-of-the-box idea that can be used for team-building, creativity, problem-solving, walking meditation, and more: bring a portable labyrinth in to your next meeting. The ancient practice of labyrinth walking is perfect for modern times.

No special training is needed. If a person is able to walk, than they can walk a labyrinth.  All one needs to do is start at the beginning and follow the circuitous path to the middle, and then take the same path out again. The twists and turns on the path can help balance left and right sides of the brain and allow for more creativity and well-being, among other great benefits.

Portable labyrinths are often made from heavy canvas and can range from 20 feet to 36 feet in diameter. Permanent labyrinths can be found in parks, medical centers and many more locations. More information on labyrinths and their uses can be found on: http://joyrains.com/workplace-programs/walking-meditation/

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Just 2 minutes (and 12 seconds) a day

Just meditating for two minutes a day can help train your mind. Regular practice is the key to learning any new skill. It’s important to approach meditation in a way that you will feel successful, so you don’t get discouraged and give up. Two minutes is a small enough time commitment to be manageable for many people. Once a daily habit of meditating is developed, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes a day, people often can realize many of the scientifically proven benefits of meditation: reduced stress, increased focus and enhanced positive emotion. Here’s a link to a free two minute (and 12 second) audio meditation:  http://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

reducing stress

Mindfulness at Work: Take Time to Sharpen the Axe!

As the old saying goes, you have to take time out from chopping the tree to sharpen the axe. Since your mind is one of your main tools, it’s vital to keep it sharp. By pausing to take 2 minute mini-meditation breaks throughout the day, you are doing the axe-sharpening work. Yet, often the most difficult part is remembering to pause for your break.

Hang a reminder in your office space: Hang a picture of nature, or a beautiful sunset, or anything that reminds you to take a moment and pause. You could even schedule your breaks into your calendar.

Take a break. Here are three short practices to do at work:

1-Walk mindfully. Bring all your attention to the soles of your feet as they touch the ground. Anytime your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your feet. You can do this while walking in the hallway, walking to the elevator, or anywhere else you have space to walk.
2-Breathe mindfully. Bring all your attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your body. You may want to notice the coolness of the air as you breathe in, and its warmth as you breath out – or you may want to notice your chest rising and falling. Anytime your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Count with each breath until you reach 40. (Or 50, or 60 …)
3-Listen to a short guided meditation. You can find a 2:11 audiio meditation on http://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

By doing this axe-sharpening work, you are clearing your mind, and improving your focus for the tasks that lie ahead. Walking and breathing meditations are available to you anywhere and anytime. It just takes intention – and remembering!

managing stress at work

Walking Meditation at Work

Many people find that managing stress at work can be helped with regular meditation. One effective tool to use in the workplace is a walking meditation. Here’s a situation where a busy executive uses walking meditation to deal with a challenging situation:

While this executive is getting ready for a big presentation in her workplace, her top client calls and says he’s taking his business to another company. The executive is overcome with a whirlwind of emotion. Yet, knowing that she needs to focus for her upcoming presentation, she decides to practice a walking meditation. She knows that walking from one point to the next offers her an opportunity to take a meditation break.

She begins a process of walking mindfully down the corridor of her office building, noticing where her feet connect with the ground. She becomes aware of feelings each time they arise, then shifts her awareness back to her feet. She still has many mixed emotions, but the practice of shifting her awareness to her feet helps her feel more balanced and centered.

She uses a process of walking while silently repeating the words lifting, moving, placing, shifting to help keep her focused in the present moment. As she lifts her right leg, she silently says to herself, “lifting.” As she moves her right leg forward, she silently says, “moving,” as she places her foot on the ground she silently says, “placing,” and as she shifts all her weight to her right foot, she silently says, “shifting.” Then she begins the process again with her left leg: lifting, moving, placing, shifting. She continues silently repeating these words to herself as she continues to walk.

A walking meditation can be done most anywhere, anytime, even for just a couple of minutes. By using simple techniques to help manage stress at work, employee well-being and productivity can dramatically increase.

managing stress at work

Retraining the Anxious Mind

Meditation may not make your anxiety disappear if you are wired to have anxiety. What it can do, however, is to allow you to make a conscious choice about how to respond to the anxiety so you can manage it. The practice of meditation can be completely transformative, as it can actually retrain your brain!

Imagine noticing an anxious thought, such as “My boss will be upset with me,” and then having the awareness to say “Wait a minute . . . I’m making up a story. I don’t even know if my boss will really be upset.” The awareness to discern thoughts (and release those that do not serve) often comes with a regular meditation practice.

Want to start meditating? You can find free guided meditations on http://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/.

reducing stress

Taking Time for Mindfulness at Work

As the old saying goes, you have to take time out from chopping the tree to sharpen the axe. Since your mind is one of your main tools, it’s vital to keep it sharp. By pausing to take 2 minute mini-meditation breaks throughout the day, you are doing the axe-sharpening work. Yet, often the most difficult part is remembering to pause for your break.

Hang a reminder in your office space: Hang a picture of nature, or a beautiful sunset, or anything that reminds you to take a moment and pause. You could even schedule your breaks into your calendar.

Take your break. Here are three short practices to do at work:

1-Walk mindfully. Bring all your attention to the soles of your feet as they touch the ground. Anytime your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your feet. You can do this while walking in the hallway, walking to the elevator, or anywhere else you have space to walk.
2-Breathe mindfully. Bring all your attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your body. You may want to notice the coolness of the air as you breathe in, and its warmth as you breath out – or you may want to notice your chest rising and falling. Anytime your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Count with each breath until you reach 40. (Or 50, or 60 …)
3-Listen to a short guided meditation. You can find a 2:11 audiio meditation on http://joyrains.com/meditation/guided-meditations/

By doing this axe-sharpening work, you are clearing your mind, and improving your focus for the tasks that lie ahead. Walking and breathing meditations are available to you anywhere and anytime. It just takes intention – and remembering!

Reducing Stress at Work—Part II

If you want to reduce your stress at work, consider whether your judgments are causing you additional stress. While judgments serve the purpose of helping us navigate our way in the world, they can also be a root cause of tension and anxiety. If you can, try tuning into your thoughts about your job and the people you work with. Perhaps your thoughts are along the lines of “He is too demanding,” or “They are not doing their task right,” or “She is so difficult!” Often the judgment itself creates tension. Bringing the light of awareness to the judgment can lessen its power, just like pulling aside the curtain in The Wizard of Oz and lessened the power of the Wizard. Notice what happens to your stress level if you simply note the situation around you while releasing your judgment about the situation. See if you can shift your judgmental thoughts to more neutral thoughts, such as “He is asking me to do a lot of work,” or “They are doing their task on a different timetable than mine,” or “She has a lot of requests of me.” Judgments often have an emotional charge to them which can cause stress. By releasing the judgment and the associated emotional charge, you are on the way to reducing your stress at work.

To help develop the ability to release judgments, consider taking up the practice of meditation. You don’t have to spend big blocks of time meditating; even a few minutes a day can begin to make a difference in your life. Can you interrupt your work flow and pause to focus on your breath? Just notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breath out, or notice your chest rising and falling with each breath. Practicing meditation can be very simple, no special equipment is needed, and best of all, it is free!

Reducing Stress at Work—Part I

Raise your hand if you have stress at work. My guess is that if I posed that question to a room filled with people who work, many hands would be raised.

If you’re wondering what contributes to on-the-job stress, here’s one explanation: You may have heard the expression you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I’ll extend that to you generally can’t choose your coworkers, either. It’s likely that those you work with may have very different work styles, values, and priorities than yours. This diversity can make for a wonderful mix of creativity and productivity, but it can also be a source of stress in the workplace.

Consider that you may have a certain view of how things “should” be. Then your boss approaches you with expectations that you find unrealistic. Stress ensues. Or maybe you’re depending on work product from one department so you can complete your tasks. The work isn’t coming to you within the timeframe you expect. Stress ensues. Or perhaps you have a difficult client that is not behaving in a way that you find reasonable. Stress ensues. None of these situations are unfolding in the way you think they “should.”

When one’s view of the way things “should” be meets the reality of the way things really are, stress is often a common side effect. One of the first steps in reducing stress is to accept the way things are. Instead of thinking, “It shouldn’t be this way,” try thinking “This is how it is. Now, how will I respond?” While you may not be able to change your boss’s expectations, your coworker’s habits, or your client’s behavior, perhaps you can change your internal response to those circumstances.

Accepting the way things are can go a long way to reducing stress. This doesn’t mean you should give up your personal power, and it doesn’t mean that you have to like the way things are, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t ask for what you need. But it does mean that if you accept that fact that you can’t always change external events, and you can only change your internal response to those events, this acceptance alone can go a long way to reducing stress at work.