The Most Important Thing You Can Do Before Your Next Sales Call

Breathe.

Sounds simple, right? Just breathe. Almost sounds silly…of course you’re going to breathe.

But, before you head into that pitch, presentation or meeting – really breathe – focus on it. Spend a few minutes in silence, paying attention to your breath. Center yourself and focus.

Meditation does not need to involve a cushion, incense, candles and chanting. Taking a few minutes before you get out of your car or before you dial the phone can make all the difference in the world. Here’s something that works for me:

  • Put both feet on the floor
  • Sit upright but not too rigid. The most important thing is to keep your back straight
  • Place your hands on your lap. Rest them on your thighs or fold them
  • Imagine a tiny string is pulling your head up to the ceiling. This posture – back straight and upright – should feel natural and not forced
  • Close your eyes or keep them half open with your gaze at a forty-five degree angle
  • Pay close attention to your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall with each breath. Stay focused on this as long as you can but don’t get frustrated if your mind starts to wander (it will)
  • Count the breaths if that helps you stay focused

Try this for five minutes. I don’t know if it will work for you but I’m often amazed at what a difference it makes. Hopefully you’ll start that sales call more focused, aware and in the moment.

Here’s my view during those few minutes of meditation before a meeting…

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What Salesforce’s CEO knows about Zen

I really, really, really wish I could go to Dreamforce this year. Dreamforce is Salesforce’s annual gathering of sales professionals, vendors and the sales & business community. There’s always great keynotes and top tier entertainment – plus, I’m a big fan of the company and their philosophy.

In particular, I love this quote from CEO, Mark Benioff: “I strongly believe that the business of a business is to improve the world.” Sounds something like a Bodhisattva, right?  Here’s a link to what I wrote about bodhisattvas in our midst, particularly in the business world.

A big reason I’d like to be in San Francisco for the event this year is the fact that they’ve invited 20 buddhist monks from Plum Village to attend and lead daily mindfulness sessions. I LOVE the fact that the biggest CRM system in the world – one that is a daily practice for so many sales professionals like me – recognizes the need for mindfulness in our lives and in our work.

Here’s a video about Salesforce’s commitment to mindfulness.

Salesforce isn’t just doing this all for show – they really embody this philosophy. They have “mindfulness zones” on every floor of their new HQ building (see article here) and Mark spoke about what prompted the creation of these zones in an article for Forbes early this year. He was inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, a revered Vietnames monk who, along with 30 other monks, stayed at Benioff’s house last year.

It’s encouraging that more and more business leaders recognize the value of meditation and mindfulness.

Next time you’re entering an Opportunity, adding an Account or assigning a Task in Salesforce, think of those monks, take a deep breath and get a little Zen.

Give Help, Get Help: How Generosity Drives Sales Success

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I’m constantly reminded of the importance – in business and throughout our entire lives – of keeping yourself open to all things. This includes stories, news, situations, circumstances and, of course, the people you meet. How many times have you serendipitously engaged with someone who provided some help and guidance just when you needed it?

This happened to me once again last week. I’ve been pursuing a major prospect – a Fortune 100 company – for six months and had connected with multiple people inside the organization. As often happens, getting feedback on their needs and challenges was proving difficult and while trying to further landscape the company to identify additional decision makers, I was coming up empty. To make matters worse, the people I’d initially met with were starting to go dark.

Cut to just last week when I learned that a colleague of mine in a different department is married to a senior executive at this very company. And, he had dotted-line oversight on one of the people I’d initially met with. It’s a small world and we’re all connected. Recently I’d helped this colleague of mine on a few projects and had built a nice relationship by cultivating a spirit of generosity…it’s the timeless approach of simply helping others whenever possible. So, she was happy to connect me with her spouse and I set up a time to meet.

Over coffee, in less than an hour, I was given all of the key pieces of information I’d need to craft solutions that could potentially help their business. And, critically, these are very different from the ideas I’d initially proposed. In one way this is “back to the drawing board” and will require a good deal of work to pivot and change my approach. On the other hand, this conversation saved me months of slogging and pushing what was, more than likely, an idea that would go nowhere.

The importance of having an inside coach at any organization cannot be overstated…and, the best way to find one is to be open, generous and willing to help others often. It also helps to be open to change (a big subject in buddhism that we’ll address at another time)!

Sales Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Sales Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Or, Just Shut Up and Listen.

Arguably the most important book in Western Buddhism is “Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. It’s certainly the most famous. Suzuki came to the United States from Japan in 1961 and founded the Zen Center of San Francisco which became the jumping off point for many Zen students in America and was a major factor in establishing Zen in the West. The book is a compilation of his ‘Dharma Talks’ that were compiled by his students throughout the 1960s.

The title of the book is based on one of his quotes, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Its meaning is pretty clear – always aim to look at the world and what’s in front of you with fresh eyes; don’t bring your pre-conceived notions into situations – this will only detract from what is really going on at this moment. It’s a way of life that Suzuki continually pushed his students toward and is a central tenet that comes up often in Zen Buddhism.

A sales professional can learn a lot from this simple, powerful quote.

Think about the last time you were in front of a client or prospect and were engaging in a needs analysis. In a previous post I touched on the crucial importance of the CNA (Client Needs Analysis) in the sales process. When asking your questions, did you assume or anticipate what your client would say? Were you already anticipating your follow up question/statement? Or, worse – did you go into the meeting with a pretty good idea of what product or service of yours would solve their problem? Zen points out over and over again that this is not a good approach since it limits our ability to see clearly and, therefore, to truly finding innovative solutions to our clients’ problems.

One way to use your beginner’s mind is by simply listening – true, active listening. Understand what your prospect is communicating to you without judgements or assumptions.

Next time you’re in a CNA or asking questions, try to adopt that ‘beginner’s mindset’. Remember your first week in sales or the first time you were representing a new company or new product. How did you interact with the prospect and what questions did you ask? How was your approach different? Try to take this mindset into your day today – be open to whatever comes up and see the situation with fresh eyes.

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