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.