Don't Let Your Brain Screw Up the Sale

Last Updated Jul 1, 2009 8:47 AM EDT

When it comes to success in selling, your brain can be your own worst enemy. If you're like most sales pros, your brain has a tendency to chatter away about the future, when having a conversation with a customer. Even though you're trying to listen, your brain is sending out all sorts of messages like:
  • "If I don't make my quota for the month, my boss is gonna kill me..."
  • "If I don't make this sale, I won't be able to pay my kid's tuition..."
  • "I hope this guy doesn't tell a boring story, because I've got a flight in two hours..."
  • "What should say say next, in response to what he's saying now..."
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.
This monkey-like mental chatter frantically pulls your attention away from the customer and towards towards your own priorities and goals. That can be fatal to actually making the sale because you'll miss cues and clues about what the CUSTOMER wants.

The solution is to treat selling more as a process and less as an achievement. Here's how:

  • STEP #1: Open your posture. Body language and engaged listening are inter-related. When the customer is talking, you'll be more interested, and seem more interested, if your expression and posture indicates that you are interested. This is not trickery; it's everyday human behavior.
  • STEP #2: Look AT the customer. When you're thinking of the future, or something that you're going to say, your eyes will lose focus or drift slightly upwards. Keeping your eyes FOCUSED on the customer (without staring through the customer) forces your mind into the moment.
  • STEP #3: Be aware of your breathing. Because you're human, it's nearly impossible to keep all of your thoughts away from yourself. Rather than listen to your internal chatter, become aware of the sound and flow of your breathing, which won't distract from your focus on the customer.
  • STEP #4: Stop to take notes. When the customer says something that you're sure is important, rather than breaking your focus by glancing down and making a note, ask for a moment's pause, and then make a note. Segmenting the two activities ensures that you're present during the conversation.
  • STEP #5: Trust your instincts. You may believe you need to analyze everything that's going on in the conversation in order to come up with the "right" response. However, you're more likely to say the "right" thing if you're actively listening and then responding in a way that "feels" right.
  • STEP #6: Be patient with yourself. Selling is the study of a lifetime, so you can't expect to grasp every concept or master every technique immediately. Fortunately, what's most important in sales is the combination of intention and attention. Make the sale about the customer. It's really that simple.
The above is based partly on my own experience, but mostly on a conversation I had on this subject a few years ago with the ever-engaging Jeff Seeley, CEO of the sales training firm Carew International.