dilemmasAs summer winds down and we all gear up for the fall, I offer a summer rerun of the most popular and commented-upon post to this Soul of Selling blog: The Seller’s Discomfort Dilemma...

The “Discomfort Dilemma” shows up in almost every aspect of life. We just see it more often, and in more vibrant color, when we sell because selling is life on steroids.

People who enjoy selling have almost always mastered the Discomfort Dilemma. People who do not enjoy selling have rarely mastered it. You can succeed in sales without a command of the Discomfort Dilemma—but it’s not a pretty sight.

The Discomfort Dilemma is that perilous moment when you stand poised between moving forward and doing whatever is the next step in the selling process—or doing something to avoid it. That next step might be:

  • Picking up the phone again to make the next call
  • Calling back the person you agreed to call next week (now this week) and who you’re afraid will say “No”
  • Making a cold call
  • Making a promise for results
  • Calling someone you consider intimidating, but who might be a good source of leads
  • Anything that involves discomfort, the possibility of failure, or any potential for rejection—or that you just plain don’t wanna do!

When you’re on the horns of the Discomfort Dilemma, the next step always seems agonizing or impossible. You want to dive under the bed and mainline chocolate. You’ll do almost anything to avoid the imagined discomfort of that next step—even when you know from bitter experience that trying to avoid it only makes you more uncomfortable.

That next step is still before you when you finish mainlining the chocolate, only now it seems even bigger. It’s later in the game. You feel even more behind the Eight Ball, and you’re not sure you can trust yourself now. You feel as if, in order to make up for having gotten off track, you have to produce more results, better results, and you have to produce them more quickly.

“There’s a split second that defines each day for me,” Jack said. “It’s that instant when I’m deciding whether to pick up the phone and sell—or to play a computer game.”

“Why do you want to play the computer game?” I asked him.

“Because the idea of making the calls is uncomfortable. When I’m actually making calls, I get into it. But the idea of them, before I start, just seems overwhelming. I want to do anything else. I feel like I need a break, even if it’s nine o’clock in the morning.”

“Why not just take the morning off?”

“Because I’m working!” Then he added sheepishly, “Except, I’m not.”

“Do you enjoy playing computer games?”

“Yes and no. It’s fun. I numb out for a few minutes, but after a minute or two, I start feeling stressed and guilty. I know the calls aren’t going to go away. I’ll still have to do them, but I’ll be behind. It doesn’t make any sense. In the end, it’s worse to play the game, but sometimes I can’t help myself.”

Jack is describing the Discomfort Dilemma. Your Discomfort Dilemmas may be light or intense—but you’ll be ahead of the game if you understand what they are, where they come from, how they work, and how to pass through them with ease and grace.

In the midst of the Discomfort Dilemma, almost anywhere seems better than where you are. And there are so many more comfortable things to do! You could call a friend. You need to keep up these relationships, after all. You could play with the cat. The poor thing needs exercise. You could email your aunt, or even pay the bills. Righteous activities!

Hey, you could shampoo the rug! Sure, it’s “call time,” but just last week you read an article on how crucial it is to shampoo your rugs on a regular basis to keep them mold-free and extend their life! Come to think of it, you read that article during a “call time,” too. Which only shows how important it is to be flexible about what you do in “call time!” Otherwise, you wouldn’t know about the importance of regular rug care—and you might be tempted to make sales calls, rather than doing what you really need to do, which is obviously to shampoo the rug.

Bills need to be paid. Rugs need to be shampooed. But not during the time when you said you’d make calls. During that time, cleaning the bird cage or fish tank are going to seem like good ideas—to say nothing of kicking back with a cup of coffee to chat with a friend. Knowing that the Discomfort Dilemma will never go away, and understanding how it works, gives you a leg up.

The Discomfort Dilemma pops up when you start moving forward, or doing anything new. These things represent change—however small, and however good. Even if you’re just making the same kind of calls you made yesterday, you are talking to new people and moving closer to your promise. That’s change. When change of any kind is in the air, mental chatter gets startled and wakes up—on the wrong side of the bed. It scowls and stamps. It pouts, and begins its siren songs:

  • I’m only thinking of you. You need a rest. Take a load off. Relax! You’ll do better in the long run.
  • It’ll sharpen your wits to play computer games. You need that.
  • C’mon, don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud! You’re human. Life’s too short to work that hard. Give yourself a break. Here, try this tiny piece of chocolate… And before you know it, you’re mainlining.

When mental chatter starts cajoling and nattering, remember that it does not always have your best interests at heart. You can postpone or delay whatever is next, but ultimately you have to do it. The longer you put it off, the longer you prolong the agony and the more uncomfortable it becomes.

I struggled with the Discomfort Dilemma for years, and became a champion computer game player in the process. I also became quite anxious. The stress of backing away from uncomfortable “next steps,” and then running back to fix everything at the last minute, double speed, started to take its toll. Cortisol and other stress hormones surged into my system until, finally, I reached my pain threshold. I needed a plan to master the Discomfort Dilemma, and put together two sets of tools: one to prepare me to deal effectively with the Discomfort Dilemma, and the other to use when the Dilemma was already upon me.

In the world of selling, Surprises ‘R’ Us. We’ll always have to think and speak on our feet, so it behooves us to prepare for anything we know is coming our way. The Discomfort Dilemma is one of those things. These three tools will help you get ready to handle the Dilemma with ease and grace.

1. Identify your “most likely” Discomfort Dilemmas. We all have different triggers. When you know where your personal Dilemmas are most likely to occur, they lose the element of surprise and you are in better shape to handle them. Where are your Discomfort Dilemmas? Do you hate that first call, but then pick up steam as you go forward? Do you want to stop after the first “No?” What about the first time you meet a contact in person?

2. Anticipate your “most likely mental chatter.” Each time a Dilemma occurs, it carries with it surround-sound mental chatter. And not just any mental chatter. The chatter you hear will be put together especially for you. It will consist of the specific complaints, arguments and whining to which you are most susceptible. Mental chatter is no fool. It’s not going to tempt you with grousing and whimpering that would appeal to somebody else. It will choose exactly the words that are most likely to make you bite! It knows where you are vulnerable, and zeros in on that precise spot. How does it know? It’s been living with you for as many years as you have been alive. If subtle logic works, that’s what mental chatter will use. If smart and sassy works, you’ll hear that. If kicking and screaming draws you in, expect that. It might sound like this:

  • Hey, you guaranteed you would do this with integrity. Shouldn’t you balance your checkbook rather than make calls?
  • Nobody’s the boss of me. I know what I’m doing, and I say I need a break.
  • It’s just not fair. Other people don’t have to be this uncomfortable.

Take the time to anticipate not only when the Dilemma will strike, but what it will sound like. Then you’ll hear a piece of mental chatter float through your mind, and think, “Hey, that’s exactly what was on my list of ‘Most likely mental chatter!’ It’s floating through my mind, right now, as we speak!” The minute you recognize that, you are observing the chatter, rather than letting it drag you forward automatically. When you are observing something, you are slightly removed from it. It’s not you; it’s outside you and you are looking at it. It loses its power over you.

3. Find your “fixes.” For each of your “most likely” Discomfort Dilemmas, devise a “fix” that gets you moving past that paralyzing moment of indecision and takes you into action. Laurie hated to make the first call of the day. She realized that she was uncomfortable switching from the personal activities of her morning—getting the kids off to school, meditating, stretching, and having a cup of coffee with the paper—to the activities of her sales job. Her “fix” was to spend a moment before she picked up the phone remembering a recent call that had been particularly pleasant, or even mocking up in her mind how she wanted the first few calls to go. That got her energized, and on her way.

4. Plan rewards. When the Discomfort Dilemma is upon you, your mind won’t want to consider ways to reward yourself when you finish the task. It will want to keep pestering you about not doing the next step. Create a “rewards bank”—a massage, walk in the par, movie with a friend—and be sure to follow through with the reward!

The better prepared you are to meet the Discomfort Dilemma, the easier it will be to walk forward without “postponing” or “delaying.”

How to manage the moment when you’re standing in the midst of the Dilemma? The negative chatter is getting louder and more persuasive. You’re starting to lose ground, and need traction quickly. What do you do? Here are some tools you can grab quickly, in the midst of the Dilemma, to get back on track:

TOOL #1: Define the task. When the Discomfort Dilemma takes hold, it’s easy to confuse one call with twenty calls, and with the follow-ups to all those calls, and with all the other things you need to do that day like grocery shopping, a staff meeting, a report and your kid’s birthday party. Instead of one phone call, you’re looking at a huge miasma of “to do’s.” It’s staggering, and overwhelming. One task has become, in your mind, a shapeless and growing blob. There is no good place to begin, and so you have to retreat. The first antidote is to define clearly the one task that is actually before you. Is it one call? Polishing one part of your presentation? Write it down, and be very specific. Only let yourself write down that one task.

TOOL #2: Write down the chatter, and then turn it around. When you feel yourself succumbing to mental chatter’s siren call, take five minutes to write down everything it is saying. Again, putting these negative or fearful thoughts on paper, or in a computer file, places you in the observational position. You can observe them, rather than being them.

TOOL #3: Connect with your purpose. It’s easier to get where you’re going if you know why you are going there. Why is this particular task important? Your reason might be altruistic—to share your widget or vision with the world. It might be practical—to make money to pay the rent, or buy a car, or take the family on a great vacation. It might be all of these things. The purpose itself isn’t as important as the fact that you have one, and that you know what it is. That gives you the energy to get there.

TOOL #4: Be gentle with yourself. In the midst of the Discomfort Dilemma, we have a tendency to be harsh and punitive with ourselves. We want to be “disciplined.” We tell ourselves sternly, “Don’t you dare start mainlining that chocolate! Don’t you dare open that computer game!” This strategy almost always fails, and often produces exactly the opposite of the intended result. I have seen it turn fifty-year-old master sellers into recalcitrant teenagers who spit back, “Oh, YEAH!? Watch me!” Do what is there to be done, then let yourself relax into a feeling of accomplishment.

Mastering the Discomfort Dilemma makes you senior to any situation. You own the paradox of becoming more comfortable by doing the uncomfortable thing. That is a key to the Soul of Selling—and to a happy and successful life.

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dinner partyWhat to do when we get that queasy, uneasy feeling that maybe we should have gone to plumbing school instead of selling? (We’re not the only ones. Every seller has had that feeling at some point.)

Here’s what I do. I pretend I’m giving a dinner party, and calling people to invite them. That’s fun. It’ll be a great evening, people will be delighted that I called, and I’ll be enthusiastic about giving them the party info and finding out whether or not they can come! What’s not to like? Instead of feeling fearful or burdened, I suddenly feel eager and confident.

In fact, about the only difference between selling and inviting people to a dinner party is that there’s no cooking or cleaning involved. I can even use the 6 Soul of Selling steps to guide the way…

1. PUT DOWN YOUR BAGGAGE AND FIX WHAT YOU CAN. Before I call to invite people, is there anything weighing on my mind that might make it less fun? Oh, yeah. I kind of do remember that Thanksgiving when I experimented with nuking the turkey in a plastic bag…  But that was then, this is now, and I’m not going to do it again. Besides, I’m serving salmon and not going near the microwave.  And I’ve already scheduled cleaning those nearly opaque windows, so I’m set to go.

2. PINPOINT YOUR PASSIONS. This salmon is melt in your mouth. I’m also doing Vegetable Mornay and a faboo crisp salad, and bunches of other succulent things—plus a Chocolate Decadence Cake for dessert. And I love these people, some of whom haven’t even met one another, so it’ll be a treat for them as well.

3. CREATE YOUR SPEAKING BANK. What info do people need—date, time, dress, and what else? I’ll tell them I have a new, out-of-the-box salmon recipe, and give some intriguing details about the other guests whom they don’t know.

4. PROMISE YOUR RESULT.  How many people do I want? I’ve planned four, but do I want to expand to eight? Can I manage that? Can I commit to it?

5. CONDUCT THE 10-POINT HONORING SALES CONVERSATION. This is the easy part, calling to share the excitement and get people on board. Those ten points will keep me on track, with my attention on the other person getting clear, committed, and looking forward to the event.

6. KEEP GOING UNTIL YOU GET THE RESULT. If I’m planning for eight people and one can’t come, who is my backup invitee? Can some people say “no” without my going into a tailspin and thinking they hate me? If eight is really the number I envision for this dinner party, and I do hear “no” from a few people, can I have fun juggling and filling out the guest list?

We sell either because we’ve chosen it as a profession, or because we have something we want to offer people—and that means we have to get out and sell it. In either case, we’re better off if we’re having fun, and so are the people to whom we make our offer. Bon appetit!

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8 secretsThere’s no shortage of information out there about how to construct the “perfect” sales presentations—whether in person, on the phone, or online. I find a lot of this material depressing, because it seems increasingly geared to boxing clients into a corner where they feel stupid or look downright recalcitrant if they don’t buy.

My own opinions about how to construct and deliver a sales presentation that serves people are included in The Soul of Selling’s Step #3, Create Your Speaking Bank, and Step #6, Conduct the 10-Touchstone Honoring Sales Conversation.

Today, I want to talk about something much more fundamental: How to be with your potential client or customer while you have that conversation, either in person or on the phone. I find that people are most likely to want more when I remember these eight guidelines:

We all start out intending to do this, but occasionally our attention drifts back into thoughts like, “How am I doing? Am I doing it right? Where am I in the Speaking Bank? What should I say next? What does he or she think of me?” If this happens, just notice the thought, let it go, and bring yourself back to the other person—just as you might in meditation. This guideline is actually as much for you as for others. We all know that the best cure for stage fright is to throw your attention out to the audience. Concentrate on contributing to your potential client, and you’ll forget to worry about how you are doing.

If you are with people physically, pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and other clues. If you’re on the phone, feel into the energy. Are they closing down? Tread softly for a while, or ask them a question. When you’re aware of how they are responding, you’re in a position to make course corrections.

Let your inspiration about your product or service live within you. Call it up, and speak from that place.  Let people ride your energy, and get enthusiastic with you.

Wait! Should you be listening to them with more than your ears or calling forth your own enthusiasm? Both! Think back to the first time you tried this trick, and how little time it took to go from total fumbling, to mastery. It’s the same here. You’re balancing two easy, enjoyable things.

When you ride a bike or fly from San Francisco to New York, you’re almost never going in a straight line. Selling, too, is all about course correction. You’re alert to people’s reactions and sensitive to whether they need you to step forward, or to step back a little. You can modulate the conversation with your tone of voice and your manner, always creating an environment in which people feel more comfortable, more relaxed about listening to you and responding truthfully.

Remember, it’s their show—not ours. They are the stars, and the attention is on them. If  they don’t move as quickly as you do mentally, slow down. If they want to move more quickly, speed up. Stay centered in yourself and serve your product well, but make the style of your presentation work for your clients—whether or not that style is your first choice.

Sometimes conversations become baffling—in sales and in life. When I just can’t figure out what’s going on, what people are thinking, or what they need, I’ve found that the best thing is simply to tell the truth. If I ask a question or two and get monosyllabic answers, and I can’t see any other clues, I might ask, “Is this if interest to you?” or “Is this making sense?” or even, “I’m confused. Tell me what you’d like.” Of course, I have to be prepared for honest answers. And if all else fails, remember,..

We’re all human. We all have our foibles, our acts, our fears, and our greatness. Forget about how you “should” act, and be yourself. People appreciate authenticity more than we can imagine. It gives them permission to be real as well.  Some of my best moments in selling have come when I took off my seller hat and said something like, “You know, it doesn’t seem like I’m giving you what you need, and I can’t figure out what that is. Can you help me out?” Then, whatever they tell you, just take them at their word.

The bottom line is that you can’t go wrong if you honor them, keep your attention on serving them, and tell the truth.

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What Are You Really Selling?

handshakeIf you sell a service, you are probably selling a relationship.

Cleaning my bookshelves last week, I came across Selling the Invisible, by Harry Beckwith, a wonderful and nuanced book that I recommend to anyone who sells a service. I took Beckwith’s main premise to be that the more invisible the service you sell, the more you are really selling yourself and the relationship you will have with your clients.

More often than we imagine, people will make their decision based on what it feels like to be standing or sitting there with us, in that moment, talking about the service and our future together. And the more intimate their relationship with us will be after the sale, the more they are focused on how it feels to be with us, what they think we think of them, and how safe it seems to open up and give us what we need to help them.

The levels of post-sale relationship vary, and you may categorize certain services differently from how I do here, but basically we’re talking about four levels:

LITTLE OR NONE. If you sell a product like a car or toaster, you are talking about a physical object that is separate from both you and your customers. People can kick the tires, or plug it in and watch it make toast. You’re talking specs, known analytics, maybe some Consumer Reports data. Whether or not they like and trust you is still relevant, but less so. Once they’ve bought the product, they’re outta there and will probably never see you again.

WARMER. If you sell a service like legal work or accountancy, people know that they will see you again, share personal information with you, and maybe put a part of their lives in your hands. They need to trust you, and some will want to like you. Without any proof that you will do a good job, they need to feel good enough about you—if only on an intuitive level—that they’re willing to put out money before they know how well you will actually perform.

WARMER STILL. If you provide a service like hair styling, personal assistant or organizer, or coaching, trust may need to be even stronger. People need to know that you will not harm them or use their intimate information against them. They may actually be more vulnerable with an attorney, but they’re likely to feel more vulnerable with someone who is going to see their physical, psychological, or professional messes, and who may even be holding a pair of sharp scissors. When you talk with them, they need to feel secure that you are a good person—and perhaps more importantly, that you know they are good people and that you honor and respect them.

HOT. If you sell more intimate services like bodywork or spa treatments that involve physical contact, trust may be even more important. Certainly, they need to know that you are an honorable person who respects both them and the standards of your profession.

How can you give people this confidence? How can you begin a relationship that they want to continue, one in which they trust you and know that you honor, respect, and appreciate them?

There’s only one solution: Truly honoring, respecting, and appreciating them—and being clear that you provide a service that will benefit them, and make their lives richer, better, and/or easier.

If you do that, they will get it every time. Your sales conversations will be a fun, deep, clear, and relaxed. And that will be just as wonderful for you as it is for them.

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SELLING as LIFE: The Person I Always Wanted to Be

selling as lifeI always tell people that I created the Soul of Selling system to shape myself into the person I’d always wanted to be. That person was far more generous, compassionate, loving, and powerful than I was—so I designed a system in which you could only access power by demonstrating those qualities.

In other words, selling words, you guaranteed your numbers (power)—and in order to keep going until you got those numbers, you had to be generous, compassionate, and loving.  I’m not saying I totally embody those qualities today, but I’m way ahead of where I would have been without the Soul of Selling!

The more I see of selling and of life, the more I realize that selling is a metaphor for life—and that who we are as sellers both reflects and affects who we are in “regular” life.

Selling is life on steroids, so how we shape ourselves as sellers influences who we become as people. Here are some things people have said about why they have trouble selling:

  • I don’t think I’m worthy of success.
  • I’m afraid of failing, so I don’t give my all.
  • I don’t want to be the adult, the one in charge of behaving themselves.
  • I procrastinate, and put everything off until the last minute.
  • I drive myself too fast, and then don’t have as much fun.
  • I start out well, but then lose steam and don’t know how to re-energize myself.

Obviously, these conditions affect their lives as well as their sales results. Simply knowing that we have these limiting habits or beliefs can help us start to let go of them. The first step is putting those thoughts outside ourselves, so that we can observe them and be on the lookout for them.

Once we see the thoughts and conditions that are holding us back, making us less the people we want to be, we can do something about it. One “fix” is simply knowing what they are. Next, we can write about the people we want to become and the qualities we want to encourage in ourselves.

Here are some “additions” people have challenged themselves to embody:

  • I want to be a powerful person who says what they will do, and does it without a lot of drama or effort.
  • I want to be a person who genuinely likes and want to serve people, and to whom people look for support and guidance.
  • I want to be someone who sees the best in everyone, and around whom people just feel good.

It’s not magic, and it doesn’t always happen overnight, but putting some attention on who we want to be, and some energy into becoming that person, puts us ahead of the game—and makes the game, selling, and life more fun.

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3 radical ideasThe Soul of Selling is based on 3 radical ideas:

1. You can get the exact sales results you want, every time.
2. You can do this while honoring, respecting, and appreciating everyone with whom you speak–whether or not they buy.
3. You can feed your own soul and have fun in the process.

Sales trainers usually say that #1 and #2 are mutually exclusive, or #2 and #3, or #1 and #3… or really, all of them. Not true!

Here’s the punch line, the key to opening all three doors at the same time: You make your sales conversation so connected, so clear, and so enriching for both of you that you actually look forward to having it as many times as necessary in order to reach your sales goal.

When you conduct the 10-Point Honoring Sales Conversation in The Soul of Selling book, it’s often the high point of the other person’s day—or week, or month. They know that they have been invited into a connection and honored as a person, not as a “prospect.” They haven’t been manipulated. Rather, they have been coached to clarity about whether or not they want to buy. Regardless of the outcome, they have been heard and respected for who they are.

You’ve had the lush experience of a deep connection with someone whom you truly want to serve. You know whether they’re in or out, and you respect their decision. You feel good about yourself for how you’ve interacted with them, and have enjoyed connecting with another human being in whom you’ve seen the best.

This conversation is fun, expanding, are richly rewarding. You don’t mind having it over and over—with everyone on your list, and with the new people you draw to your list. You can go on and on, until you reach your goal.

This way of selling gives us what we’ve always wanted, but were afraid we couldn’t have—the Fourfold Guarantee for Results, Integrity, Passion and Ease. (We become R-I-P-E!) The price of this Guarantee is that we have to let go of old, habitual ways of thinking and embrace some new ideas about what selling is and what is possible.

There are reasons we don’t just abandon our bad habits nad live smoke-free, broccoli-filled, yoga-stretched lives. Comfort Zones are comfortable! And our ways of thinking and acting are subject to the Rubber Band Dynamic: Unless we keep them stretched into the new shape, and give them some support, they snap back into the old shape. Before we know it, those sneaky old ways have rubber banded back into position—no matter how well the new ways are working, or how great the financial or psychological rewards.

What to do?

For whatever reason, we sellers tend to be Lone Rangers. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. We need people around us with whom to share our triumphs and tribulations, people who can give us high fives and listen when we need to be heard. The rubber band is less likely to snap back when we have people to help us keep it stretched into the new shape, and to remind us how great that stretch feels.

Find someone—or better yet, several people—who also want to be radical and to start enjoying selling. Set a time to get together, at least once a week. Tell the truth about what’s bothering you, but don’t succumb to whining. Let these meetings charge you up and send you out renewed, refreshed, and ready to meet the next person.

Re-read those three ideas at the beginning of this post:

  1. You can get the exact sales results you want, every time.
  2. You can do this while honoring, respecting, and appreciating everyone with whom you speak–whether or not they buy.
  3. You can feed your own soul and have fun in the process.

Imagine what selling would be like if you lived all three of those ideas at the same time. Imagine what life would be like!

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SPIRITUAL PRACTICES 2I know many people who are spiritual seekers, and who look down their noses at people who sell. It’s all I can do to keep from saying, “Forget the mountaintop. Get a job selling cars, and you’ll be enlightened in half the time!”

The Soul of Selling actually parallels many approaches to personal growth and spiritual practice. Most spiritual practices include four principles:

  • Quieting the mind
  • Equanimity
  • Balance of love and will, yin and yang, compassion and power
  • Service

Here is how these four principles work in the Soul of Selling method:

Quieting the mind. The Soul of Selling asks us to manage our own mental chatter, and also to be compassionate with our contacts’ mental chatter. We are no longer the slaves of mental chatter; we become senior to it in order to contribute. We identify and release our own mental chatter before each selling conversation—and learn to hear other people’s chatter without necessarily believing it. Being able to rise above mental chatter gives us access to levels of strength and compassion that are simply not possible when we have to run after every thought in our minds—and other people’s minds.

Equanimity. The Soul of Selling teaches us to be the eye of the hurricane. Selling is demanding business. Yet in the midst of everything, we remain compassionate, committed, and calm. We are the grown-ups who are willing to make the whole selling experience rich for everyone involved—and to have everybody win.

Balance. Selling demands an amalgam of love and strength, generosity of spirit and steady will, humility and certainty, yin and yang. It asks that we guarantee two things that many people believe are mutually exclusive: 1) Specific results, and 2) Unconditionally honoring and appreciating our contacts. We bring the best we have to offer people, and we don’t get thrown off track by hearing “No.” We are willing to see beyond people’s crankiness, uncertainty, or defensiveness to the goodness in them. At the same time, we produce the promised result, every time. We merge personal effectiveness with contribution, and powerful results with personal meaning.

Service. The Soul of Selling is based on service. Our primary charge is to see the best in people, and this is the greatest service one human being can offer another. We make this the foundation of our conversations and learn to recognize and dismantle everything that’s in the way of that service.

So the next time someone snorts at selling in your presence (physically or mentally), just flood that person with compassion, take a deep breath, and know that what you’re doing is a walking, talking meditation.

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hero's journeyPeople who sell don’t get enough credit! It’s not just another job, or even a high calling. It’s a genuine hero’s journey, and people who embark on it are inspiring.  Author, mythologist, and spiritual teacher Joseph Campbell focused much of  his work on the hero’s journey, and divided this quest into ten distinct steps.

Here are the ten steps that define the hero’s journey, according to Campbell, and my take on how sellers walk each of them:

1. Longing for adventure, seeking born of restlessness and claustrophobia. Just showing up at work and checking off to do’s is no longer enough. We want something more challenging, something that takes us out to the end of the high dive and tests our will, our skill, our commitment, and our agility.

2. Loss, letting go of the past, the old ways. Just as heroes leave the safety of their home villages when they set out on the quest, we let go of knowing that if we do “A,” then “B” will automatically happen. We no longer cling to the security of just showing up, clocking hours, and getting a paycheck. Our results depend on how well we connect with people, present our offer, listen to what they want and their concerns, and coach them to a choice that works for them. We have to be fully awake to do those things.

3. Mentor. If we’re lucky, we find someone who can tell us about the road ahead, listen when we feel discouraged, give us advice, and offer encouragement for the hero’s task before us.

4. Guardians at the gates of the unknown whom he must overcome. In myths, these might be angry animals. In selling, they might be fear of picking up the phone, not wanting to hear “no,” or person after person saying, “Yeah, maybe next year.”

5. The unknown, abyss. Just as Campbell’s heroes are often thrown into fiery chasms, we can hit a wall. Nobody wants to buy. We stop trusting ourselves and whatever Force we’ve relied on to energize ourselves. Nobody understands how hard it is, and we begin to suspect that we don’t have what it takes.

6. Faces tests and meets friends. The hero gathers allies, as Luke Skywalker did in Star Wars. We meet fellow sellers, perhaps at networking or association events, perhaps in online groups. People who are doing the same kinds of things we’re doing, who are also on a hero’s journey. We learn to help one another, and to support one another through tests like interim sales goals.

7. Decisive ordeal, confrontation with death. Well, maybe not death–but big stuff! Just as Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader, we may find ourselves a week away from our selling deadline, with way too few sales. We want to give up, to roll over and enroll in plumbing school. We can’t do it even one more day. But in the end, we pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get out there again. We just keep going.

8. Slays the dragon, seizes the treasure, rescues the princess. We get the result! We meet our goal. And we feel like… One. Million. Bucks.

9. Challenge to use the wisdom of his heart and finds his power here.  The hero must learn to rely on his or her heart, rather than on just the will or mind. We must do that, too. Our success comes not from force of will, from pressing ourselves back out there at sword-point, but because we have rediscovered the part of ourselves that wants to serve people, and to connect with them in a way that honors, respects, and appreciates them. That connection is our life’s blood–and we keep it whether or not they buy.

10. Returns to the world with fire. The mythic hero brings back whatever prize he or she was seeking. We bring back not only the sales numbers, but also the knowledge that we can reach deep within ourselves, even in difficult moments, and bring forth our best selves in the service of others and of growing into the people we’ve always wanted to be.

Not bad for a day’s work!

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passion croppedEver find yourself in awe of someone who radiates passion for what they do, whether it’s selling, or a political or social cause, or just doing their job? I have, and I used to wonder where they got all that enthusiasm.

Then I started selling, and discovered their secret. Passion doesn’t just drop out of the sky. It doesn’t just descend randomly on a few lucky individuals. We generate it from within ourselves—even (and especially) when we don’t feel it in the moment.

We’ve all had moments when passion just appeared, without our having to create it. The enthusiasm was just there, inspired by a person, event, situation, or sunset. Spontaneous passion happens, but you can’t count on it. Spontaneous passion is great for romance, spirituality, the arts and many other aspects of life. It’s not so great for selling, though, because you can’t count on it to show up at the same time that your customers do.

The good news is that passion doesn’t have to be spontaneous. It can also be intentional. You can call on it at will, at the exact times you want it. You don’t need luck, karma, or lightning striking in just the right place. You don’t have to sit around waiting for it. You can bring it to any situation, whenever you want to do so.

New sellers sometimes say, “I just don’t feel inspired today.” You never have to use those words again. In fact, it’s part of the Soul of Selling not to say those words—but rather, to reach down and find the sparkle. Find the inspiration and the passion.

Here are a few questions that may help. If you answer them now, before the doldrums hit, you can come back and use your answers to find your passion and model it for others:

  • What do I love about what I’m offering people?
  • What do I love or value about the selling process?
  • What do I enjoy about the people with whom I interact?
  • What qualities do I want to bring to all my interactions today?
  • What do I want to feel at the end of the day?

These questions are all part of The Soul of Selling Step #2: Pinpoint Your Passions. The exercises in this part of The Soul of Selling take you systematically through re-discovering and living the inspiration that brought you to selling in the first place.

That passion may have started with the product or service you offer, with your love of people, with your willingness to undertake the hero’s journey of selling itself, or with simply wanting to serve others. Regardless, we are all well served—and happier and better sellers—when we have that passion at our fingertips.

What do you do to access intentional passion?

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“Selling Baggage” in the Grand Canyon

Grand CanyonYears ago I hiked down and up the Grand Canyon with five other women carrying a 40-pound backpack. Some people don’t think a one-night stay at the bottom of the Canyon warrants a forty pounds of gear, and others don’t think a hair dryer is an essential component of that gear—but at the time, I did.

Along the trail, we encountered several park employees who worked at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon for two- or three-day stretches, and who hiked to work carrying only small fanny packs. As I watched them fly past us, waving in a particularly carefree way, I thought, “I wonder what it would be like to do this hike without forty pounds on my back.”

That is the essential issue of Soul of Selling Step #1: Put down your baggage and fix what you can.

Selling is a hero’s journey. You are serving others, managing your own mental chatter, and balancing a selling conversation that includes many elements: telling people about what you offer, eliciting what value they want to get from it, hearing their concerns without buying those considerations, closing the sale, and staying connected with people—whether or not they buy.

That’s quite enough to have on your plate, without adding mental or emotional baggage about selling, thoughts like:

  • I just don’t have the hard core to takes to sell.
  • People are too cheap to buy my high-end service.
  • With the economy like this, nobody can afford this.
  • Selling is hard, and I’m tired.
  • Selling is a crap shoot; I should have studied auto mechanics.
  • I’ll never make any money unless I manipulate and bully people.

I think it’s smarter to carry a 40-pound pack down and up the Grand Canyon than it is to go out selling with this kind of negative chatter going on—and there’s really no reason to do either!

Exercises in The Soul of Selling take you systematically through the process of putting down that 40-pound pack, and letting you fly down the Selling Grand Canyon with ease and grace. Among the questions we pose in Step #1 are:

  1. Write down all your negative mental chatter about selling in general, yourself as a seller, the product or service you offer, and the people with whom you will make contact.
  2. Is there any truth to any of this mental chatter?
  3. If there is something you can do to correct a situation that is bothering you, make a list of those “to dos” and do them.

“No pain, no gain” does not apply to selling. In fact, the more you can put yourself out of “40-pound backpack misery,” the more you will enjoy selling and the better your results will be.

What do you do to lighten your backpack?



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