Mindful selling: Serve instead of sell

How do you sell when humans instinctively dislike being sold to?

By Anis Qizilbash, Founder of Mindful Sales Training | Author of Grow Your Sales, Do What You Love: Mindful Selling for Entrepreneurs and Freelancers.

One of the earliest words I learned was “no” and apparently, I was not alone. According to this survey, when over 11,000 parents were asked to share their baby’s earliest words, “no” came in seventh. Why was this the case? We say ‘no’ because inherently we believe that we have the freedom to engage, or refuse to engage, in certain behaviors. The most interesting part about this behavior? If our freedoms are taken away, we are motivated to do the opposite, like throw our vegetables instead of eating them. This angered response is called psychological reactance theory and being sold to arouses this strong opposing force.

So how do you sell when humans instinctively dislike being sold to?

Do the opposite

The secret to making more sales is to stop selling. The best salespeople position themselves not as salespeople, but as trusted advisors and confidants for their clients. When you meet with potential customers, instead of selling and wondering how much you can take, focus on serving them, pondering how much you can give. When your intention is serving instead of selling, people feel your energy, they instinctively trust that you care about them - instead of trying to fulfill your own agenda - and that’s such a powerful feeling.

As an entrepreneur, fear of rejection or concern about coming across as typically pushy is a common cause of stress when it comes to selling. When you operate from fear states, you trigger your brain’s survival mode, which could mean that you either inadvertently start pitching or you retreat to engaging in safer activities. Mindfulness can help you bypass fear states and activate your brain’s executive functions.

A place to start is listening to your breathing for five inhales and exhales; doing so directs your attention away from the internal monologue causing you stress, and into the present moment.

Spread kindness

There are many ways to give without giving your stuff away for free. You can give your attention, understanding, kindness or compassion. You could introduce your potential clients to useful people, refer a business or share valuable or entertaining information.

One time while I was serving manufacturers in East Asia, a prospective client had a challenge understanding the key distributors in Western Europe. This was a time before the internet, so that sort of information wasn’t at your fingertips as it is now. After making a few calls, I surprised the prospect by sharing a list of the top ten distributors in their three target countries. They were so thrilled to receive the intel that we received their exclusive business.

What can you give your prospective clients to evoke a sense of joy?

Be more like a doctor

Imagine entering a doctor’s office and she invites you to sit down. How strange would it be if the doctor then grabbed a handful of drugs and explained how each one treats different ailments without asking you any questions? Any doctor, or indeed any professional (lawyers, designers etc.), would begin an appointment by asking you a few questions to understand who you are and where you’re coming from. They would go on to explore symptoms, inquire about your history, recent activities, and so on, right?

A doctor’s objective is gathering as much evidence as possible about your problem, so they can prescribe the right solution. This is the exact approach to take when you are selling. People don’t buy your time or things, they buy a better version of themselves or a better version of their business. With each encounter, your objective must be to first learn about your potential customers and what outcome they hope for, so you can communicate how your solution could help them arrive at their desired destination. You can’t demonstrate value until you know what is of value.

Your power

The foundation of a sales transaction is trust. Without trust, a customer will not buy from you because the risk is too high. To develop trust, however, you need to put your needs aside, which means to stop selling, so you can focus on serving. Of course, it’s difficult not to worry about selling when you have sales targets to hit each month, but this is where mindfulness can help. When the worries come flooding in, take a conscious breath and be aware of where your attention is: Are you giving or taking? Because you can’t do both. When you’re aware, you have a choice, and that’s where your power lies; when you’re serving instead of selling, you will be compelling.

People don’t buy things; they buy avoidance of pain or fulfillment of desires, so be deeply curious about where they’ve been and where they’re going so you can figure out how you can help them reach their destination.




Anis Qizilbash is a motivational speaker, author of Mindful Selling, and hosts Coffee & Wisdom Show, sharing weekly wellbeing snacks to enjoy with your coffee. Follow Anis on Twitter and LinkedIn.