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My first real introduction to Zen came from studying martial arts. I had heard the word many times but only started to understand the concept after reading books like Zen Combat and The Zen Way to the Martial Arts. The word alone conjures up thoughts of meditation, focus and concentration, as well as cosmic, spiritual and natural ways of doing things. But let me clarify: I'm not going to try to explain what Zen is in this column. I'd rather focus on how it relates to improving your business and selling skills.
1. Strive for mushin, which means "no mind." Study your craft and then let go. What was your best experience on a sales call? Most people say it was when they were relaxed, and their confidence was high. But how do you make a call and not think? Well, let me ask you this: How do you handle a kick to your face in a sparring match in martial arts? If you had to think about a counter or a block, you would have already been hit in that split second.
All your training should prepare your mind and body to react naturally and move to avoid an attack. How well do you understand your product, customer, competition and industry? A strong learning foundation gives you not only confidence, but also the ability to interact with customers on issues that are important to them. The conversation flows, and it doesn't seem like you're going through a script or generic presentation. You connect with customers because you're not thinking about your next question--you're focused on them. It's all about your preparation and dedication to learning your craft. Yogi Berra asked how anybody can hit and think at the same time. I ask, How can anybody sell and think at the same time? What a difference it makes when you go into each call prepared and relaxed.
2. Silence is golden. Since Webster's defines Zen as "seeking enlightenment through meditation," I'd like to discuss the power of silence in selling. Sometimes with enthusiasm comes the need to talk too much and tell prospects why they need to buy. Holding back on our excitement is difficult, but it's important to be silent and really listen to the person in front of you. Still waters become clear when all the sediment settles to the bottom. When your mind is still, you can think clearly and achieve a better understanding of the actions that need to take place. When you're quiet and calm, your ability to think about the information you're receiving is much stronger.
3. Detachment: This means having a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing. It's not as easy as you think. Over the years, we all form opinions about the way things should be, how one industry works or how one needs to sell a certain way. A great expression often quoted by the legendary Bruce Lee was, "The way is not the way." As soon as we believe one way is better than another, we start building up a barrier for learning new information. Even when he created his own form of martial arts, Jeet Kune Do, he warned people not to think his art offered all the answers. It is always changing. To be effective, you must always change, grow and keep an open mind to all new ways of selling and adapting.