Jon Kabat-Zinn is professor of medicine at The University of Massachusetts and a world-renowned expert on the topic of mindfulness. He explains the concept in rather simple terms by stating that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally”. Interesting. Of course, we’ve all heard about mindfulness but many of us in the business world likely haven’t spent any time learning about it. Even though the topic has received a dramatically increasing amount of media coverage over the last few years, I’ve found that most business people remain relatively clueless about it. And those of us in the wild world of enterprise selling with our relentless focus on winning major account business are even less likely to know much about the topic. I know that’s the case with me but, truthfully, I’ve discovered that it would serve us all well to pay the topic closer attention. Because the more I learn about it, the more I see how it plays a huge role in both our success and satisfaction. For the tenets of mindfulness connect directly to enterprise selling. And as such, they deserve a much deeper examination than this article can provide. But, nonetheless, I’d like to scratch the surface and share a vision of the alignment.
Let’s first consider some of enterprise selling’s unique challenges:
- Lengthy sales cycles
- Focus on business value
- Sophisticated competition
- Diverse buyer networks
- Significant investment in pursuits
- Complex decision structures
- Cross-functional sales teams
- Complicated accounts
A weighty list of issues to overcome, indeed, highlighted throughout by human interactions on both the selling and buying sides of big deals. For as we know, people both buy from people and sell with people as well. And your ability to know and understand what’s most important to those people is fundamental to your success.
Here’s where mindfulness comes into play. One of its key principles is awareness. In both listening and speaking – Kabat-Zinn’s “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose”. And the awareness is moment-to-moment, a state, if you will. Think first of the receiving side in human interactions and consider the previously mentioned non-judgmental theme. Your ability to clear your thinking of preconceived notions sets the stage for understanding, wiping the slate clean of your “head trash”. This clarity of reception opens you up to other points of view, free of assumptions and biases. Free of those preconceived thoughts that close the openness door. And on communication’s sending side, mindfulness teaches taking the proper time to plan and carefully choose your words. Meaning what you say and saying what you mean.
Good advice that probably takes some practice, right? Of course. But imagine how such moment-to-moment awareness would be valuable to you in communicating with the various personalities on your selling team and the wide cast of characters in your account’s buyer network. To say nothing of how true awareness could build understanding about customized solutions and value propositions. Or provide clarity in critical Go/No-Go decisions. And, really, that’s just for starters.
Studies have confirmed that those who practice mindfulness gain markedly increased focus and attention by developing skills to suppress distractions, those gargoyles that nip at us constantly in the complex enterprise selling maelstrom. Whether it’s the issues that plague us over long months in enterprise pursuits or the seemingly endless amount of detail in the ecosystem that is a large account, the vast touchpoints of information can be overwhelming. And as we well know, the accessibility and connectivity of technology that are meant to enable can actually cause harm. What if the answer isn’t really about devices or apps but about learning how to turn off your autopilot? Mindfulness teaches us how to direct our concentration to the matter at hand. For if a matter is worth addressing, it’s worth addressing with present focus. Again, you won’t walk away from a short mindfulness webinar armed with game-changing benefits. It takes time and work. But, at any rate, learning more is a great place to start.
And then, there’s the stress. Your constant companion – the daily anxiety that comes with chasing the numbers in the enterprise world. It’s part of the deal, right? High risk, high reward. Pay for play. But does it have to be that way, that frenzied? Couldn’t you be good at what you do and not routinely frazzled as well? Mindfulness believes that you can. For that moment-to-moment awareness, effectively practiced, helps diminish the vise-like grip of dwelling on the past and fearing the future. Your ability to direct your focus on the present, on what’s happening now, fortifies real observation and minimizes the impact of emotions. We all have vast inner resources, many lying dormant, that can drive powerful change in our behaviors and attitudes, greatly impacting our well-being and yes, even reducing our stress. Just think about the benefit.
As I mentioned, most of us are in the dark about mindfulness. But many significant organizations have achieved game-changing results through mindfulness programs. Firms like Apple, Intel, Google and Accenture. Forward-thinking organizations that have made strategic decisions to drive meaningful change for their teams.
With mindfulness, there’s definitely something there. What and how impactful it can be, only you can determine. But take the awareness theme to heart and commit to do do a deeper dive. For yourself, your organization and your clients. They’re all worth it.