The article below is written by the Sales Health Alliance and originally published as one piece on their website; part 1 can be found here.
John Yates explains how meditation helps improve the quality of consciousness and achieve two primary objectives:
Objective One: Stabilize Attention
Stabilizing Attention means you’re able to intentionally direct and sustain your focus on something for longer. For example, when a bad call happens, you can fight natural tendencies to focus on negative experiences and focus on the positive learning instead.
Stabilizing attention also helps you control the scope of attention. This means reducing the number of distractions that break your focus and capture your attention. In other words, you can be present with a client, rather than thinking about a deal falling through a few hours earlier.
Objective Two: Develops Mindfulness
Developing mindfulness is the second objective of meditation.
It allows you to recognize your options, choose responses wisely and therefore control how you respond to your environment. Mindfulness helps keep awareness strong, under times of stress to reduce tunnel vision.
When salespeople lose perspective, their awareness narrows and attention on negative events or thoughts intensifies. Their perception of the world around them fundamentally gets smaller and darker.
Improving mindfulness helps keep awareness open so it can continually scan for positive experiences that attention can latch on to. By keeping the positives visible, it stops thoughts and emotions from becoming entangled on one negative experience.
By achieving both objectives salespeople can learn to become more optimistic and stay focused on the progress being made. Progress that gives meaning to their work and helps them feel in control of their performance.
Research done on insurance agents measured how important optimism was in sales. As it turns out – optimism is very important. Results showed, agents who scored in the top 10% on an assessment of optimism sold 88% more than insurance agents who scored in the bottom 10%.
Practicing meditation regularly can help stabilize attention and make salespeople more mindful of the environment around them.
There are various meditation techniques a salesperson can use to achieve the two objectives above. The three most common are:
They all train consciousness in roughly the same way.
First, they stabilize attention by strengthening the ability to focus on one object for a period of time and control the direction of this focus. This is done by focusing on the movement of the breath, the movement of visual images or the movement between parts of the body.
They also help improve mindfulness, by helping salespeople become aware of their thoughts.
During meditation, while you’re focusing on your breath, awareness will naturally try to bring new thoughts or experiences forward for you to focus on. Thoughts that appear more interesting and tempt you to shift focus and give them attention. Sometimes these will be very sticky negative thoughts or experiences that are emotionally charged and hard to let go of.
Mindfulness does not mean you never break focus, it simply means you build awareness of these wandering thoughts and when attention gets stuck to them.
With practice and using a technique called noting, meditation teaches you how to let go and detach from negative experiences. By learning this skill, salespeople can remain objective under times of stress and not lose site of the “big picture.”
Meditation helps keep the positives in perspective so optimism can remain high.
With consistent practice, meditation strengthens consciousness and increases the amount of energy that attention and awareness can draw from. With more energy, salespeople will perform better and improve their mental health.
When you exercise and workout, you have more energy to be physically active. Meditation is a workout for the brain. It increases your endurance so you have more energy to be aware of your environment and control what experiences you focus your attention on.
By increasing the amount of available energy, Yates says the quality of both attention and awareness improves. For salespeople, it can feel like a superpower that achieves the following:
Studies have shown that meditation can improve everything from reducing stress; to anxiety control; to enhancing self-awareness. Improvements that will improve sales performance and protect mental health.
It’s easy to imagine how much better a salesperson will perform if they experience even a small improvement in how they control their thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
Meditation provides one way to improve the quality of consciousness that helps salespeople keep progress in perspective. Practicing gratitude compliments meditation by training awareness to scan for positive experiences in their environment more frequently.
Practicing gratitude means learning how to focus attention on positive experiences. Positives that get overpowered by negativity bias and sticky negative experiences that occur more regularly within sales.
When learning about gratitude, one concept that is important to understand is:
Attention trains awareness on what to prioritize when scanning the environment.
As already discussed, negativity bias means humans are naturally primed to scan and focus more on negative experiences. Gratitude helps rewires this process.
The more time and effort attention spends focused on an experience, the more salient related objects in the environment will become. Essentially attention is teaching awareness:
“Objects or experiences like the one I’m focused on are important. Keep an eye-out for more.”
This process is easy to relate to, by thinking about things that stand out to you on a daily basis.
If you are a dog owner, your awareness will be more likely to catch the cute dog walking across the busy street than your friend who is a cat person.
A person with tattoos, will be more aware of the fine details in the design of tattoos on others, compared to someone with no tattoos.
If you spend several hours a day focused on your phone, you’re training awareness to prioritize notifications as very important. As a result, you might be mid-conversation with someone at dinner and one notification will break your focus. Your attention leaves the conversation, prioritizes the notification and narrows in to check the phone.
This happens all the time in Media as well.
The more time and attention a story receives, the more important the audience will perceive the topic to be. Topics that are negative will be more sticky, captivating and hold attention for longer.
The same is true within the sales environment. Not only are negative experiences more common, negativity bias will make consciousness prioritize these experiences. Then, the more time our attention is stuck focusing on these experiences, the more potent other negative experiences will become.
That’s why it’s so easy to lose sight of progress. Even though you’re doing the right things and advancing sales, it can still feel like you’re drowning, failing and not cut out for sales.
But this is not true.
You just need to regain perspective and train your attention to spend more time focused on positive experiences. Overtime your awareness will learn to prioritize positive experiences that also become more sticky.
When gratitude is practiced consistently, more time and effort is spent focused on the positives.
This is how a salesperson can become more optimistic and build resilience in sales. They spend less time dwelling on the negatives, remain objective and keep the bigger picture in mind. Positives lead to more positives, creating momentum and more happiness.
This momentum a salesperson feels is the result of neural pathways in the brain being strengthened, which releases more dopamine and serotonin. Focusing on small wins means progress, which leads to you feeling happy (serotonin) about what you have accomplished.
Progress also makes work meaningful and makes daunting sales targets appear more achievable. When sales targets are perceived as achievable, dopamine levels keep motivation high and continue to drive more success.
Research done by MIT showed that the pleasurable feeling that comes with success (even small) is brought about by a surge in dopamine. This chemical surge tells brain cells to keep doing whatever they did that led to success, causing success to soar.
Going back to the journal research done by Teresa Amabile – her team found the best way to motivate people on a daily basis to facilitate these small wins. Keep positive experiences in perspective.
Data shows that consistent small wins are better at producing happiness than one big one like closing a deal. Life satisfaction is 22% more likely for those with a steady stream of minor accomplishments than those who have one major one.
Benefits of practicing gratitude can also be seen across many areas of a salesperson’s life – not just performance. Research has been done to support all of these findings:
By practicing gratitude salespeople can reprogram their brain to combat the negative rich sales environment. A technique that will help protect mental health and keep performance consistent, rather than suffering from ups and downs.
Negative experiences within sales will happen and all salespeople have internal biases that make consciousness stick to them. When this happens it becomes easy to lose perspective, which impacts both sales performance and mental health.
To help stop this from happening, practicing meditation and gratitude can help salespeople build resilience and achieve the following:
Spending time practicing and learning a new skill or technique is never easy. In particular, practicing gratitude and meditation requires discipline, because the benefits will not be immediate. It takes time to build resilience and reprogram how your brain naturally wants to perceives the world around it.
If you stick with it, however, your sales performance, happiness at work and mental health will change for the better. Your thoughts, emotions and behaviour will be in your control and no longer things that are reactive. The sales environment is harsh and you’ll finally be able to respond and navigate it – in a mentally healthy way.
Practicing gratitude in sales on a regular basis is an effective way to protect Mental Health and improve sales performance. This journal template and mindfulness journal is designed to help you learn how to practice gratitude and can be downloaded from the Sales Health Alliance website.