Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nothing Extra Added

"A Good Walker Leaves No Tracks" ~ Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching

Life in general, and sales in particular contain one challenge after another. There are moments of incredible success and beauty, and other moments of substantial challenge, disappointment, and loss. And the only constant is change.

I have observed that many people seem to hold a belief similar to the following:

"If there are no observable signs of stress when a person is dealing with a challenge, obstacle, or goal, then that person is not taking the situation seriously enough."

I would argue just the opposite. If one is fully engaged in facing and dealing with whatever life throws at her, then there is no energy left for indulging in self-defeating thoughts or actions. Observe any athlete at the top of his game (for instance a Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan). Don't we say about such people that they make their incredible feats look easy or effortless? This is because there is "nothing extra added." Just as a fire that burns hot enough leaves very little ash, a person who brings the totality of their attention, resources, and presence to the task at hand, leaves no trace of herself in the process. This is a shift toward pure action, and is similar to what has been called "being in the zone."

In training salespeople, I have often taught them about the concept of "Present Time Consciousness." All that we do in sales must be focused on our ever changing relationship, on the spot and in the moment, with our prospect or client. It's like in the the martial arts or the boxing ring. If I drop my guard for a split second, and get hit with a jab, I don't have any time to start questioning myself, or for getting angry at my opponent for hitting me (when I should fully expect him to do so), or for beating myself up about my poor technique. Beating ourselves up is the most destructive of these three responses, as now the fight becomes two against one. In any case, allowing our attention to wander in any of these directions simply enlarges the gap, allowing our opponent to hit us again, and again. If you question what any of this has to do with sales, ask yourself if you have ever felt beaten-up after an interaction with a prospect or client.

The key to this, and the thing that we have control over, is where we choose to focus our attention. The human mind has a tremendous capacity for imagination. In any given moment our attention can be directed to a past memory, future dream, some fictional story. To use another analogy, the movie screen can show an infinite range of images. Some images can be attractive, and some repulsive. But if we want to be maximally effective in our action, our attention must be focused in the here and now, on the spot. Try hammering a nail into a piece of wood. What happens when we allow our attention to wander?


Anonymous said...

I agree that nothing is static, there is progression or regression – Change beautiful change!

However, your argument seems to be missing the key component associated with some great thoughts you outline about training salespeople.

Just because the feats of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan seem easy and effortless to a 3rd party agent doesn’t mean that they arrived there without challenge. While your argument makes sense in a vacuum neither those two gentlemen nor the rest of us live in one. When Lao Tzu said “A Good Walker Leaves No Tracks", he is obviously referring to an individual, and we both know sales is not an individual effort.

So how do we resolve this as professionals? Well, just because as a sales professional I don’t “add any extra” (i.e. I get outside of myself and focus on the other) doesn’t mean that there is nothing extra added to the interaction. In fact, I personally welcome the addition:

Who wants to start a fire without air or wood? Help a rough-edged stone become smooth without wind or water?

In my opinion, the best golfers, basketball players or salespeople simply make good use of the “added extra” to help fuel the fire of what is right, just, good…whatever you want to call it…guide it to burn that much more brightly, and thereby warm all parties in the interaction.

The truth is that agents and forces other than us do, in fact, affect us, but it is up to us to determine how that manifests itself where we are concerned as individuals.

It’s no surprise to me that we are like-minded on focusing our attention on the task of hammering a nail into a piece of wood and this confirms my good feelings around our connection. Just don’t leave out the part about adjusting the stroke, in the moment, for a sudden gust of wind…In my opinion, that is a more accurate representation of being “in the zone”.

As always, thanks for helping to get the synapses firing…


Tao Liu said...

It's not that mastery comes without effort. Rather that pure effort appears effortless. To return to the fire metaphor - a smoldering fire produces lots of smoke - a very hot fire produces little.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Hence my seemingly effortless endeavor to help the fire of your argument burn hotter...As a leader and trainer of salespeople, perhaps you will use the "added extra" provided in the clarification to assist them to do the same.

My thoughts are trainers help deconstruct the myth of effortlessness and thereby honor the effort to arrive there while helping others to duplicate those efforts. Who better to do this than a coach, like yourself, having spent time "in the zone", burning with the fire of right thought, intent and action?

Besides, when we build a fire together with like-minded fire-starters, how can we fail to increase the heat of our own?

Enough for now, I have preparations of my own to attend to...