(By Lisa Thal) A famous phrase in the American vernacular, especially when it comes to professional sports, is “in the zone.” For example, NBA stars on a hot streak from beyond the three-point line are in the zone. Likewise, baseball players in the midst of a hitting streak might say the ball seems bigger, slower, and impossible not to hit when they are in the zone. In golf, you experience those focused moments when your swing seems effortless, and the putts roll in with ease. You’re in the zone.
Michael Jordan has talked about what happens during particularly pressure-packed moments of important games. He said that whether at home or away, when in the zone, he was in a place of almost complete silence. He became so wholly focused on being in that moment that everything else seemed to fade into the background or was shut out, including the noise of the crowd.
Being in the zone is part of a psychological concept known as “flow.” Flow is “a mental state of operation in which a person is performing an activity immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” In layman’s terms, flow is complete absorption in one’s actions.
In sales, we too experience those “in the zone” moments, mainly when these three conditions are in play:
1. We focus solely on our goal and the actions needed to accomplish that goal, and it feels effortless.
2. We need immediate feedback so we can make adjustments to maintain the process and flow.
3. We maintain our confidence through this process, and the entire experience energizes us.
Those who are frequently in the zone talk about feeling a sense of calm even when everything around them is in chaos. All salespeople, especially those at the top of their game, have had moments when everything is going right, every call clicks, and it’s so effortless that they might feel superhuman. They probably don’t realize it, but they are experiencing being in the zone.
So how do we create more in-the-zone moments in sales? We make ourselves aware of how energizing it feels when we experience those moments. It could be the real conversion we have with a new prospect because we discovered something we had in common with them and used that connection to deepen the relationship. How can you create more of those moments where you build trust with the customer? You need to make more calls to new customers to give yourself these opportunities.
When we’re sharing marketing solutions for the client’s challenges, many of us feel like the words just sound seamless. It is like you followed a prepared script and it is precisely what the client requested, with no objections. When that happens, I am confident you did a great job listening to the customer’s needs, and you found a way to deliver for them.
You must practice and be prepared, because each situation can help you create more in-the-zone sales moments. I am always surprised when salespeople work so hard to get the first meeting, only to wing the next call with no preparation. The top sales talents in radio don’t take the next meeting for granted. They understand the time and energy it takes because they have invested so much time in prospecting and discovering the client’s needs. They know that it’s now time to practice the presentation before sharing it.
I recommend taking time to role-play with a co-worker or your manager — and I recommend doing that multiple times. The more you practice and prepare, the more likely it is that you’ll sound authentic to the client, and that will, in turn, increase your chance at earning their respect and their business.
In today’s demanding world, it’s easy to get lost in paperwork, phone calls, e-mails, and requests from other departments in the building. You know the busy work, but try to remember why you decided to have a career in radio sales. Sure, the money is excellent, but I have a feeling that if you are like me, after 31 years in the business, it’s the connection created with that customer and knowing you helped their company that matters.
I was given great advice by a former manager of mine, Perry Samuels, who said to me over 30 years ago, “Don’t skip steps during the sales process.” He told me always to stay focused on the next step and enjoy the process. That is how you create more in-the-zone moments for yourself.
Lisa Thal is the general sales manager for Hubbard Interactive Cincinnati. She’s also the author of Three Word Meetings: A Simple Strategy to Engage, Inspire and Empower Your Team. Get it on Amazon.com.