Sooner or later you will have to ask someone to buy something from you. Whether you have a retail store, and a couple has been admiring an expensive couch for the last 20 minutes, or you are a consultant or coach who has just finished an initial conversation with a potential client, the question is waiting to be asked. “So, are you ready to buy?”
I’ve found that this is a very sacred time, when a potential sale is approaching. Because it is so sacred, after you ask someone to purchase, the moment can feel very pregnant indeed. The air can suddenly seem so thick you could cut it with a knife.
As a business owner, the worst thing you can do is splash into this space with more words. It’s time to be silent and wait for their answer. After all, you asked a question, it’s their turn now. It’s best to be silent and wait.
But why is it so tempting to jump in?
When you ask the question, what you are really doing is painting a picture of the future. They don’t have a couch, and you’ve just painted a picture of the future where they suddenly have a couch. They also have less money than they did before (having spent it on the couch.) It’s a future they haven’t lived in yet.
But they’ve already been considering the purchase for at least 20 minutes, possibly much longer, why should your question add to the situation? Because they can’t create that future on their own: they need your help. When you show up and ask the question, all the pieces line up to make this potential future a reality. It helps them step towards the future they want.
Suddenly, it’s real.
Sufi teachings, as well as quantum physics, teach us that reality is being created anew in every moment. We’re all 99.9% empty space, with some charged particles bouncing around inside. The experience of our physical reality is constantly in motion, being given life again and again and again in every new version of the Now.
Mostly we live in oblivion of this (thankfully). It would be pretty hard to get through the day if you had to experience the utter nothingness and miracle of rebirth every time you sit down to eat your grapefruit.
I’m not going to suggest that every time someone considers buying from you you need to deliver an ecstatic moment :-). But I do believe that whenever we consider taking an action that could significantly change our lives, strong emotions come to the surface.
Your question is the catalyst.
When you ask the question, you suddenly took a powerful potentiality and –boom– solidifed it. And your future is at stake too- in a few minutes you may no longer have a couch, and your business may be $2000 richer.
Once you ask the question, the most effective thing you can do is give your potential customer the silent treatment. Just be quiet. Shhh. Zip it. Don’t say anything.
Why it’s so hard to stay silent: Sympathy versus Empathy
Sympathy is “feelings of pity and sorrow for another’s misfortune.” Empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Most of us are trained, in challenging situations, to go into sympathy.
Example of sympathy: “I’m so sorry the garbage truck smashed your car.” Example of empathy: “I saw what that truck did to your car. I’m guessing you are pretty angry and upset.”
The difference? The sympathetic statement focused on you- how you felt about your friend’s car. The empathy focused a statement of witnessing “I saw what the truck did to your car,” and then your best reasonable, heart-felt guess on how your friend feels about their own car. In sympathy, you steal the spotlight. Empathy you give the other person centerstage.
So how can you keep silent? And what does it have to do with your business?
Keys to the Silent Treatment, and an example
While you are sitting there silent, instead of focusing on them, bring your attention to yourself. How are you feeling? Nervous? Tense? Excited? Enthusiastic? Let yourself take a few moments, your prospective customers won’t notice- they’re busy in their own thoughts. Notice how your body feels, notice any emotions you are feeling. Don’t try to change your emotions- if you are nervous, be nervous! Notice how nervous feels, and make space for it. And breathe.
After you’ve checked in, begin to ask your heart, “Hmmm, if I’m feeling this way, I’m wondering how they might be feeling.” Look at them, or, if you are on the phone, pay attention to the tone of their voice. Do they sound or look tense? Excited? Calm? See if you can empathize- that is, feel the same feelings you are imagining they might have.
Finally, bring your attention to your heart. If you have done the Remembrance, or another heart-centering exercise, you may have noticed a vast feeling of spaciousness in your heart. That space is big enough to hold how you feel, and how your prospective customer feels, without needing to change or fix anything.
Example: Someone called me about coaching- someone who is ‘known’ in their world, and I was a little nervous thinking “This person called little me.” In discussing my individual services, and my price, I realized I was starting to babble a little bit. I took a breath, made room for my nervousness, and the tension in my shoulders and belly. I reminded myself it was okay, that I was here only to be of service, which of course reminded me that they called me- that they needed help. Ahhh, maybe I don’t need to be so nervous after all. This person needs help… hmmm… I wonder how they are feeling?
Staying in my heart, using Remembrance to connect to them silently, I zipped my lips, and only answered the questions asked. Result? New client. Why? I’m convinced it wasn’t my fancy words, but my silence.
Let yourself rest in that spaciousness, and wait to hear how your prospective customer answers your question. If they ask a question, answer it, and then rest back into your heart. You’ll be giving them the heart-centered silent treatment.
And you might be surprised when they say, “Yes. How do I pay?”