The Zen of Sales

Skill Development

Inspirational notes on selling by Kaiyum (David Bloch).

As Robert Louis Stevenson (famous for his book, Treasure Island) once remarked, “Everyone is always selling something.” You, too, whether you officially work in sales or not. Although this article is targeted at those formally involved in sales, the key points apply to everyone. Remember, getting your kids to bed on time or getting your neighbour to help you fix your roof – these occasions (which everyone has!) involve basic selling skills.

So you want to sell, but what happens if you’re with a potential client and you’re too eager? She’s quickly going to feel pressured – and that’s going to raise her resistance. You’re going to find it harder to listen to her and her needs and all too quickly you’ll just be ‘pushing’.

Whether she buys
or not
changes nothing
in my experience
of happiness.”

Insights derived from Zen make it easier to give your client the space she needs. The teaching is: stop selling, and simply help the client to want to buy from you. The advantage: you work less hard and the client becomes more cooperative. Your client then buys because she wants to, not to do you a favour. (True, most sales professionals have one or two ‘friendly buyers’ who are willing to buy more this month just to help you reach a target.) Your task is simply to motivate her.



A familiar concept in sales is that of ‘features and benefits’. Although the features may certainly be important, most clients respond more favourably to the benefits they will derive from using the product or service. When you discuss features, you are displaying the extent of your factual knowledge, data that are easily found in your brochure or the company website.

When you discuss benefits, it’s your expertise that’s talking: the insights you have into how what you’re selling fits into the world of the buyer. And it’s here that you forge the deep connection.

Relaxation in ‘what is’

Although you have targets – most likely coupled to bonuses – what would you prefer: a one-off sale (short-term thinking) or a longer relationship (even if there’s no immediate transaction) with the prospect of solid orders? When you’re willing to look deeper into yourself, you’ll notice the extent to which your everyday happiness depends on whether (or not) you close a deal.

Sure, it’s great to close a sale – something well worth celebrating! – and it’s to your advantage to check this out:

  • Whether the client buys or not, is her business.
  • Whether she buys or not, I know the value of my products.
  • Whether she buys or not changes nothing in my experience of happiness.

You can be sure that as soon as your client perceives that your happiness depends on her decision, she has power over you … and that weakens you in every way and above all in your ability to negotiate. However, when the client consciously or unconsciously experiences your independence from her decision, she automatically gains more space to look seriously, and without the emotions around power, at the interaction and the benefits of purchasing your product or service.

Relaxation: just that

To support you in the sales meeting, take a few moments for yourself before you go in. Breathe out deeply through the mouth. Relax your jaws; after all, they’re your ‘talking tools’ and could benefit from a little rest before they have to work! Many people purse their lips and make a sound like ‘fuh’; that’s not how to breathe out through the mouth! When you breathe out deeply and softly through relaxed jaws, the silent sound is more like ‘huh’. This exercise may sound very simple, yet it is the first step on the path to relaxation before exertion.


When you breathe out in this way, you cannot talk. Great! You provide ‘listening space’ for yourself and ‘talking space’ for your client. By relaxing you create more space for listening to what she says, instead of thinking what-you’re-going-to-say-as-soon-as-she-hurries-up-and-stops-talking.

You explain the benefits clearly, supported where necessary by the relevant features, then you give her the time to reflect and to advance her own thoughts and questions. The experienced sales professional already knows this and the insights offered here help you to put this knowledge into practice.


Now it’s time to finish the conversation and conclude the meeting. You want a decision and you can increase your chances with just five gently presented sentences full of benefits:

Well, Anne, we’ve had a close look at the ins and outs of the new print system as it would work in your facility.
[breathe out]
You now clearly understand how operating the system is much easier with the updated software – which also makes it easier to instruct other staff in using the press.
[breathe out]
You’ve got a better picture of what you can tell your own clients when they have questions, and how you can help them faster.
[breathe out]
You’ve heard when you can start using the equipment again after re-installation, and the extent of the investment required.
[breathe out; now, very softly, very gently:]
All in all, taking everything into account, when you start experiencing the benefits of the upgrade … well, that … is … now … up … to you!


Although these five sentences are primarily directed at the other party, they begin with a ‘we’ that underlines the bond between the two parties. Please note that there is no ’I’ in these sentences!

You may have noticed that each sentence uses a feature and a benefit, and also that different verb styles are used: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic – a great way to address the different levels of neuro-linguistic communication. The ending above all emphasises your independence and the freedom of choice that the other has.

Finally …

Pushing works against you. Motivate the client, display the benefits, create more space in the decision process – that’s advantageous to you and your client!


Kaiyum took sannyas at the Osho Academy in Sedona in 1998 and nowadays lives in Eefde, The Netherlands. His current work is based on three primary activities, connected by the common theme of doing things differently. He coaches and trains the art of presentation. He works as a therapist in complementary healing, where he emphasizes restoring the biochemical balance to support self-generation of the physical body. Most recently, together with his beloved Indra, he created ‘De Doorbraak’ (The Breakthrough), a heart-based approach to communication for children of all ages to help them change how they experience their world, putting an end to bullying at school. And then the man also cooks … –

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