I discovered Mark Silver’s work about two years ago and have been paying close attention to him ever since. His ability to effectively combine spirituality with marketing is unsurpassed in my opinion. His capacity for kindness and giving serves as an example to us all.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him a bit more as I am one of the facilitators for the Heart of Business Alumni Community. I can tell you that, after working with him closely over the past few months, I am now totally unconvinced he was not bitten by a radioactive spider or dropped from a meteor onto his parents’ farm as a child. Superhuman, in every sense of the word.
Mark’s about to launch this year’s Sacred Selling course and the core message of these teachings is something we can all benefit from. The following insights and advice can transform your sales conversation from one of discomfort and doubt to soulful success. Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts and experiences with this topic. Enjoy!
Jenny: Can you tell us about your journey? What did you find most difficult when you first started out in your business? What had to happen to transform that?
Mark: There was so much that was difficult. The biggest thing was that I hated business. ðŸ™‚ You see, I spent a lot of time as an activist early on, and I witnessed injustice and unethical actions from large corporations that hurt my heart and outraged me. I never could trust that.
On the other end, there were lots of small businesses, including my parents’, that seemed to be full of a tremendous amount of hard work. Just an exhausting, day after day grind.
Finally, when I went into business, early on I was in a model of business that involved a lot of cold calling, a lot of approaching strangers, and it was just painful.
So I had to work through all of that: that business was unethical, that it couldn’t do good, and that to make it successful was a grind of painful, unenjoyable tasks.
Not so much, right. ðŸ™‚
What transformed that was being introduced, through my now-wife Holly, to the holistic healing community, and all the people who were doing tremendously fantastic work, and yet were struggling so hard to get clients. I found that my experience in the nonprofit world, and later my spiritual work in Sufism, allowed me to find a different path through business, one that was both effective and heart-nourishing.
Jenny: When I first heard you discuss the sacred origins of selling, it was such a welcomed insight for me. Can you explain the beginnings of selling and what’s happened to make us so averse to it in our modern world?
Mark: One of my favorite things to do is go to the dictionary, it often provides a wonderful insight into the intellectual origins of ideas. In this case, the verb “to sell” comes from the Ancient Norse “selja” which meant “to give up” in the sense of giving an object to someone in response to a request. So for me to ask you to give me a book, you giving me that book is to “sell” the book to me.
This insight is at the heart of all sales, and what makes it MUCH easier. That we, as business people, are providing something that people are needing, something that are asking for. Far from bothering people, we are helping people out.
The problem, of course, is that selling has moved from that to trying to get people to take what you’re offering in exchange for money, so that the focus people in business have had over the last centuries has almost solely been on the money, losing sight of everything else important in the sale.
What is so sacred about these interactions, I won’t say “transactions,” is that it takes a tremendous amount of trust, vulnerability and intimacy to create the trust that is needed for a significant purchase to happen. Trust, vulnerability and intimacy are the foundations of something very sacred indeed, if you’re aware of it.
Jenny: Heart-centered business owners are natural born nurturers and givers. They would help the world for free if they could and nothing would make them happier. This can show up as a big brick wall of hesitation in their marketing, preventing them from making a decent living with their businesses. What steps do you suggest to climb over (or blast through?) this wall?
Mark: The first thing I say to this is: trust your heart. If your heart is stopping you from marketing, trust it. However, also look more closely. Notice that what your heart is saying is “don’t market this way” whatever way this is. You may have seen how someone else markets, and it doesn’t sit right with you. Don’t do that. But also don’t generalize with the decision that because some people are marketing in ways you don’t feel comfortable about, that marketing is therefore this thing you can’t approach.
So, trusting your heart, begin to approach marketing and see what it is. I define “business” as the “relationships around your livelihood.” And I define “marketing” as the “art of starting, maintaining, and deepening relationships.”
Does that feel a little better?
Something else to notice is that great marketing, marketing with integrity, comes from the core of your business. However you help your best people, marketing is on the spectrum of help you provide. At your most engaged, you are giving everything to a client/customer, and they are giving back to you in a sustainable manner.
Earlier in the relationship, before that much trust has been built, marketing is the help you are giving to people before a two-way relationship has been formed, before they have decided to receive really deeply from you and your offer, and before they have felt the generosity of wanting to give back to you.
Therefore, because the relationship is newer, less deep, less committed, you give less.
Not out of any sense of “holding back” or miserliness, but because it’s inappropriate given the depth of relationship there.
“Let me repeat this: marketing is on the spectrum of giving help to your clients.”
Jenny: What are the keys to holding a successful sales conversation? Are there any practices you recommend to help acquire these keys?
Mark: There are a few keys to having that conversation with a potential client who hasn’t decided to hire or buy from you yet. The first key is to know that these conversations don’t happen in a vacuum. That you can’t just launch into a sales conversation right off the bat.
Often someone’s first expression of interest means “Oh, tell me more. I’m curious.” Not,”I’m considering buying from you.” Treat the initial interest at the level it’s truly at, instead of jumping the gun. It takes the pressure off you and them.
When you do get into talking to a potential client, you need to 1) be prepared, 2) be focused, 3) have your heart open, and 4) be curious and wanting to know about them.
Prepared means you know your own business and what you offer.
When participants go through Sacred Selling they are often surprised by how much vagueness they have in what they are offering and in their enrollment process, so it’s no wonder they stutter and trip at key points of the conversation. Price is a big stumbling block, but there are many others.
Focused means don’t waste your potential client’s time. You want to be friendly, you want to be open-hearted, but you also want to be a professional, and dive into the meat of the conversation. Friendly people without focus can have a sweet chat that lasts two hours, and no client at the end of it.
“Heart open goes without saying. You want to care. You want to be in service.”
Curiosity is linked to having your heart-open. You want to ask questions to help determine if this person is someone you can help. You want to spend a lot less time talking about what you do, than you do asking about what’s going on for them.
Jenny: Your Sacred Selling course is coming up soon, can you tell us a little more about it?
Mark: Sacred Selling is a process I love! One participant finished it and said, “If people would follow this process in their lives generally, we would be creating peace on earth.” And I think it’s true. Sacred Selling is based on profound spiritual principles I’ve learned through my Sufi teachers, as well as practical business knowledge, and helps connect the sacred, the practical and the effective in a ways that feels totally natural and organic.
It’s common for folks to come out of the course, or even during the course, to find so much more ease in the enrollment conversation that suddenly it’s fun, it’s effective. One past participant shared that their newest client remarked on how fun and pain-free the sales process was. Who has clients who remark on the sales process? And this client was at a new, higher price our participant was charging.
There are three areas that people need to prepare prior to the conversation, and three part of the sales conversation that help to structure it, not script it, but give it form and focus so the flow is incredibly easy.
In preparation we cover how to craft an offer that sells itself, how to price yourself from the heart, and how to have a trip-free closing process.
In the sales conversation, we teach a profound way to connect and create trust at the heart-level, based on ancient Sufi principles, without even using words. We then teach how to translate that heart-connection into words so you know what to say during the conversation, and how best to use the time. Then the third part is how to reach an agreement, what is commonly called the “close” (ugh!). It’s not a close, it’s an opening, and there is a very natural, stress-free way to reach that agreement and get paid.
94% of past participants report the course as incredibly effective. I’ve taught hundreds of people over the last seven years, and it continues to be a foundational part of business-building skills.
We have a free learning series right now, and a free call coming up April 17, you can sign up here: Sacred Selling Free Learning Series
And the full course begins May 1 and runs seven weeks. You can learn more about it here: Sacred Selling Course
Hopefully that helps! We’d be delighted to see people take advantage of the free learning series, and to join us for the full course in May.
Mark is a fourth-generation entrepreneur who has run a distribution business, turned around a struggling non-profit magazine, and worked as a paramedic in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He is the author of seven different in-depth programs and a number of other smaller teachings and classes for entrepreneurs. Together they form a comprehensive entrepreneurial wisdom academy curriculum. Learn more about this work at HeartofBusiness.com