When it comes to just about anything that matters in life, whether personal or professional, the difference between success and failure is often your mindset and the attitude you bring to each situation, event or occasion.
That’s a huge generalization, but it’s something I consider each and every time I prepare myself for something important – such as meeting a prospective pool client face to face for the very first time. I know at times like this that my performance will be determined by how I feel and that how I feel will directly influence my ability to get results.
Yes, it’s important to be prepared with as much information about the client as possible. Yes, it’s vital to have confidence in your products and be familiar with all the options and possibilities you may want to present to your customer. All those things are important, even critical, but none of them come anywhere close to the power of your mindset.
‘KI’ IS KEY
What I loosely refer to as “mindset” is something known for centuries to samurai masters as your “Ki.” This is a big concept and may seem strange or mystical or even silly at first, but stay with me here because this is powerful and truly practical stuff – and I’ll declare right up front that it’s changed my life.
Ki (pronounced “kee”) encompasses all aspects of your being. It is the blending of mind, heart and spirit, and it influences everything from the way you walk and what you say to how you say it, how you smile and the way you shake hands or say “hello.” In recent years, people in business throughout the world have embraced this concept as a way to increase their chances of success in business; they’ve also found it works wonders in improving their personal lives and in helping them become healthier, happier people.
There are lots of ways to get acquainted with your Ki. I first learned about it through Samurai Selling, a book by Chuck Laughlin that does a great job of linking these concepts to the real world. He begins by making a strong case for looking to ancient cultures for ideas that can be applied today, the thought being that when you dig into concepts that have endured through hundreds or even thousands of years, you’ll find that there are reasons for their staying power.
And when you look at the origins of Ki in this way, it’s clear that the Japanese were onto something big.
For most people, the word samurai conjures images of swords and fierce combat. But the samurai were about much more than war; indeed, they trained ceaselessly to serve a single lord and his family and the community at large. To perform at peak capacity, the samurai spent a lifetime learning about and tapping into a power that flows through the universe – a power available only to those in harmony with it.
In reaching that harmony and the inexhaustible power to which it gave access, the samurai trained body and mind to focus only on what was truly important at a given moment. They practiced this until they could do it without conscious thought or strain. When body, heart and spirit were in harmony, others would sense this quiet confidence as a presence, an internal power.
What does this quiet confidence and power have to do with selling swimming pools? To my way of thinking, just about everything.
When you first walk into a client’s home, you send a variety of important and powerful messages – all without even realizing it.
Have you ever noticed how some people can walk into a room and everyone takes notice? (And I’m not talking about the ones who’ve had expensive surgery.) There’s just something about certain people, a power, a presence, something “magnetic.” What you’re sensing here is these individuals’ Ki. (By the same token, we all know people whose Ki is so weak they can walk into a room and actually make it seem as though somebody just left.)
Recognizing the Ki of another person is not some strange psychic skill: We all have the ability to do it, and even animals can detect your Ki. Dogs, for instance, instinctively know if you like them or if you’re afraid – and they react accordingly. For those of us who started off in pools through the service industry, we know really well that this one aspect of Ki all by itself can have a significant impact on how well your day goes. Some people just don’t ever have problems with dogs, while others are in danger around Chihuahuas.
In a sense, we all have a bit of the pooch’s instinct about us. We react favorably to those individuals with a positive Ki and by contrast have negative reactions to those people who give off bad vibes.
Your prospective customers are no different from anyone else you meet, but it just so happens that they are paying particularly close attention to you when you show up at their door and ask them to spend tens of thousands of dollars. Obviously, you want them to have as favorable an impression of you as possible. The primary way you achieve this is through your Ki.
Let’s break this business about your Ki down to more objective terms: People who study interpersonal communications have come up with some interesting numbers relating to the ways we communicate with each other. According to Samurai Selling, for example, only 7% of our communication occurs through words. Fully 38% of our communication is accomplished by tone of voice, our inflections and the subtle nuances in the way we speak – and a whopping 55% is nonverbal. In other words, we say far more with our gestures, our facial expressions, how we sit and stand and the way we carry ourselves personally and professionally than we ever will by the things we actually “say.”
Knowing this, you can turn your Ki into a powerful tool.
KI AT WORK
Through your Ki, you convey a tremendous amount of information about your products, your services, your company and, indeed, yourself.
All of that information is being absorbed by your customers, and the main point to recognize is that conveying it is all under control of your subconscious mind. In other words, you can’t fake a good Ki, no matter how hard you try; the words and effort simply won’t align with the spirit behind them – and your customers will sense it instantly.
In fact, we all place a great deal of trust in non-verbal communication, whether we know it or not. The driving force behind that trust is simple: By whatever means, we’ve learned to accept non-verbal communication as accurate, just as we learn to distrust the words we hear, even when we don’t have an immediately identifiable reason to do so.
If you want to learn more about Ki and similar disciplines, I suggest reading the following:
• Samurai Selling, Chuck Laughlin and Karen Sage. St. Martins Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
• Six Great Ideas, Mortimer J. Adler. Macmillian Publishing Company, 866 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022.
• Unlimit Your Life: Setting and Getting Goals, James Fadiman, PhD. Celestial Arts, P.O. Box 7327, Berkeley, CA 94707.
• The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. Fireside/Simon & Schuster Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
We’ve all had this sort of experience. When you think, “Something here just isn’t right,” most of the time, it’s not. That’s your mind picking up on the disharmony between Ki and the immediate circumstances.
If your message and your Ki are out of alignment, you can talk all you want about the excitement of owning a pool and how great the tile will look or how much fun lounging in a beach entrance can be, but odds are it won’t be understood or believed nearly as readily as it would if you were conveying positive information with your body and your presence.
In this way, Ki is power. It’s a power that comes from being a competent professional, knowing your products, understanding the marketplace and, most particularly, knowing all you can about the customer. It all works together: If you know what your prospects’ goals (and problems) are and you have a willingness to work with them to find answers, you’ll be in a much stronger position to give them what they want.
Just like a samurai, you use your Ki to focus on what is most important at that moment. Your strength of presence is focused on your customers, allowing no distractions, no excursions, no hype. You are not worried about yesterday or concerned about tomorrow. Through your Ki, you are in the here and now – focused, listening, thinking, learning, finding ways that you can serve your customers in the here and now – just like a samurai.
Finally, Ki works because it is passion. More than a message, it’s a vision. If you’re passionate about your cause and have a clear vision of where you and your prospects should be going, chances are better than good that your prospects will follow your lead. It’s really as simple as that.
It’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking that all this “Ki stuff” exists in some sort of spiritual superworld: In actuality, it’s all about your own personal well being, and it’s so grounded in reality and so powerful that it should even scare you a little. When I came onto all of this, for instance, I was amazed by how easily (and immediately) these ideas translated into real life and real situations.
A practical way to better understand and strengthen your Ki is to set some basic goals. Start by asking yourself, “Do I have personal goals that will help ensure my happiness?” In my case, I live by five important ones I found in another wonderful book, Unlimit Your Life, by James Fadiman.
[ ] Be willing to be happy. This is the fundamental note to which our lives are tuned. It requires that one be unwilling to suffer passively and willing to reject defeat, limitation, weakness, stupidity or illness to the greatest extent you are able. Being “willing to be happy” means accepting the idea that you deserve happiness. Being “willing to be happy” is not the same as being happy, but it consciously establishes your happiness as a goal and supports the tree that sprouts from the seed of self-acceptance.
[ ] Increase your capacity to love. Only those who are able to love are fully human, fully alive. Once you make the commitment to personal happiness, then a natural expression of that happiness is to take pleasure in being with other people. As happiness breeds happiness, so love and affection breed more love and affection. It’s critical to improve our capacity to love: Like taking water from a bubbling well, giving love to others in abundance does not diminish the supply. Often, the more it flows, the more it flows.
[ ] Enjoy your work. We all have to do something, and we might as well enjoy it. Two questions to ask yourself about your relationship to work: “Do I look forward to getting down to work?” and “Do I feel I’ve done a good job by day’s end?” If your answer is yes to both, then you’re succeeding in this arena. If the answer to one or the other is no, however, then you have some serious thinking to do. And it’s not all about money: Indeed, research shows that there is almost no correlation between work satisfaction and wages, as long as the wages are reasonable for the job in question. What you do matters much, much more than what you make.
[ ] Be healthy. There is nothing so central to success as the appreciation of our own physical well being. Without good health, your other goals – personal, financial, social or professional – soon lose their appeal and zest. By contrast, when your body hums with good health, everything you are and everything you do is heightened, maximized, more exciting.
[ ] Radiate inner integrity. What this quality gives you is a capacity to have great control over your own life without having a parallel need to change or restrict the lives of those around you. The need to control others often arises out of a fear that we will get less or not be accepted – or that we will lose love or be passed over. Inner integrity increases our capacity to achieve what we wish in this world without limiting anyone else’s opportunities. Furthermore, reinforcing the inner integrity of others turns them into allies.
THE WHOLE PACKAGE
I’ve personally used these goals and the power of Ki to make a better life for myself in a number of ways, professionally and personally. It doesn’t mean I’m always successful or always happy, but it sure stacks the deck in my favor.
If you find your own inner strength and learn to use your own Ki, you’ll find that when bad things do happen and life throws tough curves or challenges your way, you are better prepared to cope, face your troubles and ultimately solve your problems and meet your needs.
The sidebar on this page offers a short reading list, and I urge you to check out these ideas. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll find that you really do have the power to have a better life – and be really successful in selling swimming pools, too.
Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group; dedicated to top-of-the-line performance in aquatic design and construction, this organization conducts schools for like-minded pool designers and builders. He can be reached at [email protected]