Eye Contact

Yesterday I went out cycling for the first time in a week. It felt amazing to be back on the bike, exercising, feeling the blood pump through my body. I’m in London for the Ideal Home Show and so cycled from Edmonton where I’m staying to the City and back again. It’s a route I know well having lived in North London for many years.

Weaving through the traffic, I’m thinking of my younger days as a cycle courier in the city. I worked for a company that had the contract to deliver orange mobile phone replacements. Each morning I would load up my bag with 50-70 deliveries and rush off, darting in and out of office buildings, flats and houses delivering the phones.

The bag started heavy, gradually getting lighter as I made each stop. Some drops were easy to find with grateful, pleasant recipients, other drops had beautiful, happy smiley ladies who flirted and made my day, some drops were hard to find with angry, unhappy recipients who blamed me for their faulty phone, their bad day, their lateness. I saw it all, the good, the bad and the beautiful.

Cycling in London you learn very quickly about the importance of eye contact. When you approach a vehicle in a side road, on a roundabout or about to turn across your path, then I would look very closely at the driver and their eyes. Had they seen me, had they acknowledged my presence. Any doubt in my mind and I would steer away from them. Giving them more time to see me and me more time to avoid an accident.

With accidents involving vehicles and cyclists, it is always the bike rider who comes off worse. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. The cyclist is still going to pay the higher price. So, I learnt to take care of myself. To focus on seeing and being seen. I discovered the eyes reveal all.

I have taken this lesson into the rest of my life. I teach my sales team to maintain eye contact when they are talking to customers. On one level this builds trust and shows respect. On a deeper level, it allows my sales team to look out for tiny subtle clues as to whether the customer is interested or even listening. There is no point in continuing talking if someone isn’t listening to you. Stop talking. Break the flow. Rethink your strategy and have another go with a different tack.

All of us are selling, every moment of every day. It doesn’t matter if your job title doesn’t contain the word sales. Most interactions with other people involve some form of selling. You sell your ideas; you sell yourself, you sell your vision of the future.

Next time you find you are trying to convince someone of your way of thinking then remember you are selling. One of the most significant improvements in your sales ability will come when you concentrate on looking and listening to the other person. Look straight into their eyes, maintain eye contact and learn to read those eyes.

Ask yourself questions like, are they listening? Have they understood what I’m saying? Are they interested? Are they agreeing or disagreeing with me? Frequently you will gain subtle, but important answers to these questions by looking into they eyes of the person you are talking too. It’s a skill and takes repeated practice. But mastering it will produce dramatically better results in your ability to sell your ideas to others.

When you can bring others with you on your journey, when you can motivate, captivate and enthuse then, then they, in turn, will help you realise your dreams and goals. But it all starts with you and your belief in yourself. Long before others believe, you must believe it’s possible.

Remember, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.

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