The Big Picture: Detach From Sales Outcomes


We love athletes who are caked in dirt and sweat. The last thing we would call these men and women who leave their hearts on the field (or court or rink) is “detached,” right? However, if you think about it, they are detached in a way. Let me explain.

First, there’s the negative type of detachment that we often think of when we hear the word; it involves a lack of focus on the task at hand because we don’t care about it. We also use a negative definition of “detachment” when we’re describing someone who’s so obsessed with producing a desired outcome that she sacrifices some of her attention to a task.

On the other hand, positive detachment is when we’re laser-focused on a task — right here, right now — and detached from everything else. Past and future are MIA when we’re positively detached. Thus, detachment can be good or bad depending on what we’re detaching from. And detachment is a fact of life; we mortals are simply not capable of giving 100% of our attention to multiple things at once. This is why it behooves us to choose our objects of detachment wisely.

When you’re on a sales call, I would urge you to be like a quarterback who ignores all the noise surrounding him in order to consistently connect with his receivers. To successfully connect with your customers, you need to fully focus on what you’re doing in the moment and detach from everything else, especially the outcome of a meeting with them. Phil Jackson, who coached a record 11 NBA teams to a championship frequently quoted an old Buddhist saying to his players: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.‘‘ In other words, don’t focus on enlightenment — or winning — but on the actions that will get you there.

In sales, we’re all about goals. Sales quotas, call quotas, etc. I think it’s great to have goals as they motivate us and serve as a yardstick against which to measure our performance. However, our goals need to take a backseat when we meet with customers. Any focus we have on our goals is that much less focus available for what our customers are trying to achieve. Besides angering your clients by ignoring their needs when you are distracted by your own goals, you’ll also repel them with the smell of desperation that envelops those too eager to make a sale.

What tips and tricks can we use to be present? United Kingdom sales coach and author Anis Qizilbash who runs a site called, in an article published on Huffington Post, recommends four agreements you must make in order to sell mindfully:1

  1. Be aware of the present moment. Qizilbash recommends, instead of reaching for your phone before a meeting, listen to the sounds around you to bring yourself into the present. To help you become more aware of the present moment at work, practice mindfulness away from work too through specific exercises and by putting down the smartphone from time to time to observe the world around you without any specific goals in mind.
  2. Detach from the outcome. When with a prospect, don’t be concerned about whether or not he or she will buy from you. As clichéd as it may be, I still value the message of the famed Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” You cannot change how people will react to you but you can change what you do. Focus exclusively on your actions and then let the chips fall where they may.
  3. Be a great listener. Qizilbash recommends not only actively listening for customers’ pain points but also inquiring about their dreams and ambitions, so you can help them to achieve them. Active listening means responding to the other person’s comments with something other than a brilliant rejoinder all the time. Follow up their statements with a restatement of what they said, a question, or even brief silence to give you a chance to fully process the meaning of their words.
  4. Serve, don’t sell. If you had to keep one of Qizilbash’s recommendations top-of-mind, this is the one I’d pick because following it helps you to achieve the other three. Focusing on service to your customer, rather than making the sale, requires you to be a great listener who’s in the moment. And a focus on service provides you an intermediate outcome to shoot for — your customer’s success. That’s one outcome we should attach to.

Being present during interactions with customers by focusing on their specific needs and goals will not only improve communication between client and sales rep, but also give your client the sense that you are there to help him or her achieve his or her goals rather than your own. And when someone asks you what the secret to your success is, you can throw them for a loop by answering, “detachment.”


  1. Qizilbash A. The 4 Agreements of Mindful Selling. Available at: Accessed January 22, 2018.

From MENTOR. March 2018;9(3): 10-11.

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