Success in sales depends on creating a positive customer experience. How can you make yourself more likeable, and create a more positive experience for your customers? Here’s eight steps to try:

-Be empathetic and compassionate.

Truly care about your customer (no matter how good

an actor you are, faking it won’t work). Ask questions, take notes and lean in to show that you’re engaged in their answers. When you take an interest in people, they remember you – and when people remember you, it’s good for business.

-Observe their eyes, handshake, body language and tone of voice.

Try to capture the physical impression your prospect makes, then do your best to match it. (Read our previous sales tips on using body language to build rapport at www.engageselling.com/articles).

-Make eye contact.

This is especially important when you walk into a room full of people. Eye contact is also essential after we get to know people, because it cements our existing relationships and lets them know that we’re still interested in their well being. So few sales people ever look their prospects directly in the eye. By simply smiling and making eye contact, you’d be surprised how much you will set yourself apart.

-Add value and give first.

Share your network of contacts with your customers, and don’t expect them to give you their business without you giving them something first. I don’t mean give away free product in the hopes they will buy more. Instead, look to give away things that increase your value. Perhaps they need a referral to a partner of yours, or help finding a new dentist. Or maybe they have a business problem that can be fixed with a new idea you read about or heard from someone else you’ve met.

-Express your true intent.

Tell customers upfront: “”I don’t know if there’s a fit between what you need and what I have right now, but I’m hoping we can explore that in more detail during this meeting.”” Or: “”I only have your best interests at heart, and I promise to be honest with you throughout our conversation. In the end, I hope that we can mutually decide if there is a reason to move forward. If not, that’s fine too, and I hope you’ll feel comfortable telling me so.”” Does this make you uncomfortable? I’m not surprised – this advice runs counter to 90% of the approaches I see being used in the field today. But then again, maybe that’s why only 10% of sales people are top performers. Try it yourself a few times, and you’ll be amazed at the response you get.

-Don’t go for the big decision all at once.

In our personal lives, we don’t propose to someone before we’ve been on a first date. The same is true in our business relationships, so get approval from the customer to move ahead in increasing increments. The first approval might be just to agree to speak openly with each other, as outlined in Tip #5 above. The second could be an agreement on a follow-up call or meeting date. The third might be gaining agreement on the decision making criteria, then a commitment to have the “”big boss”” present at the demo, followed by an agreement to a “”go/no go”” decision date. All too often, I see sales people jumping way ahead of their prospect’s buying curve. This puts the buyer and the seller out of synch. When the sales person is trying to close while the prospect is still evaluating options or determining risk, trust is broken, the prospect feels pushed and the sale comes dangerously close to disappearing.

-Use friendly, warm words instead of formal business speak.

When you use simple language, people respond better and trust you more. So limit your words to three syllables, max. And don’t try to impress prospects with your extensive vocabulary, or you may end up just sounding fake.

-Use people’s names.

When it comes to using names, there are just two rules to follow: first, be aware of whether they’re more comfortable with first name only or title and last name; and second, never overuse their name – this only sounds corny and false. Dale Carnegie once said, “”Nothing is so beautiful to a person as the sound of their own name.”” Just use your discretion.

Remember: your success is directly determined by the way you are perceived, and the amount of effort you put into your career. Changing either of those variables will have a huge impact on whether you succeed or fail when the going gets tough.

In other words, in good times or in bad, the type of sales person you choose to be is 100 per cent up to you. Chose to be “”nice”” – by which I mean honest, open and empathetic to your customers’ needs – and you will experience consistent sales growth, build an excellent reputation and become a leader in your field, regardless of the market you sell in or the state of the economy.

Colleen Francis is a certified sales professional advisor. You can catch her on the Web at www.engageselling.com.

(c) Engage Selling Solutions Inc 2003 All rights reserved

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