Lou Cassara, author of From Selling to Serving: The Essence of Client Creation (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2004), says that for salespeople to be successful they need to have more than excellent product knowledge and impeccable time management skills. They need their customers to like them. Getting clients to like you, however, doesn’t involve expensive lunches and fake interactions. Instead, Cassara cites a list of specific skills salespeople can practice to improve their likeability quotient, which were identified during interviews with more than 200 business owners.
- Show respect. Treat your clients and prospects with courtesy and respect, regardless of the size of their assets.
- Pay attention. Show interest in clients’ opinions and ideas.
- Communicate effectively. Speak on a level customers can understand.
- Connect through experience. People like reps who share similar interests and show an understanding of their industry and type of work.
- Be fun to be with. Forget the slapstick monologues; instead focus on your own type of humor, whatever that is.
Wondering what behaviors to avoid? Here are the top items.
- Don’t be pretentious. “People really disconnect with people who pretend to be something they’re not,” says Cassara.
- Don’t answer questions you don’t know the answer to. Avoid winging it. If you need to do some research and get back to customers, let them know.
- Don’t act like an expert without being able to back it up. Pretending to know more than you do about customers’ business or industry – or your own products – is a big no-no.
- Don’t be self-centered. “Customers have a big disconnect with people who can’t stop talking about themselves,” Cassara says.
- Don’t be manipulative. No one likes to feel as if they’re being sold.
- Don’t talk about others behind their backs. The group surveyed, says Cassara, “Did not appreciate it when professionals volunteered confidential information to them about someone else.” The reason is obvious: A rep who can’t keep one person’s information confidential, can’t keep anyone’s information confidential.
- Don’t be too serious. Overly serious salespeople are viewed as too detailed, rigid and inflexible.
It all comes down to focusing on the relationship, says Cassara. “Customers stay in relationships when people pay attention to the relationship. They leave when people don’t pay attention to the relationship.”