How to Use Compliments to Help the Sale

By Lori Pendleton

Almost everyone appreciates a compliment, but not every compliment goes over well – especially in sales. Insincere compliments can turn off the customer instantly. After all, who wants to start a relationship with someone whose compliments sound contrived?

Compliments can also border on inappropriate. A seemingly innocent compliment about clothing or general appearance could fall flat or be misconstrued, especially if the salesperson and customer are different genders and don’t know each other well.

With those caveats in mind, here are some areas to consider when you want to issue praise.

Compliment the customer’s choices.
If something in the customer’s office or meeting room catches your eye, make a kind comment about it. It’s perfectly acceptable to compliment beautiful artwork on the wall, a great view from an office window, or the comfort of a well-crafted chair. If the customer takes you to a restaurant, you can note something about the food, atmosphere, or service. Let the customer know that you enjoy the choice he or she made. This often sets the tone for a productive conversation.

Compliment the customer’s business, product, or solution.
Praise the customer’s operations, product, or company; that’s the best way to use a compliment to set the stage for a productive business discussion. You’ve already researched the company before making the sales call, so you know which products and services you admire. You might have seen things about the internal operations that you like, as well. With this knowledge, you can walk into the customer’s office, compliment the team on those things, and then open a discussion about how to enhance those strengths or invent new ones.

Compliment the customer’s team.
If anyone on your customer’s team – from executive assistants to departmental colleagues to upper-level executives – strikes you as particularly efficient, pleasant, knowledgeable, friendly, enthusiastic, or helpful, then pass that along. You can add this as a quick end note in an email or verbally at the beginning or close of a conference call or in-person meeting. (Examples: “My thanks to Steve for his efficiency and quick turnaround,” or “Lindsay’s enthusiasm is terrific!”)

Every word counts in a conversation with a customer. A compliment is easy to use when you’re trying to establish a tone of goodwill. But use compliments with intention, not simply because you don’t know what else to say. Practice the art of well-placed compliments, and you’ll increase the quality of your conversations and your chances of winning the sale.