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How to Sell Like a Human Being

By Amy Volas

As the use of automation and technology rises in sales, it’s interesting to me that fewer salespeople are having successful sales conversations.

A recent study also showed that 68 percent of B2B customers actually prefer to do their research independently online.

This leads me to question the claim that is pushed by many a sales guru these days: “Sales has changed! What worked before doesn’t work now.”

Why do I question it? Because, among all these shortcuts and ways to hack sales, I’ve found that the same things that have made me successful in this profession for the past 20 years still work great.

Not only that, they work better because they help you stand out the right way – as a human being.

Make no mistake: Relationships are critical to sales success (and always will be). People buy from those they like and trust, simple as that!

Here are three ways to be that person.

1. Be a great listener (ask better questions).
Stephen Covey said: “Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.”

Most people will ask things like this when prospecting: “Hey, congrats on the series B funding – way to go! Do you need help building out your sales team?”

The problem with this approach, though, is that it’s assumptive. Who says they would work with you even if they did need help building out their team?

Instead, I’ve found the most powerful thing you can do is ask an open-ended question that starts a conversation, and then actively listen to their response.

Something like: “Glad to see your hard work paying off. Congrats on the B round! What does this mean for your business, growth, and team?”

People love to talk about their goals.

And, when you ask great, open-ended questions, it positions you as someone who cares about what’s important to them, not someone who wants something from them.

2. Give before (and more than) you take.
We all know that “friend” who is always asking for things but never gives back. Simply put, you can’t start a relationship by trying to get something out of another person on the first go.

We have to give first.

The best way I’ve seen this explained is the idea of “making a deposit.” Here are some simple ways to do that.

  • Share their content with your network to give them increased visibility
  • Connect them with a person they would benefit from knowing
  • Share a piece of content (yours or not) with someone who might find it helpful and useful

The key is to do it without expecting anything in return or making a shameless plug for yourself.

3. Help everyone you cross paths with.
I get hit up every day by salespeople looking for jobs. But, since I work with only a handful of clients at a time, I can almost never connect them with an opportunity right away.

Regardless, I always respond and go out of my way to help them with their job search. It’s what I’d want if I were in their shoes – so why not pay it forward?

Approaching the prospects you’re targeting like this is especially important. Even if they’re not the right fit or the biggest prospect right now, you never know when your paths may cross again.

They could be a source of referrals. Or who knows? They may become your next boss.

So, if you’re not the person who can help, look for ways to connect them with the person or resource who can!

Key Takeaway: Basic Relationship-building Skills Work
No one wants to hear basics like these, but the truth is they’re the basics for a reason. Though they may take work, they pay off in big ways.

So, if you’re in sales, slow down, let go of the need to sell, take an interest, and be curious.

Learn to love conversation and building relationships. Be helpful and get to know those around you – just like you’re making friends.

It’s way more rewarding – and not just financially!

Amy Volas is a sales fanatic turned entrepreneur; she created Avenue Talent Partners to help with their most valuable assets: salespeople. Follow her on Twitter.