Every salesperson on your team thinks they’re likable - and they probably are, if they’re having sales success. But there are ways to improve likability and boost your bottom line in the meantime. As you organize your next big meeting, consider adding a seminar on becoming a more likable salesperson.
Dismissing the Myth
A great way of opening a presentation about likability is by dispelling a common myth. If your sales staffers are stuck thinking this is true, it’s a massive roadblock to likability.
MYTH: The salesperson isn’t the main decision factor.
Some people think buying decisions primarily hinge on things like the data presented, product cost, annual budget, or value proposition. While those factors are important, more than 50% of buyer loyalty is based on relationship factors, including the salesperson. Car dealerships know this; for decades, the number one source of decision-making information for U.S. car buyers has been dealership salespeople, despite the persistent stereotype of the annoying car salesman. When a salesperson is not only front-and-center, but also likable, it sets the stage for sales magic to happen.
Why? What’s the logic behind the power of likability? Well, emotional buying is actually rational behavior. Every buyer understands that making a purchase is a leap of faith. What if the product breaks? What if the experience leaves them unsatisfied? They need to know that there’s going to be service after the sale- from someone they look forward to seeing again.
So, how do you teach your salespeople - a group of diverse people with all kinds backgrounds - to be more likable to clients? It starts with understanding what it really means to be likable.
The tone of a conversation is one of those hard-to-define aspects of interactions, but it’s a crucial part of likability. When someone hangs up the phone and says, “I got a bad feeling from him,” they are likely referring to tone. Exact word choice is surprisingly unimportant. In fact, during phone calls, 86% of communication is tone. The actual words chosen are only 14% of what’s communicated to the listener. An easy way to understand tone is through sarcasm. Most sentences change dramatically when expressed with sarcasm. “What a great day” sounds different in a friendly tone than it does in a sarcastic tone.
Try this: Salespeople respond well to role-playing exercises, so try one where you interact with two different salespeople, each playing the role of a client. With the first person, make a short and friendly sales pitch. With the second person, make the same sales pitch, but in a slightly sarcastic tone. Open a discussion about the effect of tone.
In general, people like it when others are helpful - as long as it doesn’t seem pushy. Teach your salespeople how to position themselves as someone who is trying to help, rather than someone who is trying to sell. A helpful person does the following things:
- Offers facts. Before contacting clients, salespeople should do some research. Review previous purchases, proof-of-performance data, new statistics, and cutting-edge options.
- Focuses outwardly. Rather than droning on about the company’s products, salespeople should be asking questions and listening to the client. What do you need today? What problems can I solve for you?
- Delivers on promises. Make sure your sales staff is using a reminder program or other productivity software that ensures they always do follow-up calls and actions as promised.
When people sense fakeness, the conversation takes a nosedive. Encourage your salespeople to foster a sense of warmth - of genuineness - in their client relationships. Here are some tips from psychologists who study human behavior:
- Don’t be judgmental, even in a joking way. If you seem biased or make assumptions about what your client wants, they’ll never view you as sincere.
- Admit faults. If a client points out something negative about you, or your product, admit it. Say you’ll look into it, and make sure to follow up later with a friendly explanation.
- Seek feedback, positive and negative. Routinely ask clients about their experience, and absorb it gracefully whether it is good or bad. Share feedback with bosses, and say you did so.
- View them as the authority. Don’t make the mistake of viewing yourself as the authority on what you are selling. Start from the idea that your client is the authority on what they need.
Sales Force of the Future
As you guide your salespeople toward likability, remind them that their interpersonal skills are crucial for long-term success. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their interaction with companies without ever speaking to a human. In a future with that kind of limited personal interaction, a likable person will really shine.