Want to sell that product? Use your people skills

There are no tricks or gimmicks that will consistently generate sales. But improving your people skills will certainly help. That's because people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. It's your people skills that make your product knowledge pay off.

Here are seven proven, easy ways to improve your people-to-people effectiveness. These techniques don't require magic, personality changes, or manipulation of any kind. I strongly suggest that, rather than just blowing past them, thinking comments like, "I already know this stuff," stop and consider how often you use each of them, and how effectively. It's my experience that they're used not nearly as often as salespeople think.

  1. Smile.
    It's the No. 1 sign of friendship in any language. The Chinese have a proverb: "A man who cannot smile should not open a store." Think about it. Give a smile and you will get a smile in return. This single gesture has an ability to lower prospect defenses more than anything you can ever write or say.
  2. Develop a genuine interest in others.
    When you have sincere interest, it shows. Look directly at people when they're talking. Let your facial expression register your interest. Ask good, open-ended questions to let people know you really care. The secret is to be interested, not to attempt to be interesting.
  3. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
    You'll rarely meet anyone who doesn't have time to talk about what they want to talk about. Your time is better spent encouraging your prospect to discuss her interests, needs, and priorities rather than launching into a discussion about yourself, your product or service, or how great your company is.
  4. Use the other person's name.
    Using a name builds personal rapport and demonstrates you're listening with respect. Be careful, however, not to overuse the person's name, which is worse than not using it at all.
  5. Give compliments.
    Everyone loves a compliment when it's genuine. Sincerely praise prospects on their business success, helpful employees, the location of their facility, decor of the office, and so on. Make a concentrated effort to give at least three sincere, honest compliments every single day of your life. You will be amazed at what it will do for your relationships.
  6. Listen.
    It's the greatest compliment you can pay. Your prospects like salespeople who listen more than those who talk too much. When you assume the role of listener, it relaxes the sales climate. As you listen, you're demonstrating that you truly care about the other person and are genuinely interested in what he has to say. Everything your prospect is telling you is valuable information you can store and use to solve his problems or fill his needs. Listening establishes you as a warm, likable person -- the kind of person your prospect would enjoy having as a friend.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that, "Nearly half of 432 corporate buyers surveyed recently said salespeople are 'too talky.'" Indeed the survey by a New York consulting firm suggests that an inability to communicate is souring many buyers on the salespeople who call on them."

  7. Make the other person feel important.
    Make the other person feel important. Every person is important. Let people know you realize this. Show your prospects the respect of being willing to serve their needs. When you're sincerely impressed by something other people are, own or have achieved, let them know. Make the other person feel important.

You can tell much about the character of someone by the way they treat people who can do nothing for or to them. Successful selling and successful living should be very similar. The same skills that help your success in selling can help your success in life.And as a professional salesperson, there are four factors that will determine your success with people.

  1. Your impact.
    First impressions may not be fair, but they're real. Your prospect's initial impression will have a strong impact on the success of your sale. When a prospect sees you, what will he see? How will he size you up?
  2. Your sensitivity.
    This means how sensitive you are to your prospects -- their personalities, moods, business, and the things they're trying to accomplish.

    How well do you read between the lines -- sense the same feelings your prospect is feeling? How well do you respond, letting your prospect know that you really do understand?

  3. Your perception.
    How do you perceive your prospects' problems and needs? How do you perceive their marketplace? Are you conveying to your prospects that you're viewing the situation through their eyes? Is your thinking meshed with theirs? Are you seeing the same realities they face?
  4. Your judgment.
    How effective are the solutions you offer to solve your prospects' problems or fill their needs? Have you listened, evaluated the situation accurately, and offered something that's both practical and on-target?

These four factors help you develop empathy. Empathy is your ability to put yourself in your prospects shoes -- to see things through their eyes, which is essential for sales success.

Again, it's your knowledge and understanding of people that will make your technical skills and your product knowledge pay off. You're in the people business and people buy because they like you. Increase the effectiveness of your people skills and you'll undoubtedly increase your sales.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.