Common courtesy sometimes seems like an old-fashioned concept in our casual, rushed world.
According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, common courtesy is defined as "the polite behavior that mature adults use when dealing with one another."
Unfortunately today it seems this "polite behavior" has become more of a novelty than something we put into practice.
Civility, however, never goes out of style.
This is because the Ethic of Reciprocity (better known as the Golden Rule), is as relevant today as it when it was written in ancient texts.
The desire of all human beings to be treated with dignity and respect never changes. That the fulfillment of this desire first begins with the behavior of the person seeking that fulfillment, however, it is something human beings still struggle to grasp.
This is especially true in selling.
For example, my assistant has complained on many occasions about being unceremoniously hung up on by telemarketers who, upon finding out I was unavailable, promptly ended the call without so much as a "goodbye."
If I were to apply the Ethic of Reciprocity in this situation, just when one of these telemarketers finally reached me, I, too, would hang up on them. It's not what I would really do, but an argument could be made that the response was merited based on the behavior exhibited by the telemarketers.
So it is with the Golden Rule - if you want to be treated with dignity and respect, you must first show that courtesy to others.
It is my long-held belief that people do business with people they like. Period.
In any field, but especially in selling, showing professional courtesy is a given. A rude, abrupt, thoughtless salesperson is not going to be liked - and is not going to make the sale.
To foster greater likability, there are several ways to apply common courtesy in selling:
True sales professionals are punctual. They return calls and e-mails in a timely manner. They follow up regularly with their customers to make sure they have everything they need. Most importantly, they plan ahead and arrive on time for sales calls and appointments because they respect and value their clients' time.
One of the most worthwhile things a professional salesperson can do is to provide genuine, positive feedback when encountering an individual who has done something exceptional. When you receive excellent service, I urge you to acknowledge it in writing. Beyond performance reviews being significantly affected by documented customer experiences, the pride someone feels after an unexpected acknowledgment is immense.
People are quick to complain about poor service, yet rarely commend exceptional service. We need look no further than the experiences many of us have at airports to illustrate this point. However, I recently had an experience at Los Angeles International Airport that was very different.
I was unable to rent a car from the agency I usually use due to lack of availability, so I had to rent from one of their competitors. Since I consider my regular agency to be the best in the business and I have gold status with them, I have come to expect a certain level of service. I was skeptical about whether the competitor could provide it.
The day I arrived my flight was delayed two hours, I was pressed for time and, dressed in a suit, I was stifling in 90-degree heat. To my surprise, I encountered a shuttle bus driver for the car rental agency whose courtesy, kindness, professionalism and dedication not only eased my burden but made my day. I was so impressed with him that my first order of business when I returned to my office was to write a letter of commendation to the president of the rental car company. I wanted him to know what an asset he had in this exceptional individual.
I am amazed how often salespeople receive orders without sending thanks. Whether you're in the middle of your busy season or your company is in crisis, there is never an excuse not to properly thank the people who have chosen to buy from you. A handwritten thank-you note might seem antiquated but in this electronic age, it will stand out. Handwritten notes are meaningful; they have impact.
Politeness is also essential when salespeople are making cold calls. While many salespeople try to blurt out their whole script before the prospect has a chance to interject or object, a more respectful approach is to identify yourself and your company and ask whether this a good time to talk. While the prospect will likely say, "No," this will allow you to briefly state how he or she will benefit from your product/service when you set a time to call back. When you call at the designated time, your prospect is more likely to take the call because you were courteous enough to respect his or her time.
Politeness goes both ways, however. Prospects who, because they don't want to be impolite, put off salespeople with responses like, "Call back in a month" are only doing themselves and salespeople a disservice by wasting time on both of their parts. If prospects are not interested in buying, the most polite and respectful thing to do is to be honest about that.
The most valuable skill a salesperson can develop is the ability to listen. Even when you're asking cursory questions, you cannot afford to make the mistake of assuming you will receive the predicted response. If you ask your prospects how they are doing today, you may find out they are doing terribly. Responding with a response like, "That's great!" will not only show you're not listening but it will end the possibility of a sale right there. When you listen, you find out what people want and need. It will help you become not only a better salesperson but, in the long run, a better human being.
Jean-Paul Sartre once said, "You should always ask yourself what would happen if everyone did what you are doing."
Nowhere is this more applicable than in selling.
If you want someone to listen to you, you must first ask yourself - are you listening to them?
If you want someone to give you a few minutes of their time - have you given them a few minutes of yours?
If you want prospects to make an investment in you - in what ways are you investing in them?
Apply the Ethic of Reciprocity selling for better results in selling and greater success in living.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.