Selling is a transfer of energy that comes from two sources: logic and emotions. Guess what has more influence over a buyer's actions? To explore this further, let's review some of the logical elements that can influence the outcome of a sales call:
- Product knowledge
- Customer knowledge
- Social information
- Sales process
- Diagnostic questions
- Sales-ready messages or call script
- Persuasive proposals
- Persuasive presentations
- Call timing
Most sales training prepares salespeople to tap into the right information, ask customers the right questions, diagnose the right problems, create the right solution, prepare the right proposal, and close the sale at the right time. It all sounds wonderful during the sales-training program, and it looks great on a whiteboard. The trouble is, when salespeople believe that their job consists of building a prefabricated bridge made of the right logical elements from the seller to the buyer, those salespeople will be disappointed 80 percent of the time.
Zig Ziglar once said, "Logic makes people think, and emotions make people act." I am convinced that the logic bridge between buyer and seller represents only 20 percent of the buying decision in a B2B setting. If logic was all it took to persuade a buyer, we could move the entire sales process online and eliminate the need for salespeople, just like Amazon did.
What Creates Emotional Impact?
Dr. Albert Mehrabian at UCLA found in his research that feelings and attitudes are communicated 7 percent by words, 38 percent by tone of voice, and 55 percent nonverbally. Since most inside salespeople use the telephone as their main connection with the buyer, how we say what we say (tone of voice) has five times more emotional impact than what we say (the actual words).
What creates emotional impact is the salesperson's ability to do the following:
- Create feelings of trust and rapport
- Affirm the buyer's need for good self-esteem
- Sense the buyer's emotions in the moment
- Show empathy
- Appropriately reflect on the buyer's emotional expressions
- Adapt to the buyer's rate of speech
- Harmonize with the buyer's tone of voice
- Get in synch with the buyer's emotional energy
- Complement the buyer's moods with uplifting statements
- Give the buyer emotional space to facilitate free associations
- Draw out and address the buyer's hidden fears
- Support and enhance the buyer's positive viewpoints
- Project and maintain positive energy throughout the call
- Be authentic and spontaneous
These points describe some ways that sellers need to meet buyers’ emotional needs so that buyers become comfortable with sellers. This list is by no means complete, but it creates a composite image that defines likeability.
Sales trainers and sales managers constantly remind us that selling is a people business and that we buy from people we like. Guy Kawasaki tells of how he met Richard Branson in Russia. They met in a green room before a speaking engagement. When Branson asked Kawasaki what airline he used, he learned that Kawasaki was loyal to United because he had the highest status there. Branson didn't use logic to persuade Kawasaki to become a customer; he simply picked up his leg and started to polish his shoes with his jacket. Kawasaki switched to Virgin America in a heartbeat.
It's about time that we recognized that buyers want to deal with likeable salespeople, and it's about time that we give them what they want. At our last Sales 2.0 Conference, an attendee told me about her interest in a Sales 2.0 solution that was offered by a sponsor. She said, "The salesperson in the booth perfectly understood my needs, and I shared our pain points with him in great detail. At the end he told me that he would put me in touch with his company's rep in my region. That was frustrating, since I have to go through the same process all over again." Isn't it time for buyers to be able to choose the salesperson with whom they want to work?
With new social CRM solutions such as Nimble or Reachable, geographic territories will be giving way to social proximity, in which leads are assigned to salespeople who have the best social connection with prospects.
In the not too distant future, companies will allow customers to select a salesperson who scores highest in likeability. Who wouldn't want to get a shoe shine from Richard Branson or a direct tweet from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh or a Facebook "Like" from Michael Dell?
Since most products become commodities faster, the ultimate competitive advantage is the salesperson. In the future, smart companies will give buyers the ability to choose salespeople, based on what they believe is the ideal match between professional competence and emotional intelligence. Emotional proximity could be the ultimate competitive advantage.