When leads turn cold and commission checks shrink, it’s natural for salespeople to overcorrect – insisting that, if they just tweaked their sales pitch or mentioned one more product feature, they’d finally break through and close more deals.
This reflex to overanalyze may seem constructive, but, like many problems in life, the solution to less-than-stellar sales numbers is often the simplest one. Wielding Occam’s razor—the scientific principle that the correct solution is often the simplest one—to cut away the fluff and uncover the real reason people aren’t buying is far from easy. It requires a long look in the mirror and the boldness to ask yourself an honest question: Am I likable?
“Trust is continually being built or destroyed in the sales process, and people will always buy from people they believe, like, and trust,” said Scott Welle, author, speaker, and founder of Outperform the Norm.
Some people possess this level of likability naturally; but, for those who don’t, there’s good news. Like many character traits, you can learn to be more likable and close more deals if you know the right behaviors and practice them daily.
Stop Talking and Listen
Think back to the last unpleasant interaction you had – one of those conversations you would have done anything to escape. A conversation where you’re helplessly scanning the crowd for someone, anyone, to notice your distress, throw over a life preserver, and pull you to safety. Chances are, the person you were speaking with did one of, or maybe all of, these things:
- Showed zero interest in you.
- Wouldn’t stop talking about him or herself.
- Interrupted you when you got a chance to speak.
- Insisted on talking about topics only he or she cared about.
“For me, it comes down to being aware that I should be more interested than I should be interesting,” Akash Karia, speaker performance coach, and author, told The New York Times. “People would forego money to talk about themselves.”
Believe it or not, this is true. Research shows that, when people talk about themselves, they receive the same amount of pleasure as when eating a delicious meal or making more money. The study from Harvard neuroscientists Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell suggests that “self-disclosure was strongly associated with increased activation,” in the brain regions responsible for motivation and desire for rewarding stimuli.
Salespeople can use this to their advantage by resisting the urge to talk, actively listening to what the person is saying, and asking questions based on those responses to move the conversation along before, ultimately, closing the deal.
“If you listen, ask about themselves, and give them a chance to express what they’re feeling, they’re gonna like you – and you didn’t have to say much,” said Mike Schultz, RAIN Group president, best-selling sales author, and sales trainer. “When you’re dismissive or act like you’re in a rush, people won’t like you.”
It may seem far-fetched for someone to enjoy talking to a salesperson, but being likable boils down to being genuine and, more importantly, being interested in a person’s life, business, and pain points. So, unless someone desperately needs a product or there are no other options: Buyers don’t do business with salespeople they don’t trust or like.
“People buy from whom they like, and people like people who are genuine,” said Judy Callaway, sales manager at Elite Business Ventures Inc. “Anyone can ask a question, but you have to be willing to listen to the answer.”
Find Shared Similarities
It’s a common misconception that small talk is unpleasant and a waste of time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The first moments of an interaction are where you wade into the conversation, find similarities, and build rapport.
“If you share genuine similarities with people, as cheesy as it sounds, you tend to like that other person,” Schultz said. “You have to take the time to do those things and be authentic, and then you can start applying them to your sales interactions.”
Many times the best small-talk conversations start with a little preparation or even the information you have on hand. For example, talking about the weather is cliche, but it can work if the connection is authentic. So, before picking up the phone, take 10 minutes to look over his or her LinkedIn profile or social media accounts. People aren’t shy about disclosing facts about themselves, and you can find a lot of useful information about their interests, past work experience, who they follow, and even articles they’ve written with just a few clicks.
Developing these skills takes time and deliberate practice. The good news is that you can work on it with every conversation and interaction – from the office to your next dinner party. So, when friends or coworkers are talking, resist the urge to interrupt with the first thought that enters your head; instead, shift your focus to listening. Not only will you be more likable and close more deals, but you may also be a better person too.