This may seem to be one of the most primary points and bare necessity, as a salesperson if he/she has to make any mark on the prospect and get himself/herself in the good books of the prospect. Howsoever it may sound very basic, many times it is seen that it is a neglected quality to have, among the salespeople with other qualities such as technical skills, negotiating and closing skills taking precedence. However, salespeople should keep in mind that you do not get a second chance to make the first impression. Unless you are likeable to the prospect, you cannot make emotional connections. When the stakeholders/prospects like you, you develop a rapport with them and the probability of they opening up to your questions and getting more engaged with you is always higher.
Some of the things on which the likeability depends may not be under our control at all. Factors such as the mood of the prospect on the day of the appointment, prejudices about some people, their names, cultures, caste, religion, racial, etc play a crucial part in the likeability index of the prospect towards the potential vendor. However, there are many things which are in our control as Salespeople such as, punctuality, grooming, voice, tone, facial expressions, body language, attitude, accent, eye contact, posture and general confidence of the salesperson. While it should be understood that likeability alone cannot guarantee success in sales, it does increase your chances of getting through.
Noted author Karen Salmansohn (she authored many best sellers- books on self-help and columnist in many magazines including psychology today) once wrote- When it comes right down to it, whatever business you are in, you are in the people business. After all, people prefer to do business with people and companies they find likeable.
Salespeople meet all kinds of prospects, some very aggressive, some always testing the vendors, some very egoistic, and some very calm hardly speaking anything. Many times, sales people’s presentation or their talk is influenced by how the prospect comes through to them. If the prospect is aggressive, they become defensive. If the prospect is himself very talkative, they may try and intimidate him by their talks. If the prospects give very short answers, they get frustrated. Many salespeople have the habit of ranting continuously about themselves or their companies. That’s when the stakeholders get upset and develop a belief that all salespeople are pests and meeting them is a sheer waste of their time.
During the initial meetings, prospects are testing the salespeople and may not immediately open up. There will always be an emotional wall between them. A super salesperson will try and lower this wall to increase the probability of winning. In the initial stages of the meeting when the stakeholders give brief answers or conceal some information, sometimes there will be a period of total silence with no party talking. This is a very awkward situation for a salesperson to be in and there is a good possibility that they will fall victim to unruly emotions and getting impatient to starting bragging themselves, thereby killing any possibility of engagement and rapport building. In such situations, salespeople get overwhelmed by following emotions and turn off the stakeholder.
- Ego gets hurt: A salesperson may lose it all if he takes some remarks of the prospect personally and may reply back in a rude or aggressive manner. There is also a temptation to control the discussion and to prove how smart they are, they may interrupt the stakeholder.
- Fear: Salespeople sometimes don’t have any idea of how the prospect will respond to and fear that it may not be positive and out of this fear they may try to dominate the discussions.
- Impatience: When there is silence, salespeople get really uncomfortable and just to break the silence, they may say something which they may not have said in worst of their dreams and turn off the stakeholder.
- Showing false emotions: Salespeople may resort to displaying emotions (superficial /fabricated, which are immediately caught by the prospect as false by the prospect) just to break silence/ make the atmosphere lighter by making a laugh or cracking a joke, where it was not required.
How to make your first impression on the stakeholder?
As being likeable is the most important quality to developed by the salesperson, it should be understood very well, that it cannot be taken lightly, many salespeople are guilty of. Let’s discuss some ways in which you can have that first positive impression on the stakeholder and lower the emotional wall.
- Grooming and dressing: The most important habit to make positive first impressions. Many young salespeople feel it’s trendy or macho to wear a bear which is not even trimmed properly. A salesperson must smell good (use mild deo), dress well, shoes well-polished, professionally dressed, well-combed hair and look fresh before he/she enters the meeting room. Some usages of very strong perfumes, chewing pan or tobacco, wearing obtrusive colour clothes, eating raw onion or garlic just before the meetings are sure shot ways of turning off the prospects. Special attention must be given to keeping clean nails, no tattoos or if you have one, should be covered it adequately. Still better avoid them completely. Prospects don’t like flamboyance; they appreciate honesty and truthfulness.
- Language: Many times, stakeholders like if you use their language/use of words etc. e.g mirror their styles without imitating or speak the same language as he/she is speaking (this is very important in India being a land of diverse cultures and many languages). However, salespeople must guard themselves against use of special accent/slang language (as if they have just landed from some western countries), use of jargons should be avoided. Use language which is simple to understand.
- Smile: Perhaps the most important ways to impress the stakeholder. However, a smile should come from within. A salesperson should really enjoy being in this profession be passionate about selling, have empathy towards customers, only then a profound smile will come naturally on his/her face. Anything fabricated is immediately caught by the prospect. Smile is something which you cannot fake. A pleasant, sincere smile tending towards a grin, a twinkle in eyes are the best ways to make the first impression. We all get naturally attracted to people who smile. So, be aware of your facial expressions and wear a smile as you meet your prospect.
- Voice tone: Like a smile, your voice tone also can decide whether you are liked or disliked by the prospect. The tone of voice should be neutral and soft, but audible and clear devoid of any regional accents. Your voice tone must be friendly and upbeat. Put up a smile and it will reflect through your voice.
- Politeness: People who are rude, impolite and discourteous are unlikeable. Use basic manners when you talk and present yourself in front of the stakeholders.
- Listening: Another quality of great importance as a salesperson, if you want to be likeable. Never obstruct the prospect when he is talking. Sales are not about only talking, in fact, it’s more of listening- empathetic listening. People who listen attentively and focus fully on the person who is talking, are more likeable.
- Punctuality: Be on time or before the time for the appointment, but never late. Prospects don’t like people who don’t value their and other’s time. You cannot take the prospect for granted.
- Enthusiasm: A salesperson must display a lot of interest and passion himself/herself in the products and the company they represent. Enthusiasm is infectious. A word of caution though- don’t show OFF any insincere enthusiasm, it will be a put-off. Don’t go overboard to show that you are ‘full of energy’.
- Confidence: Unless you have the confidence and the self-belief in yourself, your products/services and the company, you will not resonate the same feelings with the prospect. Again, don’t go overboard to show that you are too confident tending it towards arrogance. At the same time, if you appear to be too weak, you lose respect and will be not likeable.
All salespeople must understand and accept the fact that unless they are able to connect and relate to the stakeholders, their likeable quotient and hence their win probability plummets, irrespective of how good the product is or how effectively your solution can solve the stake holder’s problems.