5 min read

More compassion in sales

Secrets from the top sales performers are revealed

In last month’s column, I promised to share with you the secrets to success of countless top performers, and show you how you can use that knowledge every day to sell more, in less time – and make more money doing it.

We started with the first secret, Passion, and I issued you a challenge: Love what you sell, or stop selling it, and do something else. Today, we begin a two-part look at Secret No. 2: Compassion!

It’s been said that the art of sales is simply finding someone in need, and helping them meet that need by buying a product from you that solves their problem. At its most basic level, this is also the definition of compassion in sales: helping other people to solve their problems, and making a living doing it.

In other words, being compassionate in sales is all about being nice to people. So how can we all be more compassionate in our businesses?

It’s not about you!

First, remember that success in business is about helping your customers – not helping yourself!

Top performers put their customers first, because they know that they’ll never succeed at an elite level if their objective is solely to sell stuff to other people. The top 10 per cent know that they can only be successful if they’re focused instead on helping other people to buy.

For most sales people, this represents a fundamental shift in their mindset. How do you begin this transition? By asking your prospect questions to find out what the problem is (or if there even is one), and then listening to their answers with NO interruptions to see if the problem is something you can help solve.

Top sales people never try to sell a product to a customer without first knowing whether they can help. In fact, top performers will gladly walk away from a prospect if they don’t think the product or service they have to offer will be of use. Remember: selling isn’t about telling a prospect what you think they want to hear. Selling is about starting a dialogue to uncover a prospect’s problem, and then helping them solve that problem in the best way possible.

Let’s face it, many sales people – myself included! – are often accused of being fast talkers. Believe me, this isn’t a compliment. As my wise father used to tell me: “Colleen, you have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion!”

During any sales conversation, the best sales people only do between 20-30 per cent of the talking. The rest of the time, they bite their tongues, and actively practice their listening skills every day.

One way to improve your listening skills is to simply slow down. The next time you find yourself in a conversation with a prospect, once they stop talking, try counting to 3 in your head before you start speaking (and not as quickly as you can, either; think: “1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3….). This will give enough time for the prospect to gather their thoughts and start again if they weren’t finished, but won’t last long enough to turn into an awkward pause if they were finished and are just waiting for your response.

Just trying this one simple technique can completely change the impression you make on your clients, and have an immediate impact on your sales success. In fact, questioning and listening correctly are so critical to the overall success of the sales cycles that we devoted an entire on-line Webinar to it. For more details on this invaluable class, check out this link http://www.engageselling.com/webinar_7-2005cdcopy.htm now.

Whether ‘tis better to give or receive

There are two types of people in this world: life givers and life suckers. Top performers are live givers. Which type are you?

We all know who the life suckers are in our own lives. They whine and moan and complain and want desperately to drag you into their own personal purgatories. Nothing is ever right, they’re always getting the short end of the stick, and don’t even think about trying to out-whine them – they’ll just find something even more devastating to complain about.

So what is a life giver? Life givers are those people in our lives who are possessed of a high degree of empathy and optimism. In short, life givers are those who give first.

Without exception, the very best sales people are life givers. They understand and use the power of reciprocity every day, because they understand and believe in the truth behind the statement “what goes around, comes around.”

For example, people are always asking me how they can get more referrals from their customers. I say to them: “when was the last time you gave a referral to one of your customers, without expecting to get something in return first?”

If you do nothing for the rest of your life but give referrals first, I can practically guarantee that you will never have to ask for another referral for as long as you live. It doesn’t even have to be a business referral. A client could call you up out of the blue to say that they’re in town, and were wondering if you can recommend any good restaurants? Or you might be at their house one night when they mention how they never have time to get any landscaping done, and you can share with them the name of that great landscaper you know.

The point is, we all talk about networking and how important it is. What sets top performers apart is that they recognize that their networks are not solely for their own benefit; they exist to support the people in their network. The more they can pass those names around, whether for business or personal referrals, the more it will come back to them in spades – and without ever once having to ask.

Actions speak louder than words

Whether we like it or not, people don’t only pay attention to what we’re saying when they’re making a decision to trust us. They also judge us by how we say things, and especially by what we do.

I know – you’re screaming right now, “that’s not fair, I was always taught not to judge a book by its cover, and others shouldn’t either!” You’re right; it’s not fair. Unfortunately, it’s still the way the vast majority of people react to others around them. Since this fact of life isn’t about to go away, why not learn to use it to your advantage?

Top performers know that they have to be compassionate not only in their words, but also in their non-verbal communication, which accounts for more than 90 per cent of the way all communication is interpreted. This means making eye contact, shaking your prospect’s hand, taking notes to prove you’re interested, watching that your tone is consistent with what you really mean and respecting your customers enough to dress appropriately for a meeting.

Yes, this is all Basic Sales 101. Many of my clients accuse me of being elementary, and with good reason. But as simple as it sounds to implement, the sad truth is that 80 per cent of the sales people I coach do such elementary things as paying attention to non-verbal communication wrong.

I’ve seen sales people who constantly look over the shoulders of their prospects to see if someone more important is walking by. I’ve witnessed sales people looking at the floor or their PPT slides rather than at their prospects during a sales presentation. I’ve watched sales people who answer their cell phones during sales calls, show up late for meetings, don’t shake hands or who wear old, scuffed-up shoes.

Taking care of non-verbal communication is something that top performers practice every day, because they know that it directly affects the rapport they build with their prospects. In the long run, it is rapport that leads to trust, and trust which leads to building a customer for life.

Compassion may seem like a small thing, and in many ways, it is. Ask questions, listen to the answers, give first and pay attention to non-verbal communication, and you’ll be nine-tenths of the way there. But in sales as in life, success is all about the little things. Do hundreds of little things right, and you’ll be amazed at the huge difference in can make on your results, y