Despite the fact that buyers are spending an increasing amount of their time online, rather than with sales people, it remains the case that people still buy from people and specifically, from people they like.
Because the time you have with your prospects and customers is limited, it is even more important as a sales person to be able to quickly and effectively build strong working relationships and connect with your prospects and customers.
In this week’s blog, I’ll share with you my 3 top tips on really getting to know your prospects and customers, so that you can convert leads and manage accounts more effectively.
Tip 1. Be Emotionally Intelligent
Sales people with high Emotional Intelligence (EI) are more effective than their lower EI counterparts. That’s because they are able to recognise their own preferences, tendencies and biases and can adjust these to align with the preferences, tendencies and biases of their prospects and customers. This enables them to communicate far more effectively, to more easily predict and handle objections and to move their buyers through the buying process more swiftly.
Contrary to popular belief, EI is something that can be developed and improved. It starts with gaining an understanding of the different social styles. There are various models available to help you understand this, which typically categorise individuals into one of four distinct styles. Each of these four styles will be characterised by a specific set of behavioural traits. Knowing which one you fall into will help you in understanding your own behaviours. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with your own style and determined how it impacts your behaviours and interactions, you can start to learn more about the other styles. As you become more familiar with each of the styles, you’ll find that you’re able to recognise these in others. Once you have this information you can start to tailor your communications to suit the style of your prospects and customers.
Tip 2. Do your Research
If you consider the customers with whom you have the best relationships, more than likely you will find these are the ones most similar to you, either in terms of their social style, or because you connect with them on a personal level; over a shared interest. As humans, we naturally look for shared interests and commonalities when we meet new people. For sales people, if we’re able to identify on a personal level with a prospect or customer, it creates a connection, which then enables conversation to flow more naturally and makes our prospect or customer far more likely to like us and therefore buy from us.
Having some indication of where your interests might crossover with a prospect or customer, therefore, can help accelerate this process.
There are two elements to explore when looking at this:
- Their personal interests, outside of work and
- Their areas of interest/concern within the business landscape.
Thanks to the internet, finding out about your prospects is relatively easy (assuming they have a social presence). From a personal perspective, Facebook and twitter are great tools for this. There’s loads you can find out about a person from twitter, even if they’ve never even tweeted. Facebook can provide a similar level of information, but twitter presents it in such a way that you can very quickly identify common themes.
From a business perspective, twitter can also have its uses, as many people use their twitter accounts for business and personal purposes. (Some people have separate personal and business accounts, so make sure you explore this possibility.) LinkedIn, however, will probably provide you with the greatest insight from a business perspective. Look at who your prospects and customers follow, who they’re connected with and, critically, at the information they share and comment on. Look for clues as to potential areas of concern/interest which could lead to an opportunity.
Of course, all of this activity should in fact form part of your prospecting activities, as it will enable you to start engaging with your prospects via social platforms before needs have even been identified. (For more on how to do this, see my series of blog posts on Social Selling.)
Build a picture of your prospect, look especially for areas where your and their personal interests overlap, or where you can identify commonalities. In relation to their business interests, look for areas where you can offer information/advice/examples. Conversation, both online and in person, should still flow naturally, so arm yourself with this information, but use it appropriately. Be aware that there will inevitably be times when you find it difficult to connect with a prospect or customer and that’s when you’ll need to rely more heavily on Emotional Intelligence.
Tip 3. Ask and Listen
I’m not telling you anything new here by highlighting the importance of asking questions and listening to your customer, but in some research we did with sales people, we found that sales people almost always over-estimate how much they actually do this, that is; sales people think they listen more than they actually do.
The analogy of a first date is a really useful one here. If, on a first date, the other person spends almost the entire time telling you about them self, asking you few, or no, questions at all, you’re unlikely to make a second date. Instead, you’ll leave with a sense that they weren’t in the slightest bit interested in hearing about you and vow never to see them again. And that’s exactly how a prospect or customer feels when you turn up, tell them how wonderful your products/services are and fail to ask them anything/enough about their specific challenges, what they’re looking to achieve, what things are most important to them, how far along in the process they are, etc etc.
Go back to basics, as a rule of thumb, observe the 75/25 rule, ie; the customer should talk for 75% of the time and the sales person for 25%. It is absolutely critical that you avoid jumping to conclusions and making assumptions, instead use questioning to find out as much as you can. Think beyond the obvious, look for insights – areas where you can add additional value for your customer, that not even they have thought about, let alone the competition.
Demonstrating that you want to listen and that you have listened (be warned, these two are different things) will inevitably place you in a more favourable light.
Success in converting leads and in managing accounts over a period of time, both rely on the ability to form strong working relationships with others. Following the tips outlined above will significantly improve success in connecting with your prospects and customers.
If you’d like to find out more about our Emotional Intelligence or Social Selling programmes, or any of our other sales solutions, please contact us.