When was the last time you made a major purchase from someone you did not like? Chances are it does not happen very often. Most customers buy from people they like. This is especially true when customers have other buying choices. And nearly all cities have many floor covering stores to shop from which have similar products and often identical ones. So, why buy from someone you dislike?

There are many selling systems and approaches to sales. But the one quality that never differs is that salespeople who are exceptionally successful are likeable. Likeability is the foundation for trust. If people don’t trust you, they won’t like you. And prospects require trust before they will give you access to their thoughts and business.

When customers genuinely like you, they don’t just feel they are buying from you, they feel more as if they’re doing good business with someone they like. That’s why it is so important to build a rapport with our customers quickly and consistently and then hold that respect throughout the sales process. A sales professional can never truly master the art of selling until they master the art of selling themselves.

Granted, someone liking us doesn’t guarantee a sale. But if our prospect doesn’t like us, there is little chance of building a strong business relationship. Likeability along with the knowledge and professionalism of the salesperson is often the primary gauge in deciding where to buy for a customer.

A great deal of all else we say or do is filtered and colored by our customer’s initial perception of how we welcome them. In greeting, you are making your first impression, and fair or not, it often sticks the hardest. How you make first contact with the customer sets the tone for everything else that follows in the selling process.

Likeability all begins with a warm greeting. A warm greeting is not “May I help you?” or “How’s it going?” A warm greeting is about a true welcoming to the store such as, “Good morning, welcome to Custom Flooring. Thanks for coming in.” Greeting your customer is the beginning of a momentum towards a friendship, trusting and closing.

Also, avert lame beginnings such as, “How are you today?” This question opens nothing outside of, “Oh, just fine.” This dead-end catch phrase cripples your ability to build a meaningful conversation. “How are you today?” does not connect into a relationship, friendship, or lasting impression.

As a part of the greeting, customers often appreciate a few moments of pleasantries to feel comfortable. It’s called warming up. Talk about anything except product. Begin by keeping the focus on her. Look for team logos. What is she wearing? Ask about her children if they are present. Look for anything present that speaks of her. With small talk, avoid cliché topics such as “How about this weather?” Be more specific. “Are you enjoying your afternoon?” “Are you managing to stay dry with all this rain!?” “Are you enjoying all the sun we’ve been having?” Also, be personal, but be sincere as well. “I like your scarf, coat, hairstyle, etc.” Be authentic and willing to share something about yourself in the end. Salespeople who show a genuine desire to get to know the customer have the best chance of making the sale. It’s part of the art of being liked.

Great conversations happen when you find things in common. I once had a new sales person working for me and I was explaining the importance of getting on common ground with customers. My salesperson was wearing a neck brace for reasons I don’t recall. Then in walks a lady with an identical neck brace. The salesperson replied, “She’s mine.” The exchange of conversation was incredible. Once they began discussing needs, I never saw a sale go down so smoothly. Later the sales trainee told me, “The whole transaction went down like magic.”

Here is something important to know when greeting your customer: Wherever people are getting to know each other, our ability to convey empathy for the person we are meeting is like a force that exudes sincerity and collaboration. It is the mechanism that allows us to understand and relate to our customer and creates a foundation for intimacy, caring and trust. Empathy begins by developing a genuine interest in the other person.

If you struggle with having enough empathy, allow yourself to become curious about your customer. Curiosity naturally makes us focus on customer needs, and customers will sense this. With a focus on customer curiosity, we ask pertinent questions and then listen and learn with interest and concentration.

Beyond greeting, we must qualify our customers to find out their needs and desires. However, honest relationships go deeper than just qualifying our customer. Customers today do not want to feel qualified. They want the salesperson to relate to them as individuals and understand their unique needs. Your clientele does not want to be a part of your personalized checklist of questions to make the sale.

Still, we must ask questions. How can you show her what she wants when you don’t know what she needs or desires? By questioning, you are in essence telling your customer that you genuinely care about her needs. Asking questions is like painting a picture. The right questions create an open involvement via her viewpoint while creating an attitude of sincerity towards your customer.

Ask questions that put your customer in control. Specifically, ask open-ended questions or what may be referred to as conversational door openers. As the term implies, these questions create responses that invite the customer to open up and talk about their needs, wants and concerns.

Door openers (usually open-ended questions) allow the conversation to keep flowing. They are not  leading “yes” or “no” questions, but inquiries that solicit an individual response that leads the conversation away from the seller’s needs to the buyer’s needs. Effective door openers expound upon emotions. Here are some examples of questions or statements that validate the customer’s point of view:

  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “What I really hear you saying is that...”
  • “Correct me if I am wrong, but...”
  • “So, you feel...?”
  • “Is it possible that...?”
  • “What are your thoughts?”
  • “How do you want your home to look when we are finished?”

With questions, we simply start broad and become more specific. Discover what product is a good fit for your prospect. Use your human skills and avoid sounding methodical. 

Likeable salespeople function as skilled consultants who ask questions which determine the prospect’s needs and then they use that information to select the best product or service for those needs. Successful selling is a corresponding exchange of information that the customer helps direct and therefore keeps your customer in a comfort zone.

Ultimately, the customer makes the decision to buy as we carefully facilitate their natural process of reaching a decision. Each customer has her own buying requirements based as much on relationships as on product, and it all must unfold naturally. So, do not force your selling steps upon the customer to suit your own selling agenda.

In the next issue, other selling approaches that increase our likability and sociability will be reviewed. Until then, good selling to you!