Many salespeople fail to make a favorable impression because they don’t listen attentively. By taking the time to listen carefully, we stop ourselves from sounding as if we are interrogating our customer with questions alone. Listening demonstrates empathy. When we truly listen to the person we are speaking with, that person will appreciate you, or even adore you. If you are in sales, you are in the listening and learning business.

Active listening includes reciprocating that communication has been heard and understood. From time to time, acknowledge the importance of what she is saying by nodding or leaning forward slightly. Occasionally use expressions like, “Really,” “Oh,” “I see,” “Go on” or simply, “Uh-huh.” The inflection in your voice and facial expressions as you utter “Oh” or similar reciprocating words is essential to sincerity.

When the other person is speaking, stay silent and never interrupt during momentary pauses in her dialog to interject our own thoughts. Customers will see this as rudeness because it shows that their words were not worthy of respect. Plus, there is an excellent chance you are missing out on something important. Listen as if you need to take notes.

Often in life, even when people ask for advice, they often just want to be heard and listened to. One huge secret in getting people to like you is to listen and be quiet. Learn to be more interested rather than just being interesting and you will charm and win over customers. People love to talk about themselves. With only a little practice, this may be the easiest yet most valuable concept in this entire article.

More than hearing words, part of listening involves observing your customer’s body language. People usually communicate more honestly with gestures than with words. Body language will tell you if your customer is relaxed or tense, trusting or suspicious. Are they getting excited or bored? Is your customer becoming committed to buying or needing more information? Are they being honest?

Of course, our own positive body language can make all the difference in how we are perceived in a conversation. Stand up straight. Make eye contact and smile. Avoid talking while putting your hands in your pocket or leaning on furniture. Remember to uncross your arms. Be animated! Use your hands to point out areas of the store or colors and styles. No matter how excited we feel, our body language may be telling the customer we are bored with them.

Tone of voice holds a close kinship with body language. Just as body language telegraphs emotion, there is also the emotion behind the voice. It’s not just about what we say, but rather the way we say it. Any telephone salesperson knows this, but it applies amply to face-to-face communication as well.

There comes a time to offer advice and supply expertise to the customer—it’s called presenting. However, a trap we sometimes fall into is “presenting” too soon. It is important to make sure we have a clear picture about the needs of the customer first.

In traditional selling, presenting meant tailoring merchandise to the customer. This doesn’t work so well anymore. Instead of pounding your predetermined, hard-and-fast products, it is important to present merchandise based on an exchange of ideas that tailors the customer to the product. In this way, we are selling from the customer’s point of view rather than our own thinking and judgments. As a customer, which (or who) would you prefer? 

Realize that appeals to the emotions are always greater than appeals to logic. We do not just sell products and services—we primarily sell fashion ideas to people, and people sell our products and services to themselves rationalized by logic. If, when working with the customer, you can weave a vision of her dreams coming true, the product you are presenting becomes more valuable. Selling is making your product worth more than she is seeking.

A key ingredient in promoting likeable relationships is your enthusiasm. People love being around people who are optimistic and energized. Passion and excitement are contagious, and that emotion transfers from you to the prospect. If you cannot become enthused about your product, how can you expect your customer to become enthused to buy?

For example, when you discuss solutions, do you become more animated and energetic? Does your voice and body language reveal your enthusiasm? When you are face-to-face with your customer, can they see the light in your eyes? When you get excited, customers get excited with you. It’s truly fun to buy from people who love what they do. So, allow your enthusiasm to prove that you believe in your product and services. This may be the most critical aspect of any presentation.

Also, be sure to lose any feelings of desperation. The best salespeople are excited, motivated, and confident - not desperate. Granted, we must pay our bills, but appearing desperate turns people off fast. Desperate salespeople appear self-centered and commission-oriented rather than aspiring to deliver tailor-fit solutions for their customer. When you become desperate, we act and sound foolish and we are in turn disposed to ask desperate questions while giving desperate solutions.

When needed, customers like and prefer salespeople who have an excellent knowledge of their products. To help others, there is sometimes a technical side of presenting that may be required to deliver the information and the product performance our customer needs to complete the buying decision. If the prospective customer needs no further information to buy, then she doesn’t need a salesperson—any order-taker will do. If you aspire to the title of professional salesperson, know your products and your services.

However, be careful not to transform into what I became addicted to earlier in my sales career - becoming a product-knowledge junkie. Amateurs have a compulsion to tell customers everything they know, never thinking of whether the customer needs or wants to hear it. Generally, only give product knowledge when asked for or when it is needed. The customer did not come into your store for a trade fair on flooring. Her principal interest concerns how your product will contribute to a beautiful room. As the old selling proverb goes, “less is more.”

Also, there is no call to use big words or technical jargon. Even the PhD can appreciate plain, simple conversation. Conversely, alluring words which excite and inspire the customer to own your product will build value and dreams. Use a straightforward, simple vocabulary that all will understand and appreciate.

When presenting, avoid too much “puffery,” which creates an unconvincing claim. Examples: “We have the best installers in town” or “We are the largest dealer in the area.” These types of statements show insecurity. Consequently, the following are danger words that hurt your credibility and are often clichéd: greatest, best, largest, highest-quality, fastest and quickest. Any adjective that ends in “est” is probably a danger word. Furthermore, while you are purging dangerous words or phrases, eliminate “trust me,” along with “always” and “never.” No matter how well intentioned, when salespeople use these words, they plant doubt in the customer’s mind.

Finally, be willing to admit your product’s downside. Customers detest salespeople who will not concede any shortcoming to their merchandise. These salespeople lack credibility. There are pluses and minuses for most products based on its application and purpose. Prove you are a trustworthy resource by being honest and realistic. When you pretend your product will be all things for every purpose, your customer will not believe anything you say. Good selling to you!