Mike Hotchkiss – November 16, 2016

In this day of metricized selling techniques, it is far too often that folks in sales forget to apply fundamental people skills. Instead of putting the focus on quotas and filling your pipeline as the driving force of your daily strategy, practice five human traits that are the cause leading to the effect of improved metrics. Establishing good habits remains of paramount importance. Bear in mind the means to achieve them is not a checklist, it’s an attitude. These behaviors seem obvious, yet are frequently overlooked. As such, you should practice the following 5 things. Practice means thinking about them in every encounter every day until it is second nature.

“These are not things you can put on the to-do list, they are mannerisms.”

  1. Listen First
    Listening is the single most important thing to do when engaging a customer. Period. A simple way to ensure you do this is to start every engagement with a question. Let go of what you think you should say and let the customer talk, speaking only to encourage continued responses. With the customer doing the talking, you can steer the conversation towards your intentions. These intentions should be what you had set out to achieve during the meeting. It is not a stretch to take a question about the weather to finding out the timing of a decision by continuous response encouragement.
  2. Be Prepared
    Find out whatever you can learn about a pending engagement with a customer. This includes learning about the company that they work for, having total knowledge of the history of interactions with the customer or details of anything related to the product/project which you will be discussing. If you set up the meeting, make an agenda of talking points and share them. Ask, in advance, to have other participants alter the agenda if desired. If you’re the invited, ask for an agenda, at the very least, find out what the meeting is about. Customers will appreciate meeting with someone who is informed and ready. It shows a level of professionalism. As importantly, it demonstrates a level of respect while reducing the chance of getting blindsided.
  3. Don’t Misrepresent
    Never lie to a customer (or anyone for a quick life tip). This includes making possibly undeliverable claims to get an order. Going back to point #2, know the product and the process to avoid getting in a position where you don’t have an answer. All sales people have an ego. This is never clearer when their knowledge is challenged – setting up the guessing scenario. Replying,” I don’t know but I’ll find out” is a perfectly – yet most underused – response. Resist the urge to overextend your authority. Tactically, don’t even commit to “maybe” in a reply to “can you do this for me?” Say, “I’ll get back to you” or “I need to think about that. “Maybe” is almost always a bad answer as it will be interpreted as a yes by the customer while most likely the answer is no. It’s a leading respond.
  4. Never Miss a Deadline
    Missing a date is a personal bugaboo, but it certainly is good practice to avoid. This logically leads to an expansion of the last point. You will never miss a deadline if you do not misrepresent the time required to complete a task. If time is required to figure out how long something will take, set a time when you can give a firm date. This gets tricky when you are asked to meet a deadline. Remember that deadlines are one of the most easily negotiated concessions. Invariably, dates are padded; usually on one or two levels. Not agreeing to a date that cannot be met is not a failure. It is a reality that is important to convey. Once committed to a given date, meet it. If a deadline cannot be met, the best way to handle it is to advise the customer as early as you can set a new date. Don’t make excuse nor give a reason unless asked. If a demand to know why is made, don’t lie and give as few details as possible or it will sound like an excuse. Excuses are the second to lies in the taboo category.
  5. Always Respond The fifth obvious action is to always respond in a timely manner. Don’t hit the tomorrow button. Respond immediately. It takes no time and you won’t forget. This is the biggest head-scratcher because the positive impact SO outweighs the non-response it defies common sense why non-responsiveness is more of the norm. This is communication 101. If someone reaches out, simply acknowledge you received the message. If it warrants a detailed reply, add a timeframe to get back to them. If it is unpleasant to respond, swallow the bitter pill and say something (just don’t lie). It is best to respond in in the manner a message was received. If you get voice mail, call back. Don’t chicken it with a text or email.

To summarize:

  1. You’ll become smarter by listening
  2. You’ll get more respect by being knowledgeable
  3. You’ll be more trusted by not misrepresenting yourself or your product
  4. You’ll be deemed to be more reliable if you don’t miss a date
  5. You’ll be better liked it you just always respond

Obvious? Yes. Applied routinely by many? No. These habits are neither hard nor time-consuming, so make them first and foremost a routine. You’ll find the metrics become more positive if you do.