Selling complex solutions always comes down to people buying from people they have a relationship with. Relationships are built on trust. Trust is developed by showing commitment, follow through and delivering quality solutions that provide value to the customer. It’s that simple right? Well, kind of. The sales professional’s greatest challenge is getting from the initial meeting down the path with the prospect that will give us the opportunity to prove our worthiness each step of the way. The problem is we don’t always get that chance in the challenging world of sales.
As Dr. Michael Cox states the number one skill needed today in business is people skills and emotional intelligence. Of course you’ve heard it many times that the best sales people have great people skills. Having great people skills is about having the ability to read the other person’s emotions and behavior and taking this into account during the flow of the conversation during the sales meeting. It’s also having the ability to identifying how they prefer to communicate and understanding what’s important to them. Emotional intelligence is the assessing, expressing and management of feelings while interacting with others.
Travis Bradberry in his book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 talks about the four components of emotional intelligence. The first one is “Self Awareness”. Self awareness is the understanding of who you are. What you assess to be your strengths and shortcomings as a person. Most of us are already aware of our attributes but the challenge is to know when to leverage them and when to hold them back. For example, if you like to start a sales meeting with small talk and you have a prospect that also enjoys socializing before getting down to business, most likely you will be off to a good start. But if the prospect wants to get right down to business and you continue with small talk, most likely the outcome will not be as favorable as the first scenario.
There are three important components we need to understand when it comes to self awareness and selling.
First, we need to understand our preference when we communicate in a sales meeting. Communication is about speaking, listening and asking questions. Which one is your strength and where can you improve? Some sales people like to go into present mode while others prefer to start by asking questions. We need to assess what the customer prefers.
Second, we need to assess the communication style of the prospect. It always helps to walk in with an agenda to set the expectations for the meeting. Ask the prospect if the agenda is acceptable and get their permission as to how you would like to proceed. This will give you an indication as to whether or not you’re on the right track and it will give you a hint to their preferred style of communication. Assess if the prospect is flexible or rigid, casual or formal. Do they like to control the conversation or prefer you to? We need to learn to adjust our approach.
Third, you need to put the prospects communication style first. Let them lead with what’s comfortable for them. It never makes sense to try to gain control of a conversation with a prospect that enjoys talking. Let them talk. If they prefer to ask questions, let them ask and invite more follow on questions.
The first meeting is always the most critical when meeting a prospect for the first time to gain trust and respect and for the opportunity to be invited back. The best approach we can take is to view the prospect from their point of view and not ours. That’s critical to improving your emotional intelligence.