Common Sales Mistakes – Number 2

May 25, 2022

In our most recent blog, I wrote about 2 pre-conditions for sales to be made and introduced you to the first one: ‘Need’. Whilst most people want to jump to tips and techniques to improve sales, it’s important to get the foundations right first. Today, I’d like to write about the 2nd pre-condition for sales: ‘Trust’.  

We see ourselves and our fellow humans as logical beings who weigh up the evidence before making a decision. Our choices reflect the data, we think. This moves us, in sales, to appeal to the logical human yet so much evidence points us in the opposite direction: humans make decisions emotionally and justify them logically after the event.

A huge part of a buying decision is how we feel about the person or the company from whom we’re buying. If a person feels they can trust us and our company, they are more likely to buy from us when they have a need. Before trust comes likeability. It’s rare that we trust someone we don’t like though, if you have friends like mine, we often like people we don’t trust! So, a key building block of building trust is getting people to like us.

Likeability is a skill it’s helpful to have when selling as it’s the precursor to trust. Before I introduce you to the 5 elements of likeability, let me return to the emotional side of our decision-making process for a moment.

Logical reasoning is a conscious process, one we proactively pursue and understand as we’re doing it – we’re weighing up factors, their benefits and their risks, before making a decision. Emotional reasoning is almost always an unconscious process – we instinctively get a ‘feel’ for what is right and often refer to the conclusion as gut instinct. There’s no such thing – what has happened is that our unconscious brain has recognised a pattern it’s seen before and concluded that it’s either good or bad. This doesn’t mean that it’s always right but it is incredibly quick. In seconds, sometimes milliseconds, our unconscious mind has weighed up a huge amount of information and made a decision.

Top sportspeople operate unconsciously for almost all their competitive endeavours – they would simply be too slow to react if they employed only their conscious brain. It’s the same with musicians. You can’t play each note of a complex piece consciously – you’ve practised and practised until you do most of the work without thinking. The closest most of us come to this feeling is when we drive. Once we are a competent driver, the way in which we manoeuvre the car day-to-day is unconscious. You’re more likely to remember the music to which you listened for 2 hours than the way in which you drove.

The relevance to my point here is that we often employ our unconscious decision-making minds when assessing likeability. I am sure you have met people in your life and immediately liked or disliked them. You might have changed your mind later when you had more evidence but you made a decision in the first few seconds and, at the time, you didn’t really know why. So, how does this relate to sales?

We want to sell to people with needs we can serve. In order to sell to those people with needs, we must build a position of trust. A significant first step towards trust is likeability. So, how do we build likeability, a conscious process on our part interpreted unconsciously in most cases by our audience?

Social scientists have broken it down to 5 elements, listed below along with one tip of how you can use it to build likeability.

  1. Attraction

We are drawn to people we find attractive. This is not about making ourselves physically desirable but we should make an effort to look and sound warm, smart and friendly at all times. A smile always helps. Being attractive to be around is an attraction in itself.

2. Compliments

Research has shown that we like people who pay us compliments; this holds even if the compliments are not true! By the way, compliments are not just commenting on what people are wearing. We also compliment people by treating them well, turning up on time and, most importantly, showing a genuine interest in them. Remembering names helps too.

3. Similarity

Find common ground with the people you meet. If you can find shared interests, places, beliefs or hobbies, it helps to make people feel comfortable. It tends to make the conversation flow and, when people relax, they warm to you and are more likely to listen to you.

4. Association

If we moan about things, talk ill of others or generally give out negativity, we’ll be associated with negativity. It’s rare in business that we wish to be thought of in that way so make an effort to be positive in each and every interaction with people. We like people that we associate with positivity.

5. Contact and co-operation

Regular contact and co-operation from another party predisposes us to like them. This is particularly true in business, I think. If we only contact our clients when we need money from them, it’s unlikely to be a good relationship founded on likeability. Speak to clients and potential clients at times you’re not selling or chasing payment and they’ll like you more.

To summarise, selling requires 2 pre-conditions before it has any chance of being successful: Need and Trust. If both elements are present, we have a chance to sell; if one or both is not present, we will be unable to sell. It’s important to recognise the pre-conditions because, if we jump into selling without Need and Trust, not only will we fail but we will also misunderstand why we’re failing; we’ll think our sales ‘pitch’ is wrong. No, your sales pitch might be brilliant but you’re selling to people without a need or to people that don’t trust you.

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