Sales Training – The Missing Ingredient

February 21, 2012 by  Filed under: Sales 

People buy from people they like. This has been proven in many studies of sales situations.

Respected author and academic Dr. Robert Cialdini, whose research on the science of persuasion has attracted attention from businesses and sales trainers around the world, lists ‘Liking’ as one of his six principles of social influence.

The second aspect of ‘Liking’, as Cialdini’s research confirms is that people buy from people who are like them. That’s why salespeople look for points of common interest with their prospects and customers. The golfing trophy on the bookshelf, the picture of the children, the person’s accent all provide opportunities to weave into the conversation something that suggests you share a common interest.

In the same way, mirroring the behaviour of your customers can influence how they relate to you. If they are fast paced in their conversation you may pick up the beat; if they take it slow you may need to slow your pace. If they sit back with their hands resting on the edge of the table you can reflect this; if they lean in whenever they make a critical point you may do the same. Sometimes, we do this subconsciously but salespeople can become alert to the visual cues and use them to good effect.

Being aware of how your behaviour, rate of speech and general conversation can influence the sales process is important. But please don’t overdo it. Keep your focus on understanding and helping your customer not on mimicking their behaviour patterns. The way to ensure you do this is with the missing ingredient from the principle of ‘Liking’ I’ve just described.

What is the missing ingredient? It is the essence of customer focussed selling and the third, rarely explained part of the principle of liking: People buy from people who help them to like themselves.

So, your whole purpose in customer focussed selling (the only way to sell!) is to help people feel better about themselves for having chosen to phone, email or come in to see you. When this is your objective you will be focussed on them as individuals as well as on identifying and meeting their needs.

How does this work? Here are two scenarios.

Scenario One

You ask your prospect a probing question to help identify a problem they are having with their current device/product/service/supplier. There are two objectives when doing this:

1) To help you get a better understanding of their problem so that you can guide them towards a suitable solution.
2) To make them feel good about themselves for answering your question.

The second objective is what sets you apart from the typical salesperson. It ensures you engage with the customer at an emotional level rather than purely concentrating on the content of their message.

Many customers worry about sounding ‘dumb’ so they are hesitant to describe the problem as they have experienced it. If you can help them to feel good about what they are telling you, they are likely to relax and open up more.

When you say, “Thanks for explaining…”, “That’s interesting…”, “Sounds like you’ve had a lot of trouble with that”, they become confident in sharing information with you because they feel good when they are doing it. Everyone loves a good listener who isn’t judgmental.

Scenario Two

Most people have someone in their life that will criticise them for their purchasing choices.

In business this might be a rival department manager, their accountant or even their closest colleague. In their personal life it may be a parent, their partner, their sister or a close friend. You know the situation – whether it is your choice of car, your new diet plan or where you bought your eBook reader – you mention your purchase and they say, ‘Oh, you didn’t get one of those, did you? Haven’t you heard about the problems with…?” or “You paid how much for it? I’ve got a mate, who’s got a mate, who knows someone whose second cousin could have got it for you far cheaper…!”

When customers are talking with you about a potential purchase, they can start to picture this future criticism and to associate the negative feelings this brings on, to being with you. If you are sensitive to this, reassure them and let them know that they have weighed up the pros and cons carefully, they will feel better about explaining their needs to you and be more confident about their decision as a result of being with you.

The Three Ingredients

Remember that there are three ingredients in the principle of liking and turn them into your recipe for sales success.

  1. People buy from people they like.
  2. People buy from people who are like them.
  3. People buy from people who help them to like themselves.

Jurek Leon is a customer experience designer, trainer and author who presents seminars on word of mouth marketing, motivation, customer focussed selling and managing the customer experience. Subscribe to Jurek’s FREE monthly ‘Terrific Tips’ e-newsletter at Alternatively, email

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