The sign on the receptionist’s desk read…
“Every 3rd salesman gets shot…the second one just left.”
I was selling long distance telephone services to businesses, door to door. Man, that’s not a fun job. I’d target an office building, take the elevator to the top floor, then literally start knocking on doors. If they’d even let me in, my required opening line was…
“Hi, I’d like to talk to the person who makes decisions about your long distance, are they in?”
Actually, I was really taught only to ask for the President, when visiting small companies, but I couldn’t stomach the laughs and sneers after the first day, so I brought it down just a bit.
For every 100 doors I knocked on, I probably ended up getting laughed, escorted or thrown out of 50, asked to leave materials in 20, told there was no interest in another 20, and asked to wait in 10. In the end, I’d land maybe 2 accounts out of 100.
Granted, I hated what I was doing and selling and, fresh out of school, my sales skills were pretty non-existent. But, there was something else going on. Some other critical factor that was hijacking a huge percentage of my sales.
The “likeability” factor
One of the first things you’re taught in sales is that it’s a numbers game. That only a small percentage of people will ever say yes, so the more doors you knock on, the more calls you make, the more sales you get.
So, don’t take the rejection personally, it’s not you, it’s the product, the service, the timing, blah, blah, blah. Working under this assumption makes the job far more tolerable, because it allows the chance to not take ceaseless rejection personally. It helps shield you from the emotional side of non-stop no.
Problem is, to a much larger extent than anyone wants to admit…it IS personal!
Sales skills matter. Belief that what you are selling will genuinely solve the buyer’s problem matters. Professionalism and courtesy matters. But…
Likeability is the often the difference between tripling quota and getting fired!
There’s just no way around it. Whether you’re selling vacuum cleaners door to door, knives on QVC or a bailout plan in congress, a big part of your success is personal. Because…
People buy or reject YOU as much as they buy IT
That’s a tough pill to swallow, because it delivers all that potential rejection right back into your lap. It makes it emotional, personal. It makes it much harder to stay in the sales game (and, reality is, we are ALL in the sales game), because it means that no means no, I don’t want the product, and, no, I don’t want you.
But, here’s the thing, if you choose to acknowledge this and invest in understanding the nature of likeability, you can develop a deep wellspring of tools and strategies to quickly be perceived as being way more likeable to nearly anyone you meet. Then…
You can craft and leverage a broader, stronger level of likeability and turn it from a potential negative to a potential positive.
There are plenty of interaction-enhancing technologies, like NLP, that help with the process. But, for me, the answer came on a far deeper level…
It was about better aligning what I was selling with who I was.
When I simply stopped selling stuff I had no interest or belief in to people I had no connection with and, instead, launched my own business, selling something I believed in my heart would change their lives, everything changed.
I went from being a terrible salesman to being “the closer.” I started selling nearly every person who walked through the doors. When I didn’t close a new client on the spot, I was shocked.
Was the service I was selling far better differentiated and focused?
Sure, and that helped a lot.
But, the change in my state of mind and state of being made the biggest difference.
Because it profoundly altered the overall dynamic of each sale on a very subtle, yet compelling level.
- I was more authentic – I stopped trying to follow a canned script or project who I thought my prospect wanted me to be and started being myself. And, whether you like who I am as a person or not, authenticity always reads and feels better than nearly any facade you might construct.
- I believed in the solution I was selling – I knew what I was selling would truly change lives and I believed that the lives of every person who sat before me would be changed for the better once they were my client. And, when you sell from a position of belief, it comes through and helps you read as more authentic and likeable.
- I had a genuine interest in my prospect – I actually WANTED to know about the lives of the people who’d potentially become my clients. I was interested, genuinely interested, I asked questions, I followed-up, showing that I really listened to what they were saying. Do you have any idea how rare it is for people to find someone else who is not only interested in them, but wants to know more and listens to what they say? It’s like manna from heaven for most folks and when you can bring this quality to the conversation, authentically, you become more likeable.
- My personal energy shined through – Personal energy is a huge factor, because people often look at others with great energy and that little voice in their heads says, “I want some of that!” And, when you’re doing something you are authentically interested in, you believe in what you’re selling and you express genuine interest in others, you tend to come alive on a level that people around you not only perceive, but desire. You become more likeable.
These things all combined to allow me to establish a strong sense of rapport, trust and likeability very quickly.
They helped cultivate that intangible connection, a strong affinity that is an essential element of persuasion and sales. In fact, if you do a good job of cultivating the above qualities, half the time, even if a potential client isn’t quite convinced they need what you are selling, they’ll still want to buy it.
Because, part of what you’re selling is you…and they want more of that in their lives.
And, this applies to politics, to relationships, to business and even to spirituality.
How many people are drawn to McCain or Obama more because of the man than the position? How much easier is it to convince a spouse, partner, colleague, friend or family member to go along with you when you are radiating these qualities, when you are intensely liked by them on a personal level? And, how many of us are drawn to a spiritual path, community, teaching or idea, in no small part, because of the cult of personality, the likeability, of the person who leads the discussions, movement or community?
Likeability matters far more than any of us want to acknowledge.
Whether we’re selling a product, a service or an idea, as long as there is a person in somewhere in the process…a big part of the decision to buy is “personal.” No doubt, if you’re not selling, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
But, if you get comfortable with that idea, if you accept people are buying you as much as “it,” then you are positioned to take charge not just of the pitch, but the person. And, when you do, your longer term success will be limitless.
Of course, this all raises another really interesting question…
Can you FAKE likeability?
Can you actually develop a set of skills of strategies capable of manipulating others into liking you? Even when you are being largely inauthentic, you don’t believe in what you are shoveling selling, you have no genuine interest in the person you are selling and your natural personal energy is pretty low?
If so, how? What would you do? Will it work as well as the authentic approach?
And, what happens if you get busted?
As always, though, this is just me talking, I’m always open…
What’d I miss? What else should we explore?
Do you agree or disagree?
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