Have you seen an expert salesperson in action? It’s a beautiful thing. I love to observe successful sales professionals or entrepreneurs doing what they do, connecting with their prospect and moving them to sign on the line that is dotted. However, when I watch them I may be looking for different things than you may be looking for.
You may be focusing on the words coming out of the salesperson’s mouth (and, YES, words are significant) but I’m looking for something more than that. If I’m observing a salesperson—or making a presentation myself—I’m looking for the connection—clues of how the prospect prefers to be communicated with. You may ask, “How in the world would we know how they want to be connected with and communicated to?” Good question. The answer is…
…They tell us!
Allow me to explain…and my understanding of this vital communication skill began way back in 1978.
One of the first sales lessons I ever received when I was a brand new salesperson at Universal Ford in North Hollywood, California (Losing My Sales Virginity) was about the word, “like.” The general sales manager, a dude named, Boegner, told me, “People don’t buy from you unless they like you, and people like people that are like them!”
“People don’t buy from you unless they like you, and people like people that are like them!”
Of course, in 1978 I was eighteen years old, scared to death and open to anything, so I just nodded my head like I understood what he was telling me. It took me a little while to really understand Boegner’s words from that hot summer day in 1978. My mind is like a steel trap for certain things, so those words rattled around in my head, I ruminated on them and tried to place them in a context that made sense to me.
By July of 1979, I was selling accident insurance, commission only, B2B, door to door for Penn Life—a rough gig. I had this awesome sales manager. His name was Tom Smith. (That’s his real name…and, no, he wasn’t in a federal witness protection program.) Tom was a masterful salesperson and sales trainer. The insurance gig was my first foray in OUTSIDE sales. The insurance gig was so different from selling or leasing cars. When I was on the lot at Universal Ford, people came in to see US. They walked onto the lot with some intent. They either wanted to look at a car, test drive one, or buy one. In my new job I was calling on cold prospects—trying to convince them to give me their time and attention.
There was a whole lot more skill set needed in my new job and I was getting a crash course from Tom Smith. While driving to our sales route one day, I mentioned the lesson I’d received at the car lot. I recall asking Tom if he agreed with the idea that people don’t buy from you unless they like you, and people like people that are like them. I remember his answer, because it was a question. Tom asked:
“Well, did they ever TEACH YOU how to get people to like you and to convince them that you are like them?”
The guys at the Ford dealership hadn’t taught me that, so I shook my head, “no.”
Tom challenged me to observe the first few walk-in cold calls he was going to make. He instructed me to look for dynamics more subtle than just the words he or the prospect would say. We made about six walk-ins, and actually wrote some business on the fourth, then we stopped for a cup of coffee and it was then he asked me to tell him what I’d observed.
Because of his prompt (to look for a something subtler than the words he or they said), I had focused on everything else. On the second walk-in I noticed that the small business owner was quite gregarious, rather loud and demonstrative. He yelled out, “So what’re you guys selling,” even before we got to within ten feet of him. What I observed was that Tom immediately shape-shifted. He matched the volume and characteristics of the prospect and barked backed, “What difference does it make, you’re not gonna’ buy anything from us anyway.” The business owner chuckled and stuck out his hand. Tom laughed and shook it.
The two of them seemed to connect immediately, but they’d never met before.
On the fourth walk-in I noted that the prospect, an older woman, was courteous, but guarded. She inquired, using a soft slow voice, how she could “help” us. What I saw was a different version of Tom Smith. He approached the lady slowly, almost cautiously and smiled sweetly. He began talking with her, using the same volume, tone and even the same cadence of speech. The connection was instant. In a few seconds she was smiling, relaxed and she seemed quite interested in what Tom was explaining.
It was then that Boegner’s words from the car lot during the mid-summer of 1978 and Tom’s masterful communication display converged and hit me.
If you simply watch and listen to what people are like—how they communicate— you can easily mirror and match that—you can be like them—and the odds of them LIKING you and BUYING from you go way up!
This is such a powerful communication tool and skill-set and the good news is, it’s fairly EASY to practice and duplicate!
Here are the 4 communication characteristics you should identify and model when you begin a conversation with a prospect:
If you’re meeting with a prospect that speaks in a quiet voice, then immediately adjust your volume knob and mirror and match theirs. I do need to warn you that it’s easy to lump volume and speed together. (We will cover speed in a moment) I have observed some salespeople that fall into a trap. The louder they speak, the faster they speak. Guard against this. Simply adjust your volume, and then deal with your speed separately.
Are you typically a fast talker? Do you blow your prospect away, or are you generally speaking too slowly—putting your prospects to sleep? What I’d like you to do is develop a speed somewhere in the middle—practice it—but don’t necessarily use it all of the time. Have a good, steady cadence, but then quickly take note of their speed and then mirror and match it. By doing this, you will increase the odds or rapport and connection.
When your prospect speaks slowly and you speak much faster, what could their impression of you be? Is it possible they might assume you’re just another fast-talking, pushy salesperson? On the other hand, if your prospect is a hard-charging type-A personality who talks quickly, what might they perceive about someone who talks slowly and deliberately? Might they assume you’re unenthusiastic about your products, services or company, or worse, dim-witted?
This is an easy characteristic to notice, then mirror and match (as long as you’re face-to-face). If a prospect remains somewhat still or motionless as you’re talking to them, you may want to guard against quick or wild hand gestures. A great deal of movement or hand waving might distract or disturb them. If it does, you can be assured that they aren’t going to meet with you again. On the other hand if they’re expressive and you stand there frozen like a statue, you could risk losing an unspoken connection with them. They may perceive you as tense or that you lack confidence.
Enthusiasm is probably the most difficult trait to gauge immediately, but it is also something important to look for. If they seem to be excited about talking with you, simply match that level of excitement. If they seem subdued, then take a small clue (take a chill pill), and try not to blow them away with an over abundance of home team fervor. Simply try to match their level of passion for the conversation. In addition, don’t make the error of expressing your level of enthusiasm by talking faster or louder. You can speak either slowly or quickly—either softly our loudly with enthusiasm.
Ultimately, this whole communication method and skill-set is about DISRUPTION…or should I say not disrupting their preferred pattern of communication.
The truth is, most salespeople (new or veteran) aren’t aware of these initial communication dynamics at all. I believe that this is one of the primary reasons that so many salespeople fail in outside, commission sales. Often, salespeople are completely unaware of how critical it is to form a quick connection with a prospect. After all, they are busy, often very successful at what they do and we are trying to get their time and attention. There are only two reasons a prospect will grant you an appointment and it usually revolves around what we say and HOW we say it up front.
The core component of this method is to understand that if your buyer becomes sensitive (at any level) that your speed of speech, volume, gesticulations or enthusiasm greatly varies from theirs, they can be turned off by it…FAST!
You don’t want to create a disruption of connection by posing a disparity between your behavior and theirs. This is the essence to this entire idea—not to be radically different in conduct or tone, but to identify and exist with them in the bubble that the prospect is comfortable inside of.
This is the essence to this entire idea—not to be radically different in conduct or tone, but to identify and exist with them in the bubble that the prospect is comfortable inside of.
I hope this salestraining article was beneficial to you. If you want to connect with me for a 30-minute personal coaching session (no cost) simply hit me with a note, tell me what your current challenges are and we can arrange to talk on the phone.
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Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on direct selling and sales leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his platform, www.joebuzzello.com and The CAP Equation©.