Appearance, demeanor are crucial to sales success
Recently I read the results of a sales survey of more than 2,000 companies. They found that only 63 percent of salespeople hit their quotas last year (down 7.62 percent from 2013). If you are reading this and you are one of the 37 percent who didn’t make it, there is hope. If you did, congratulations, but there is room for improvement.
Another fact from the survey: The No. 1 sales objective of 54 percent of companies was to capture new accounts. The No. 1 area of sales execution that needed improvement was “conducting a thorough needs analysis.” These statistics say a lot about our profession. Here are two areas to work on:
1. One mistake you can never overcome is a bad first impression. Yes, once made it can never be corrected. Here are some first-impression mistakes salespeople make.
Stay neat. Twelve percent of buyers say that long hair on salesmen bothers them. It is not right, but that’s the fact. Seven percent thought salespeople with beards must be hiding something. Figure that one out. Other comments buyers made were “If their shoes were not polished, it was a sign of a sloppy businessperson” and “Grossly overweight salespeople must be lazy.” These were not the worst of the comments. The point is that many salespeople are being stereotyped by certain people when it comes to their appearance.
It is irrelevant if you agree or not with what buyers think. However, as salespeople we must acknowledge that our appearance and dress can put us ahead or behind when we first meet a prospect. Look as good as you can and try to stay in the “norm” of appearance.
I have worked with salespeople who had offensive odors. Obviously, this makes for a bad first impression. On the flip side, many prospects do not like too much perfume or cologne. Body odor sends a bad signal. Taking a shower and using deodorant is a necessity. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash. One salesperson I worked with had eaten so much garlic it was coming out of this person’s clothes. These are all unacceptable if you want to be great.
Study after study indicates that “attractive” people have a first-impression advantage. You control what you look like when you present yourself to the prospect. If you are not sure of the first impression you’re making, ask a successful person whom you trust what you can do to improve your appearance. Just because it is not important to you does not mean it is not important to the prospect. Remember, we serve at the prospect’s pleasure, not ours. I wear a suit, don’t have a beard and have no body odors.
2. Another mistake I see salespeople commonly make is bad listening. This relates to “thorough needs assessment” (the No. 1 area of sales execution that companies say needs improvement). Below are some good listening tips:
First, face the prospect with feet on the ground, leaning forward and nodding your head when the prospect speaks. By facing the prospect, you send a subliminal message that you are open to their ideas. When you cross your legs or turn sideways, you are sending a message that you are not open. Leaning forward says that you are interested. Watch any conversation and you will see who is and who is not interested by the position of their body. Also, studies indicate that people will talk 66 percent more when the listener is nodding his or her head. Good listeners want the people they are talking to to talk as much as possible.
Second, good listeners take notes. Even if you just write down a few words. Taking notes does two things: It focuses you on what the prospect is saying and it says to the prospect, “What you are saying is important.”
Good listeners mirror their prospect. This means repeating back what you believe the prospect said. Great listeners ask open-ended questions for more information. This brings you clarity and alleviates any misunderstanding. Psychologists say this technique helps avoid conflicts.
Finally, good listeners repeat back action items that they will do as follow-up to the conversation. Once again, this reinforces that you believe what the prospect said has merit. It also shows appreciation to the prospect for sharing.
If you clean up your act and improve your listening skills, your sales will go up, too.