How To Improve the #1 Reason People Buy From You

improve likable

What’s the number #1 reason that customers give for purchasing from someone? 

It’s not price or convenience. 

It’s likability.

Think about your own purchases.  Have you ever seen a car you liked, interacted with a sales person, but couldn’t pull the trigger?  Something about the salesperson was distasteful.  You couldn’t put your finger on it, but you didn’t like him.

Or remember the trip to your local electronic store to buy a new computer or TV.  Some young smarmy guy saunters beside you, spilling product knowledge all over you, but never listening, kind of creeping you out.  You couldn’t do it.  You walked.

I’ve written on creating marketing strategies to drive people into your business, but all the marketing savvy is worthless if your personality turns off the customer when he arrives at your door.

Can you become more likable?


And it doesn’t matter where you are on the likability scale, this is one area where we can constantly improve.  In fact, start this exercise by asking people you trust to be honest where you rank on the likable scale from 1 to 10.  Then you know where to go, and how to improve.

Here are some tips:

1.  Them Not You. Focus on the other person.  Don’t spill out your expertise or knowledge on to them.  Ask questions about them (and not with the intention of them asking the same thing back).  Act interested, and followup with more questions.

2.  Build Rapport.  Rapport is not always easy, but the quickest way to build rapport is to look for commonality.  When you meet someone or go into their home or office, begin looking or asking for areas of commonality.  Look for those pictures of kids, sports team logos, hints about hobbies, anything that you can grab onto.  Maybe you are not interested in some of those things.  They don’t know that, and remember it’s not about you, it’s about them.

3.  Humor.  Laughing with a person creates likability almost instantly.  Sometimes the best thing to laugh at is yourself.  Especially if you find yourself nervous in a social interaction.  If you forget something or misspeak, you can laugh about it, and make the other person laugh as well.  Collecting funny stories or remembering humorous experiences from your life to pepper conversation is one way to improve.

Years ago I walked into an insurance agent’s office, and could tell he was on a difficult call with a customer.  I didn’t know the man well, and was a little nervous about the conversation. He hung up the phone in frustration, and before jumping into my spiel, I asked about the call.  He related the story of a customer misunderstanding something that should have been simple.

I laughed and told him a similar story from my own experience with a funny ending: a customer calling to remove his car from his policy—the blue one (oh, with a gold stripe).

Then we both laughed and the interaction opened up into a positive outcome.

4.  Smile.  This works even on the phone, and has become trite advice these days.  I have even seen mirrors propped next to people’s phone saying “They can hear your smile.”

But it’s true.

The crazy thing about smiling is that it makes you happier, in turn, becoming infectious to the people you encounter.

Many days, I drag myself out of bed, into the shower, into my car, sitting, waiting to walk into my first appointment, forcing myself into a couple goofy smiles in my car rearview mirror, and instantly I feel a little happier and more energetic.

5. Make Them Comfortable.  Sometimes you may notice, that it is not you that is nervous and unsure, but the customer.  Do what you can to make them comfortable.  Give them a cup of coffee, but them in a comfortable seat.  Walk around with them.  Anything.  Give assurances and set expectations, because they may be scared or worried about something.

6.  Know Their Style.  This one takes practice, but it can help immensely.  Have you come to the place in life that you realize not everyone is like you?  Sad, isn’t it.  The world would be such a better place, but probably incredibly boring if that was true.

There are multiple resources out there on social styles, and most group everyone into one of four quadrants such as Drivers, Amiables, Analytics, or Expressives.  Every resource may use different terms but they are similar.

This doesn’t mean everyone can be so easily pigeon-holed, but we all have dominant traits and these labels help understand how we interact with the world.  Knowing these and then trying to match your style to what you determine is another’s can create a deep sense of likability.

Good news:  We are all likable or we wouldn’t have customers, but becoming more likable can help all your interactions and will help you improve every sales encounter.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Have you done anything over your career to become more likeable?  Do you have any humorous stories about unlikable sales-people?

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

How to Create Loyalty with Customers Before You Sell Anything

medium_4638947724Do you know how the best salespeople develop loyalty from the start, before the sale is even closed? 

They find the customer’s pain. 

The customer may not even be consciously aware of it, but in a skillful way, the salesperson digs it out, placing it before their eyes so they need a solution.

We have talked about it as critical to the sales process.  But do you have the investigative skills needed to find it?  Read on for tips from sales experts.

Just in case you are not convinced of the power of customer pain, here are several benefits that make the time digging worth it.

  1.  Overcome objections. Before the bulk of the sales process begins, objections become minimized because the customer realizes they have a problem (beyond price) that needs to be solved, and creating that pain gives an urgency to having it fixed. 
  2. Creates relationship wedge.  Their previous sales person hasn’t found the pain, or they wouldn’t be talking with you.  Immediately you get your foot in the door, and begin questioning the relationship they have with their current sales guy.
  3. Establishes credibility.  You know something others don’t.  You become credible.  You have found something others haven’t.
  4. Expert status.  Before your product is shared, and details are talked about, you begin to be viewed as an expert, just because you know where their current product has failed them.

So how do you find a person’s pain?


Sound’s simple, but we love to talk or we wouldn’t be in sales or customer service.  Yet, the best sales and service people I see everyday listen more than they talk.  They ask questions, and let the customer do the work.

It’s not just any question that gets to the heart of a problem.  Three types are needed the most.

1.  Stay Open.  Don’t ask “yes” and “no” questions, or questions with one word responses.  Ask open-ended questions.

“How long have you been with your current agent?  Why are considering leaving?  What kind of experience have you had with your agent?” 

You may have to ask a one word question, but always follow-up with an open ended?

“Have you had any claims experience?”    “How was it?”  “Can your current agent not help? Why not?”

2.   Tell Me About It.  While not technically a question, nothing gets people talking than this one statement.

Agent: “What’s your relationship with your current agent?”  Customer:  “Good”  Agent: “Tell me about it.”

Before they realize it they expressed a frustration or disappointment, and this is where the gold is.

 3.  Dig with the Why.  This may be the best question you can ask.  Nothing fancy is needed.  Just as why?  Why are shopping?  Why is that important?  Why don’t you like…?  Last question should be “anything else?”.   A great book I picked up on this topic is The Power of Why.

 So, you’ve mined the customer’s problems and frustration, what’s next.

  1. Support it.  If you have found problems and frustrations, and convinced you can solve it, support it with examples in your shop, then start your sales process.
  2. Reject it.  Perhaps, you found someone that you know you can’t satisfy.  He is unreasonable, and you can’t make him any happier than his current situation.  It may be time to walk away.  This is hard, but even if you make a sale, the maintenance of this customer may be greater than you can fulfill.

Spend some time alone thinking through these strategies.  Craft out sample questions, bring them to your next sales meeting.  Get all your sales and service people involved.


Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

photo credit: drewleavy via photopin cc

Why Preparation Is The Real Key To Sales Success

iceberg sales preparationThe quickest way to get new salespeople up to speed is continual training on product and sales processes, but for those who have been selling more than 5 years, we often get lazy and rely on habits and abilities acquired early in our career.

One secret of great salespeople is that they never stop practicing.

They never stop preparing for their calls, and that act of preparation propels them to be better than all their competition.

The sales process is like an iceberg.

You’ve heard this before.  As you lazily float through Alaskan waters on your cruise ship, you occasionally see an iceberg or two.  They can be small or massive, but what you see on top of the water is only 10% of the whole, 90% of it floats beneath the surface of the water.

The sale interview and interaction with the customer is that 10% everyone sees, but the strength and power of the process comes from the 90% that no one sees.  And to constantly improve, our focus must be on that act of preparation.

Here are elements I’ve picked up from great sales people on what makes up the best preparation

1.  Customer Knowledge.

Nothing is worse than spending months talking to a person trying to sell your product, and realize you don’t have the decision maker.  The person you have been pouring every ounce of energy into for months has no power or influence to effect change and make a decision.

Not only does knowing your customer help determine the correct person, but gaining knowledge of your potential customer, shows you care about him.

With the internet, knowing your customer is easier than ever.  You can understand their business, get information online about their company and what is important to them.

This doesn’t just stop once customer contact is made.  Every morsel of information discovered can be gold to the great salespeople.  I’ve known people, who keep files on their prospects containing birthdays, kids names, list of hobbies, etc.  Those prospects begin to believe that this person is not looking for a one shot sale, but a lifetime relationship, and the process moves forward.

2.  Customer Questions.

Spend some time by yourself generating a list of common questions that customers have about your product, ask your staff to do this exercise as well, then compile the list.  From that starting point, craft concise answers, with analogies and stories, that get to the heart of the customer’s questions.

Then practice the answers to these questions, so you will be prepared when they come.  As new people come into your organization, having a file of common questions and answers to customer’s questions and concerns is invaluable training.

3.  Objections.

There aren’t that many objections within the sales process.  They usually revolve around money, time, or need.  You know they are coming eventually.  Script out great responses to the objections, and practice them.  You don’t want to be stumbling around your words and act surprised when you hear something you should have expected.

4.  Closings. 

As mentioned in a previous post, closings are huge.  Not because a crafty close will help seal the deal.  No, it’s because no one does them.

You don’t have to be slick or high pressure to make these work.  Just doing something will set you apart.  Create a list of potential closes and practice, so they become second nature and you won’t forget to ask for the business.

5  Sales Questions.

This element is huge and can be hard for all of us.  We love to tell more than ask.  We love our product, we know all the bells and whistles, and want the customer to know them.

You know what.  They probably don’t care about all the bells and whistles.  You won’t know that unless you ask questions about their motivations and pain points.

What problems have they had in the past?  What is their experience with their current agent?

Not long ago, I did some car shopping.  I am not a car guy.  The sales person can pop the hood and ramble about cylinders and liters and horsepower, and it goes straight over my head.  My wife is the car expert in the family.  In fact, on this day, we were looking for a car for her.

She was with me, but the sales guy wouldn’t talk to her.  I even threw him a hint or two like: “I am not going to drive this, she is.”

He wanted to talk about interior colors he was enamored with, along with the power the car had.

bad sales preparation


It was a minivan, and all my wife cared about was gas mileage, the dvd player, and roominess.  He never asked, he just kept talking, and then was surprised when my wife wanted to leave.

Don’t be that guy.

We all know we have.  Practice asking questions.  Become an investigator or therapist looking for issue that you can solve.

We all need help with this.  A modern resource for this is Spin Selling, and if you are looking for something a little more old school, but is really a must-read find Frank Bettger’s How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling.

6.  Role Playing

Do those words strike dread in your heart.  Announce them at your next sales meetings, and watch faces grow pale as groans issue from the depths of your staff’s soul.

None but the sadistic among us enjoy role-playing.

In a previous job, our company loved role-playing.  It was part of the ongoing training, and even promotions were based on running the gauntlet of role-playing scenarios.  My boss found increasing joy in springing role-playing sessions on us.  I hated it.  In fact, I still dread them today.  But they work.

Any skill set I have in interacting with people was shaped by role-playing exercises.  It’s painful and embarrassing, but effective.

It is much better than reviewing a conversation in your head.  Role-playing creates stress, and the stress is usually worse than anything you might experience in a live scenario, but this is why it works.

Take all the above prep-work and practice in live role-playing scenarios.  Don’t be easy on yourself and others.  Be the worst, most difficult customer.  Try on different personalities and style, and see how you do against each one.

Integrate role-playing in your sales meetings.  Your people will hate you, but everyone’s bottom-line will thank you later.

Every professional at the top of their game never stops preparing.  They never stop practicing.  Think of the pro athlete.  No matter how proficient they become, they continue to prepare, practice and improve.  We are no different.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

P.S.  What do you do to prepare for sales encounters?  Do you have a routine?  What do you do with your team to help them improve?