As I was reading through Fortune magazine this morning, I came across a story penned by Becky Quick. She details her experience with salesman at several local car dealerships who mistakenly assumed that the “husband” was the one making the car buying decision. As you might imagine, these salesman acted with typical outdated stupidity with respect to gender and who makes the buying decisions. Hint: it isn’t always the man.
Well, the story got me thinking about the importance of never assuming you know who affects the buying decision. While there is certainly going to be a relevant executive in the picture who inks the deal, that doesn’t mean that they won’t also be relying on the opinions of others in the organization about whether or not to do business with you.
I’ve experienced this personally when interviewing for my position at Microsoft some years ago. Typically, I tend to chat up everyone I meet, because well, I just happen to like people. So on the day of the interview, I enter the reception area, introduce myself to the gal at the front desk and then struck up a friendly conversation, which lasted just a minute or two. Later, as I was I called into the meeting room, I made a point of thanking Tiffany for making me feel so welcome. As I left the Microsoft office that day, I again thanked her and told her that I hoped to see her again soon.
For me, that’s not only being friendly but it is simply common courtesy. Anyone would do the exact same thing, right? Wrong.
Later, after being hired for the job, I asked my boss if there was anything that truly differentiated me from the other, well qualified candidate that the final vote had come down to. He mentioned a couple of things, but he made a point of saying that Tiffany – from the front desk – had raved about how friendly and personable I was. Guess what…that made a difference. As I would later learn, the other candidate had barely given Tiffany the time of day.
Morale of the story? Treat everyone equally and with courtesy and respect, because you just never know who will influence the deal.
It seems appropriate to share some words of wisdom from Dale Carnegie. I’m longtime fan of Mr. Carnegie’s work and still remember the first time that I read, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It had a profound effect of me then, as it still does today when I periodically re-read key passages.
As a result of Carnegie’s influence, these are the key things that everyone in sales needs to remember and practice.
- Become genuinely interested in others. Get to know them and what they care about. Social networking profiles can yield big clues.
- Smile. Everybody likes an upbeat person who has smile for everyone they encounter.
- Call people by name. Remember that a person’s name is to them the sweetest sound on earth. It shows that care about them as a person, and I can tell you from personal experience, it can make the difference in more ways than one.
- Be a good listener. The old joke goes that we have “two ears and one mouth” for a reason. Do a little homework in advance and then ask questions that encourage the other person to do all the talking. Later they will say that you were the best conversationalist ever!
- Talk in terms of what is important to the other person. Make them feel important and do it sincerely.
And the final tip from me…never assume that one person is more important than other in an organization, regardless of their title. Everyone can influence a sale and how you treat people can make the difference between losing and winning!