Are there qualities or attributes that enable the best salespeople to be persuasive? I have only been able to identify one. When a prospect or client looks into a great salesperson’s eyes, they see their own greatness reflected. High-performing salespeople see the best in people.
Dr. Wendell Johnson devoted 35 years of his professional life to serving people in Northern Canada. As he was about to board a plane and retire to Winnipeg, an aging Inuit woman approached him. In a halting voice, she expressed her appreciation by saying, “I like me best when I am with you.”
The first principle in selling is: Focus on the other person.
See also: Dear Sales Leader: Read. Digest. Apply.
High-performing salespeople are genuinely interested in the people whom they meet. Intuitively, they know that other people appreciate someone who expresses a genuine interest in them.
In his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Dr. Adam Grant, shares empirical research and anecdotes that demonstrate that the most productive salespeople are givers. Because they also see the best in other people, they become enablers in drawing out the potential of others, who see their own greatness magnified in the eyes of the salesperson.
Let me give you an example. My friend and mentor, David Cowper, was a high-performing insurance adviser and a great salesperson. David learned that a successful entrepreneur who sold his company at age 60 was buying it back at 65. The company had his name on the door and was being run into the ground by the conglomerate that acquired it. The trouble was breaking the entrepreneur’s heart. He was in the process of arranging a leveraged buyout, and David knew he would need life insurance.
He called the entrepreneur, who told him he already had proposals from four leading insurance advisers. David said: “Then, why not a fifth. It will take me less than 15 minutes to show you how I can save or earn you money. I understand that you get to your office at 6:45. I will meet you at that time on any morning you choose. I will bring coffee and muffins. If I cannot demonstrate value in 10 to 15 minutes, I will gladly leave. Does that seem fair?”
The entrepreneur laughed and suggested they meet the following morning. When David met the entrepreneur, he asked: “How much life insurance are you contemplating?
The entrepreneur responded: “$50 million.”
“How did you arrive at that amount?”
“That is the value of the business.”
“Are you buying the business for today’s value or tomorrow’s?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you buying it for today’s value or for the value you will create over the next few years?”
“Obviously, for the value we will create.”
“What do you think that value will be in three to five years?”
“If it is not worth at least $100 million in five years, I will be very disappointed.”
David was the only one to propose $100 million of life insurance and made the sale.
The second principle in selling is: Let the other person set the pace.
High-performing salespeople earn the right to be trusted. Their prospects and clients feel as if they are setting the agenda. These top salespeople have internalized the adage: “People hate to be sold, and love to buy.”
See also: 6 Tips to Augment Sales and Prospecting
One of the most effective ways to let others set the pace is to ask questions and listen well. Another adage is: “People are most comfortable with their conclusions, not ours.” David’s questions drew out the entrepreneur’s aspirations. To create a $100 million business, he needed time. The life insurance guaranteed that, if he did not have the time, his goal would still be achieved.
High-performing salespeople not only bring out the potential in others but also show them how to realize their goals. That is the singular quality that makes them so persuasive.