The link between “Like-Ability” — being liked by your customer — and increases in sales, is a hotly debated topic at live workshops that I lead. Some of the comments that I typically hear are:
“Selling is all about relationships. My customer has to like me to buy from me!”
“I’m in a competitive business. The fact that a customer likes me more than the competitor’s rep is what sets us apart.”
Applying Economics 101 to the issue, the question becomes, “What is the correlation between the amount the customer likes the sales rep and their inclination to buy from that rep?”
I try to base the strategies at Northbound Sales on research and not just anecdotal evidence but the research on this topic is pretty light. Some experts claim that being liked by your customer is akin to gaining admission to a club. That is, if the customer likes you, you’ll gain the privilege of being considered but if they don’t like you, you won’t even be considered. This makes sense to me.
Neil Rackham, the father of the consultative selling approach, found in his research that led to the SPIN Selling revolution that the relationship between being liked and increased sales was weak. Although there was a very slight correlation in general, it was limited to rural areas. Just as most people would guess, it is true that customers in smaller communities will choose to buy more often from a salesperson they like. In dense urban areas, his immense research found that although customers might “like” one company’s rep more, they were more likely to buy from the rep who provided the most compelling solution to their problems.
Bottom line is that if you can’t find your customer’s problems and link them to your unique solutions, they can like you more than any salesperson they’ve ever met, but it won’t close the sale for you. What I find in working with people in the field is that they spend too much time on pleasantries and small talk at the expense of solving the customer’s problems.
I’m reminded of my ride-alongs with Jim, a rep for a national supplier to furniture manufacturers. When I do ride-alongs, I track how much time is spent on the different steps of the sales call. In Jim’s case, when he learned that his customer built cabinetry for 2 large national chicken specialty restaurants, the conversation shifted to an open discussion on which restaurant had the best chicken! Out of a 43 minute sales call, how much time was spent on sharing how the new product might help the customer? 6 minutes. How much time was spent debating chicken? 22 minutes! When we got back into Jim’s car, I couldn’t help but question him. “Jim, where were you going with all the talk about chicken?” to which he replied, “Mike, my customers buy from our company because they like me. If they want to talk chicken, I talk chicken.” I’d be very interested to ask the customer if they agree!
My biggest advice for you is this: Yes, try to ensure the customer likes you but don’t think for a New York minute that this is a substitute for deep skills in finding your customer’s problems and helping them fix them. Work on your “Goal Aligned Selling™” selling skills rather than talking about chicken.
To learn more about our “Goal Aligned Selling™” program or to arrange a complimentary workshop for your sales team, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.