Tag: trust

Are You Able to Make Small Talk?

Are You Able to Make Small Talk?

Casual conversation or “small talk” helps you sell yourself, which is frequently the most essential thing that you have to sell.

If you have read my book Eliminate Your Competition or you have read much of the pages of my blog, you know that I frequently talk about the importance of selling three different things:

  • Your product
  • Your company
  • Yourself

In most industries, your product is probably very comparable to several other products on the market. It may be slightly better in a few areas, but it is likely marginally worse in a few different areas. Essentially, it is usually a tie on the features and benefits of the product. The brutal reality is that if it is not a tie today, then it will likely be a tie in the future.

I am sure your employer is fantastic. I also assume that the company that wants to beat you is excellent. While there are undoubtedly differences, there aren’t that many companies that are so awesome that it is the primary reason that you make a sale. In general, companies in the same market are mostly a tie.

That leaves you. In most cases, you and your virtual sales team are the primary reason that you win or that you lose. You have undoubtedly heard the old adage that you didn’t lose; you were outsold. Few deals are truly won or lost on product and company – it is typically the sales team that makes the difference.

The sales team understands how to apply the product benefits to the individual needs of the people making the decision. The sales team knows the correct people that will be interested in those small variations of company benefits.

In order for the sales team to have this capability, every decision-maker in the organization must trust you, and hopefully, they respect you. The best ways to do this is through your innate knowledge of:

  • their individual goals
  • their collective goals
  • your ability to relate the correct information to them in keeping with their goals
  • your ability to engender trust in other people

You can develop confidence in other people by your ability to speak about you, your company, and your product. However, you can accelerate that trust if the decision-maker personally likes you. Personal likeability is not a pure requirement, but few people will trust someone if they absolutely do not like the person. In other words, you do not need to be a personal friend to the various decision-makers, but you definitely cannot be a personal enemy.

Personal likeability is the primary reason that you need to be good at small talk. It makes you a human. It elevates you beyond being the smartest person in the room; it means that the most intelligent person is also a friendly and enjoyable smart person.

If you have read my book Eliminate Your Competition, you likely know that I think that acronyms are quite helpful. I recently came across this tweet on Twitter that creates an acronym for the primary aspects of small talk.

FIRE is a great reminder, and I suggest that you have an “ice breaker” story or two in each of the four categories.

  • Family
  • Interests
  • Recreation
  • Entertainment

During small talk, you’ll get some idea of that odd-shaped part of a human being that’s invisible to the eye and impossible to articulate. Are they kind, hurting, silly, or malicious? Some combination of all of those?

Mastering small talk will help you find common ground to create a mini-bond with new contacts. Small talk may feel trite and unimportant, but it’s the small talk that leads to the big talk.

Ideally, small talk will uncover common interests, business alignments, the six degrees that separate you, the potential need for your product, and basically whether or not you enjoy each other’s company. The goal is not to become best friends or a new client on the spot.

The goal of small talk is to establish enough common ground to determine a reason to connect again.

Keeping a conversation rolling is simple when you learn to listen and ask appropriate probing questions that naturally grow from the dialogue. You only need to prepare a couple of questions in advance. If there is a genuine connection, then you can proactively engage in conversation.

There is a balance between too much and too little business talk. If you don’t talk business at all, you may miss an opportunity to communicate who you are, what you do, and what you have to offer and that you are competent in your field. There are some people who you can know for years and never hear them talk about work. You assume they are retired or not interested in more clients.

Match the depth of dialogue to the environment

You don’t want to let people overhear confidential or inappropriate information. Plus, talk that is too deep at business functions can lead to heated conversations. Over-heated conversations can quickly be subdued by merely making a statement that offers little room for a rhetorical comment. This tactic will diffuse the situation quickly and without incident.

For example, say with a smile, “Well, that’s one issue we’re not going to solve over lunch,” or close the conversation with “I understand your perspective,” minus the “but” that would aggravate the situation.

You won’t win points for always having to be right. You may win the debate while making someone else look bad, but in the end, you’ll make yourself look worse. You will, however, earn points for having social graces if you are the bigger person and cool potentially fiery situations.

You have to know when to let go and kill the discussion even if you believe you are correct on the issue. In the grand scheme of things, we must value the opinions of others and accept that it is not essential to win every debate. The last thing you want to do is to appear as the know-it-all who must end conversations as the perceived winner.

How you make people feel will be remembered

When it comes to small talk, don’t think you must say something amazingly insightful each time you speak. People will likely forget your words but will remember how you made them feel.

No doubt, small talk can get a little dull after a while. So, take it upon yourself to make it enjoyable. To prepare for conversations, rely on FIRE (described above). These will make it easy for you to swing an otherwise stale conversation into one that makes you a genuinely enthusiastic conversationalist.

Have you ever been in a conversation that wasn’t clicking, then suddenly the mood changes, and you both have a smile on your face as the conversation starts firing on all cylinders? That’s because you found common ground. It occurs when two people have an interest in the same topic.

By determining in advance what interests you, half of the equation for stimulating conversation is complete. Now your job is to guide the conversation from topic to topic. Your goal is to solve the foremost half of the equation: What’s of interest to your new contact?

You need to be good at this!

The real key to great conversations is to relax. Let the conversation flow naturally. That’s easiest to do when you’re fully engaged and genuinely interested in the conversation topic and the person with whom you are talking.

When you make small talk, you are primarily selling the one thing that you are the premier expert on: you. Since you are typically the reason that you will eliminate your competition and win the deal, you should practice it until you are extremely good at it.

Header photo Conversation by Sharon Mollerus on 2006-05-17 10:08:20
Six Ways To Gain Credibility

Six Ways To Gain Credibility

I have spoken of trust, honesty, and credibility before. When you understand that you sell three things:

  1. Your product.
  2. Your company.
  3. Yourself.

In nearly every sale, you probably have a competitive product that is very close to the same features and benefits as your product. You rarely have a massive competitive advantage in your product. Also, it is very rare that the quality of your employer is so much better than your competitor that it is the deciding factor in the decision-making process by the prospect. Alas, it is usually the salesperson and the sales team that makes the most difference to the prospect. Does the prospect trust you? Does the prospect think you are honest? Are you a credible vendor to the prospect?

John Care is a good friend of mine that has published two books and runs a consulting company that helps technical sales teams. One of his books is titled The Trusted Adviser Sales Engineer. The very description “trusted adviser” is the cornerstone of making sure that the third item that you sell (you) is the best that it can be. While John’s book is targeted to Sales Engineers, every person on the sales team can learn from his words of wisdom. I have recreated a couple of paragraphs from John’s book and also his six ways to gain credibility.

“What makes a customer actually trust you? It is much more than your technical knowledge and capabilities, as those are the basic table stakes that customers expect of any [salesperson] with. For [a salesperson], it is a combination of honoring your commitments, speaking the truth, and acting in the best interests of the customer – even if that may occasionally conflict with the best interests of your own company.”

“The downside is that once [a salesperson] loses credibility with a customer it can be very difficult to regain it. Giving vague or misleading answers to a question or being factually incorrect are classic examples of this.”

  1. Tell The Truth. Always. Plus, you get the benefit of never having to remember what you said!
  2. Be Considerate With That Truth. Younger [salespeople] can sometimes be too blunt – directly saying, “that is never going to work!” to your client may not be the best approach.
  3. Use I Don’t Know Wisely. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, and then promise to go get it for the customer . Don’t make stuff up! You can only do this a few times in a meeting – excessive “don’t knows” shows that someone is in the wrong meeting.
  4. Show Passion. Show some passion and enthusiasm for your product/ solution/services and for helping the customer. Do relax and take a breather so you don’t speak too quickly from an adrenaline high.
  5. Utilize Your Credentials. It’s OK to cite your credentials, but don’t overdo it and do make it relevant. So yes – you can put CISSP, ITIL or vExpert on your business card and eSignature, but just use one. A raft of acronyms after your name is excessive. (Note: “MBA” isn’t going to make much difference in most countries. ) Also, be sensitive to cultures – it is much better for someone else to cite your credentials in many parts of the world than to use the US testosterone “in-your-face” approach.
  6. Do The Research. Know as much as feasible about the company, their issues, and the people that you meet. Just saying “I read that article in the Straits Times yesterday” can really help – as long as you actually did read it!

You can purchase John’s book wherever books are sold. I suggest that all my readers get a copy and read it, regardless of your role in the sales process

 

 

Care, John. The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer (Kindle Locations 266-270). Mastering Technical Sales. Kindle Edition.

Care, John. The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer (Kindle Locations 412-414). Mastering Technical Sales. Kindle Edition.

Care, John. The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer (Kindle Locations 422-444). Mastering Technical Sales. Kindle Edition.

 

Does your prospect trust you, your company, and your product?

Does your prospect trust you, your company, and your product?

More than your understanding of your customer’s needs and goals, your top priority in sales is to have your prospect trust you. In fact, your prospect needs to do more than just trust you personally – your prospect needs to trust you, your company, and your product.

It is possible that generating trust is the most important thing that you need to deliver. Let’s face it; you already believe that the combination of you, your company, and your product is a superior offering to your competitor, your competitor’s company, and your competitor’s product. You need to convince your prospect that they should trust your opinion that your trifecta of the three is superior to all of your competitors.

This is not easy. You may have to go to great lengths to engender that trust. You may have to prove the financial stability of your company. You may need to prove that your company has excellent support. You may have to prove the applicability of your product to your prospect’s needs. There is almost no end to the number of things you may have to prove to your prospect.

What you definitely do not want to spend too much time on is that you are a trustworthy person.

It is easy to undermine that you provide value. Proving that you are not a liar is not easy. For you to show that you are not a jerk can seem easy, but in reality is difficult to do. It only takes one slip up to destroy your credibility. All you have to do is:

  • Tell one lie.
  • Offer one misleading truth.
  • Exaggerate just once.
  • Make one inappropriate comment.
  • Look unkept and disheveled once.
  • Miss one commitment.

That is all it takes. One slip up and you could be relegated entirely to untrustworthiness. It is simple. It is easy. You screwed up, and now you depend on your product and your company to beat out your competitor’s trifecta of his company, product, and salesperson. This reputational damage is a huge disadvantage. Your inability to engender trust in yourself puts your entire sales effort at risk.

Being a salesperson is extremely difficult, and this is one one of the biggest reasons for failure. You blew it. You proved that you were not trustworthy. Sure you can blame your company, your product, or your prospect, but in reality, it is your fault. You were not on your best behavior at all times. You may not even have noticed that the prospect stopped trusting you. Most of our prospects are just too polite to tell you that they question your trustworthiness.

How do you fix this problem? Simple. DON’T!!!!! Don’t put yourself in the position of not being trustworthy. Don’t allow the prospect to think that you are not fantastic.

  • Don’t ever lie.
  • Don’t ever tell a misleading truth.
  • Don’t exaggerate.
  • Don’t ever make an inappropriate comment.
  • Don’t look disheveled.
  • Don’t break a commitment.

You should ALWAYS be on your best behavior. Don’t screw up. Yes, this is hard, but it is the easiest way to fail as a salesperson. Destroying your reputation with the prospect is the easiest way for you to eliminate yourself from consideration and not to eliminate your competition.

Image courtesy of LicenseAttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by torbakh
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