Think about those critical business skills that really matter.
Not how to read a P&L or sandbag a budget.
But the real-life interpersonal skills that helped you succeed with customers.
- Introducing yourself to customers at a trade association lunch
- Proper etiquette at a dinner meeting with customers
- Working the room at a formal cocktail party
- Getting customers to like you
These skills aren’t taught. You had to learn them yourself, tossed into the pool without water wings.
Yet these skills are important because they all begin relationships between you and customers. And who doesn’t need customers?
Getting customers to like you
Leading sales trainers (Jeffrey Gitomer for example) teach sales people to help customers buy.
And buying is based on customers trusting, respecting and, most importantly, liking you as the salesperson.
Liking you starts in the blink of an eye
That first impression you make on customers, in person, face to face sets out a path for your future relationship.
Liking you literally starts with customers in a blink of an eye. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking calls it thin slicing and it occurs within the first two seconds. In psychological terms it means making sense of a situation based on the thinnest slice of experience. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just the way things are.
In sales terms, customers are assessing whether they’re going to like you in the first two seconds upon meeting you. In this rapid cognition customers know a lot about you. Most likely whether they’re going to like you, trust you, respect you.
Since getting customers to like us is important in selling, and customers assess whether they’re going to like us in the first two seconds…
Why aren’t we taught the basic skills so crucial to success?
The genesis for this post came from a friend of mine who’s also an extremely successful, high-performance saleswoman. She felt these skills weren’t being taught today because they were a generational legacy – left overs that are seen as old fashioned and out of place today.
However she didn’t feel that way. With her sons, she intentionally taught them to be comfortable in business settings. Starting when they were 6 or 7 years old she prepped them at home and then practiced in the real world.
When going out to dinner one of her sons would order the meal, ask questions of the waiter about the menu, or make other requests.
She brought her sons to the annual sales award presentations, black tie affairs. In advance they were taught good questions to ask someone they’ve just met, and what not to ask. During the event they went out on their own and struck up conversations, met people, and learned a lot.
She even taught them how to shake hands and make that first connection to someone they’ve just met. A skill that made them aware of others poor efforts at shaking hands.
Her efforts have paid off. Now that they’re college aged young adults they’ve thanked her for that early teaching and experience. It gave them confidence in business settings and will help in their careers as they move forward.
The business benefits from these skills
There are always the inevitable sales situations of customer lunches, business social events, and tradeshows. Being comfortable in them is a tremendous advantage for a young adult, or one of any age.
When manners are present, courtesy extended, and etiquette followed, good things happen:
- You help others feel at ease (customers included)
- Customers like you & take an interest in you
- Customers want to be around you, spend time with you
- Relationships begin seamlessly
- You’re accorded credibility & respect
Who wouldn’t want the above when helping customers buy your service?
Do you know how to shake hands?
Of all the things that occur in the first two seconds of meeting someone, shaking hands is likely the most common.
And let’s face it, we judge from that handshake:
- The vice grip…”what’s he trying to compensate for?”
- The clammy fish…”no spine and overly fearful”
- The arm socket wrencher…”you’re the last person I’d buy something from”
As we judge, so do the customers we meet judge us by how we shake their hand. In case your curious about how to shake hands, here’s some guidance from Kevin Eikenberry in Make a Connection: Seven Secrets to Great Handshakes
1. Start with eye contact and a smile.
A great handshake isn’t just about a physical gesture, it is about connecting with the other person. It is a physical greeting and you want to convey your pleasure in greeting the other person. The best way to do that is with your face and your eyes.
2. Go for the thumb.
Keep your hand open and make sure your handshake will be a hand shake, not a finger or palm shake. This means getting the joint of your thumb (the lower joint – the tissue between your thumb to your forefinger) nestled into the joint of their thumb. This allows you to truly have a full handshake.
3. Firm, not strong.
A good handshake is firm but not overpowering. It isn’t the precursor to a wrestling match, and it doesn’t feel like a dead fish. Do you wanted to be handed or greeted with a dead fish? I doubt it! Always make your grip firm, but make adjustments based on the firmness of the other person’s grip.
4. Up and down, not back and forth.
A good handshake has a nice up and down motion, not a back and forth one, as if you were jointly trying to saw some wood. Again, adjust the motion to what seems natural and comfortable to the other person.
5. Adjust duration.
Some people prefer a long handshake, others prefer them much shorter. Observe the other person and adjust the duration to the situation, how well you know the person, and what seems comfortable to them.
6. Consider your left hand.
While it may not be appropriate in some cultures, I often use my other hand to grasp the other side of the person’s hand or to touch their arm. This gesture makes the handshake warmer and more personal. When I am trying to convey those feelings I include my left hand as well. You might consider doing that too.
7. Close with eye contact and a smile.
If the smile and eye contact hasn’t continued throughout the handshake, finish it out that way.
It may be too late for you, but…
Consider teaching your children these interpersonal skills, help them be comfortable in business settings and ultimately more successful in their careers.
If you have sales people from Generation X and the Millennial Generation, consider making teaching resources on these skills available. As they begin to understand more about customers and selling, they’ll recognize these skills as relevant, useful and essential.
Counter-intuitively, the absence of manners, courtesy and etiquette today make them even more noticeable when they are performed. Stand out from the competition, be polite and confident. Now there’s an idea.
The benefits to business, customers and your personal experiences are worth the attention to them.