The Emotionally Effective Salesperson

A sale is a transfer of feelings. The salesperson successfully transfers certain feelings to the prospect, who is converted into a client when the transfer is completed.

August 31, 2003


Mike Gorman

Ever wonder why some salespeople are more effective than others? In his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (Bantam Books), Daniel Goleman tells a story illustrating how simply and subtly emotions and feelings pass from one person to another.

I'll put his story in my own words: Two people, one highly expressive and the other somewhat deadpan, were placed in a room at separate desks.

They each were given a mood checklist and asked to complete the questionnaire about their moods at the moment. They were observed to be silent during and after the test. The tests were retrieved, and then each immediately was given the same test again. The results of the second test showed that the more passive person had adapted the mood of the highly expressive person to some degree.

A sale is a transfer of feelings. The salesperson successfully transfers certain feelings to the prospect, who is converted into a client when the transfer is completed. It is difficult for most of us to transfer feelings we don't own. Feelings transferred in the sale process include:

Professionalism: The transfer of professionalism begins with the first contact between the prospect and the salesperson, most often on the telephone. The longer the prospect stays on the phone, the greater the chances of a sale.

Using a lead form composed of carefully crafted questions during this first call helps to gather information about whether the caller is qualified to do business with us, while it also exhibits the breadth of our knowledge. Later, professionalism is enhanced by physical appearance such as dress, punctuality, etc.

Value: Value is belief in the price. The salesperson who arrives at a price by something less than a scientifically determined, verifiable estimating system likely doesn't own the feeling of value. Because this salesperson has difficulty transferring a feeling he or she doesn't own, the job seldom is sold at the asking price.

Enthusiasm: Sometimes a prospect catches our enthusiasm simply because of the way emotions pass from one who is more expressive to one who is more passive.

Confidence: Confidence is a combination of knowledge and experience. This explains why we generally get better at sales with more training, background and experience. Visit trade shows to rub shoulders with others who are successful. Observe and repeat what makes others successful when appropriate.

How often have we heard our customers say, "We just felt better about you" or "We just felt you would do a better job?" When prospects use feel or felt, they often precede these words with just, as if to downplay the importance of feelings in making their buying decisions. In fact, feelings might act like a mental scorecard, often running subconsciously in prospects' minds. Based on this mental scorecard, prospects make buying decisions.

How many times have you spent more than you budgeted for on a purchase simply because you "felt right" about it? Studies show that even mild mood changes can affect thinking. People in good moods have an outlook that leads them to be more expansive and positive in their thinking.

Getting the customer to feel right is a valuable selling objective, so be a good guest. Don't block the driveway or alley when parking. Wipe your feet or slip off your overshoes at the door when the weather is damp. Sit with the prospect(s) at the kitchen table so you can observe body movements while you build a rapport by talking about something you might have in common: children, travel photos on a wall, etc. Your first visit to the house is like your first date; it's always easier to talk about something you have in common.

Knowing that the sales process leans so heavily on feelings, it is only natural that a successful salesperson needs to be able to judge feelings well. Empathy is the ability to know how another feels. Using expressiveness to influence prospects, salespeople must rely on empathy to read the prospects' reactions accurately. Successful salespeople don't just happen; they continuously expose themselves to new information and training. This effort is worthwhile because without sales, a terrible thing happens: nothing.

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