Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 1, 2009

Is Being Liked by Your Prospects Really Important?

Filed under: Client Relationships,sales,selling,trust — Paul McCord @ 9:13 am
Tags: , , ,

“There’s nothing in this world more important in sales than being liked by your prospect.”

“A prospect won’t listen to you unless they like you, so if you can’t get them on your side, you can’t create a sale.”

“If they like you, they may listen to you.  If they’ll listen to you, you may be able to get them to trust you.  If they trust you, they just might buy from you . . . .  Everything positive in the sale starts with them liking you, everything negative starts with them not liking you.”

These three statements about being liked were made by three top sales trainers.  Being liked must be the lynchpin to success in selling, right? 

I’ve attended numerous sales workshops and seminars, listened to a great many CD’s, and read dozens of books that all emphasize the critical nature of being liked by prospects and clients. 

On the positive side it is claimed that being liked:

  • opens doors
  • lowers prospect’s defenses
  • makes them want to say yes to please you
  • allows them to trust you

On the negative side they claim that if you aren’t liked prospects:

  • won’t believe you
  • will be suspect of your intentions
  • won’t give you full cooperation

Sounds like being liked really is the key to sales success.

Except it isn’t.

Certainly, being liked is a great asset and by all means we should do all within reason to be liked by our prospects and clients.

But being liked takes a backseat to being trusted and respected.

I suspect that you, like me, have heard many comments such as: “He drives me crazy and is one of the hardest people I know to get along with, but I wouldn’t trust my money to anyone else,” or, “I have to have my assistant deal with him because I just can’t deal with him.  I’d really love to find someone I can work with, but by gosh when he says something I can take it to the bank, and that’s worth a whole lot more than having to put up with him.”

I’ve seen thousands of situations where the salesperson and client weren’t friendly, much less friends; where the client didn’t like the salesperson but was eager to do business with them because they had earned the prospect’s trust.

We work in a profession that has a reputation for being less than honest—for being downright dishonest.  Many, if not all, of our prospects have had numerous bad experiences with salespeople.  They’ve been lied to, ripped off, and taken advantage of to the point they not only have erected a protective wall between themselves, they’ve also dug a mote and stocked it with crocodiles.  They try to avoid us if at all possible, and when they do have to deal with us, they expect us to lie, cheat, and try to screw them to the wall.

Your prospects have met the eminently likeable rip-off artist, the oh so likeable liar, the loveable conman; and as far as they know, you’re him, and if you are, well, that’s just par for the course when dealing with salespeople.

Prospects aren’t surprised to find likable salespeople whom they don’t trust.  That’s the norm.  They even buy from them because they can’t find someone they do trust.  And if you’re going to buy from someone you don’t trust, why not buy from the one you like?

No, being liked isn’t the key to sales success.

But if your prospects find likeable salespeople all around them that they don’t trust, what would happen if they found a salesperson they did trust?  They’d probably react in the same way as those quoted above—they’d be overjoyed to deal with them even if they didn’t like them.

Trust (real trust, not the shallow trust salespeople try to create by faking interest in the prospect by asking a couple of personal questions to find—or fake—common ground upon which to build likeability) is difficult to build and once built, easy to wreck. 

Although trust is one of the most difficult bridges to build with a client, it is the glue that builds lasting clients. 

Charles H. Green has developed an equation for measuring trust.  In the equation, Trust equals Credibility plus Reliability plus Intimacy divided by Self-orientation.  Although all four factors are important, in a sense the self-orientation is the most important.  The salesperson’s focus, whether on the prospect’s interests or on their own self interest, is the key factor in establishing trust.

By all means strive to be liked, but work to establish trust. 

Trust establishes clients and brings in business, being liked makes it more enjoyable.

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4 Comments »

  1. Paul,

    Great article. Being liked in sales isn’t everything, but you’re more likely to succeed if your prospect does like you.

    Being liked is not the problem. Needing to be liked is a killer.

    Comment by Paul Lanigan — May 2, 2009 @ 3:42 am | Reply

  2. Paul,

    It certainly is not necessary to be liked, in fact that can often be a hinderance – what is important, is that your prospect/client/customer respects you, as I suggest in my “Twelve Golden Principles Of Selling”

    http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/2008/12/22/the-twelve-golden-principles-of-selling-20-version/

    Best

    Jonathan

    Comment by Jonathan Farrington — May 3, 2009 @ 4:49 am | Reply

  3. Being liked isn’t the full answer, but I think there’s an order to the magical formula. You have to be liked to a certain degree FIRST and then trust comes into play soon after and may keep you working with someone that you later find a little bit difficult. If the person is difficult to deal with right from the beginning you probably won’t give him/her a chance.

    Comment by Lynn M — May 7, 2009 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

  4. Beautiful post which I have never read in any other blogs. Thanks for sharing it.

    Comment by Sales techniques — May 18, 2009 @ 5:29 am | Reply


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