Authenticity is touted as one of the key qualities of successful salespeople. Authentic people find it much easier than their disingenuous counterparts to persuade and influence others. And yet, authenticity seems difficult for many salespeople to apply in their role as a sales professional.
So how do you teach a salesperson to be more authentic and, as a result, more likeable? I posed this question to Michael Allosso, a communication expert and leadership coach. He shared the top two qualities he observes in authentic people: confidence and preparation. “Confidence comes from knowing that you are prepared. And when you are prepared, you can relax and be yourself.”
His answer makes perfect sense. In my work with top sales performers, I’ve found they possess the emotional intelligence skill of delayed gratification. They are willing to do the work necessary to be prepared for a sales meeting. They will:
- Invest time in pre-call preparation, which allows them to show up confident and prepared.
- Take time to write out questions they want to ask during the meeting.
- Think about and prepare appropriate responses to potential questions or objections.
- Memorize value propositions so that they don’t engage in the sales stutter step when asked, “Tell me about your company -- who do you work with?”
Top performers are prepared, making it easier to be authentic, confident and relaxed during a sales conversation.
Another reason many salespeople appear inauthentic is because they engage in fake empathy. It’s not their fault. Many salespeople have been taught that empathy is validating what a person says, repeating their statements and words. That’s not empathy---that’s active listening skills. And used incorrectly, the salesperson looks like they are faking empathy.
Empathy is the ability to state what your prospect is thinking or feeling. And guess what? Prospects often aren’t saying what they are thinking or feeling.
Here’s a quick example of fake empathy that makes the salesperson appear disingenuous: A prospect shares a business concern and the salesperson repeats what she said. “So, Jennifer, it sounds like you are not pleased with the service from your current financial advisor. And that is frustrating, correct?” Jennifer looks at the salesperson and wonders if she is meeting with a parrot or live human being that cares.
Empathetic salespeople are great at holding authentic sales conversations. They aren’t afraid to say what the prospect is really thinking. “Jennifer, it sounds like you’re not happy with the service you are receiving from your current financial advisor. And if I were in your seat, the biggest question I’d have is how am I going to be any different? You thought you asked the right qualifying questions when choosing your current provider. Should we talk about that?” Now, that’s a real conversation, not a superficial conversation. That is an authentic sales conversation.
Authentic salespeople are likeable salespeople. Prospects still want to do business with people they like. Improve your authenticity and likeability by being prepared. Engage in real – not fake -- empathy.