Improving soft skills used during the sales process

Let’s assume your selling skills are top of the class and you excel at closing. Do you believe you have good manners though? Could a gap in manners cost you clients? Good manners extend far beyond knowing which fork to use at a formal dinner. Fundamentally, it’s about putting others at ease. When working with clients, it’s one of those soft skills that can tip the scales in your favor when it comes to prospects choosing with whom they will do business.

When clients feel at ease with you, they don’t feel like they’re only a business transaction to you that begins with shaking hands and ends with signing papers and a check. Instead, clients feel more like it’s a trusted relationship. These tips can help smooth the way.

  1. Offer a beverage. When the prospect visits your office, join them for a cup of coffee or tea. Either get the drink yourself or pick up the phone and request it. Don’t ask an assistant to leave the room and bring it. It can send the wrong message.
  2. Smile. This seems obvious, but it shows you are genuinely glad to see your prospect. Put another way, they didn’t call to cancel or fail to show. That’s another reason to be happy.
  3. Sit on couches or soft furniture. This may or may not be possible. If you have a small space, you will probably meet in a conference room. I’ve heard them called “closing rooms.” Never use that expression! Ideally, your office or the conference room has a sofa, upholstered chairs and a coffee table arranged as a seating area. This puts everyone on an equal level.
  4. Take notes. You will be gathering data for the new account form or the financial plan. There’s probably a form you use to input the data. When you ask clients questions and enter data on a form, it feels like they are “just a number” and it’s not a relationship. Asking questions and writing answers on a notepad communicates you are having a conversation and learning about them.
  5. Draw them out. I’ve heard it said, “You can ask almost anything you’d like in the first meeting.” The prospect will assume you need the information for some logical reason. If you omit a question and call them up afterward, they may think you’re disorganized. Ask questions that get them talking. For example, “What keeps you up at night?” or, “Tell me more.” Asking “Why?” can also get you more data.
  6. Set meeting parameters. Have you ever sat in a meeting that seemed to go on forever? Don’t be that person! Say things like, “I anticipate our ‘getting to know each other’ meeting will take about 30 minutes. You are welcome to go longer if you’d like.”
  7. Hold their attention. People can have short attention spans.
  8. Watch for body language. Leaning back with crossed arms communicates, “I haven’t bought in.” Leaning forward and asking questions implies, “I’m with you.” You know all this stuff already.
  9. Don’t take phone calls. You shouldn’t be answering phone calls when you are meeting with a prospect. They should have your complete attention.
  10. What happens next? You have a process you use all the time. Your prospect doesn’t know what it is or why you do things that way. Explain what happens next. “I will take the information we gathered today to help me put together a financial plan that’s unique to your situation. That will take me X days. At that time, we should meet to review it. Let’s pull out our calendars.”

These simple steps should help put your prospects or clients at ease and be comfortable in your company.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.

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