There's a lot going on when a sale is made - a lot that happened to get to that magical point where the customer reaches into her Coach bi-fold and hands over her plastic. How did she get to that point? What made her choose your product over all the others she could have purchased? Was it the advertising? The features of the product itself? Her mood? The persuasiveness of your sales staff? The behavior of consumers is complex, but there is a systematic set of steps you can take to help turn browsers into buyers.


Assume you're at a party and you spot an attractive person hanging out by the hummus and pita tray. Assume further that you'd like to go on a date with them, and that you have at least marginal social skills. The first thing you say to this person is probably not "Hello-my-name-is-Jamie-would-you-like-to-go-out-to-dinner-with-me-next-Tuesday?" (Even if your name is Jamie). Instead, there are a series of intermediate steps you'll probably take in order to increase your chances of landing the date. Selling is like that, too; it's a systematic, multi-stage process. There are several systematic processes that are effective, but our focus here will be on a process that is highly customer-focused. The steps are outlined below.

1) Establish Rapport and Credibility

People do business with people they like and feel they can trust. Your job is to make your customer want to do business with you. Your job is not to make your customer think you are smart, rich, handsome, or really good at basketball, though some of these may come in handy. How? It depends on your customer. Let me explain…

Highly effective sales people (and sales messages, for that matter) tend to be highly adaptive to the customer - not the other way around. If your customer is casual and low-key, be casual and low-key. Perhaps use humor and light conversation. If your customer is in a hurry, cut the small talk and get right to addressing their needs. If your customer likes to talk about basketball, indulge him.

Adaptation can take place along two dimensions: 1) pace (fast versus slow) and 2) task or relationship oriented-ness (build-relationship versus get-right-to-business). Below is a quick-reference chart for ideas on how to relate to people along these dimensions.

Want to know which type you are? Click here to take a quick quiz.

- Establish your credibility
- Give credentials
- Acknowledge their expert status
- Get down to business quickly
- Listen to their objectives
- Be personal, but reserved
- Engage in informal talk
- Show interest in their work
- Reference people they may know
- Talk about people
- Show interest in them as a person
- Let them talk
- Be entertaining

Pace ---> Faster

While you're involved in this process, now's a good time to establish credibility as well. Some ways to do this:

  • Ask precise questions (it lets people know you've done your homework).
  • Listen intently and actively.
  • Don't be a know-it-all. That just pisses people off.
  • Deliver on your promises.
  • Ask confirmation questions that can be answered 'yes' or 'no,' and that demonstrate you understand where the customer is in the decision process.

An example of a good confirmation question would be "So you're looking for a color printer that's good for printing digital photos, but you're not sure about the value of some of the extra features on the high-end models?"

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Wendy Comeau is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. She is not a blonde.