To win in sales, you need to get a great territory plan in place, then carefully research each individual customer, run your analytics to see which customers are best placed to buy at that time, then develop your value proposition, prospect your customers, get them knowledgeable about your product roadmap, ensure their heatmap is filled out and finally, boom! They purchase.
Or maybe not?
These elements are important, to an extent, for the appropriate customer.
But a huge part of selling comes down to likeability. People often don’t like admitting that, because it can suggest that sales people are ‘born’. What happens to Sales Trainers if sales is just about being likeable; a quality that is pretty difficult to learn?
An article in Harvard Business Review discussed how co-workers preferred likeable people – and that managers often hire likeable people. That sounds incredibly obvious, but the suggestion is that we often make choices about people in a work environment, not on their skill or competence, but mainly on the level of their likeability. You choose to work with the person on a project, you offer them the job, you promote them because they get on so well with the team. That’s not to say that you can be completely useless and still get ahead (although that does happen from time to time) but it means that in a decision scenario, where all candidates rank the same on all other factors, is it not natural that the final decision comes down to likeability?
Within our own organisation, one of the factors that makes customers choose us is often a simple “We can work with these guys” statement. If the trust and respect is there, then customers feel much happier working with a company they can work with easily, get along with and engage without friction – rather than a company who still has the same high levels of competency, but something just doesn’t ‘smell right’. Of course, we believe we have high levels of competency in what we do, but we also focus on fostering a culture of likeability – personality and character are important traits that bond us as employees and also create bonds between our customers and partners.
As the HBR article puts it, a little extra likeability goes a longer way than a little extra competence. This brings me to whether likeability is the biggest factor for buyers when making a purchasing decision.
Likeability in Sales
A Rain Selling post highlights how there are often underlying reasons at play, that we might not even recognise ourselves, when we make a purchasing decision. In situations where every supplier at the table has the same level of competency and capability, which is often the case in highly competitive markets, the decision usually comes down to who the buyer likes best.
And ‘liking’ doesn’t just mean you’d be happy to go for a beer with them – it can be broader and mean that you respect their perspectives, or find them more credible; therefore more likeable.
Rain also conducted a survey about what separates winners in sales from ‘the rest’. The main difference was ‘the seller and how they sell’ rather than an assessment of the company and its products. Amongst many other factors, the buyers surveyed listed points such as, “being more collaborative, listening to me, helping avoid potential pitfalls, and connecting with me personally” as reasons contributing to choosing a particular seller.
Rain go on to share how the likeability factor has a big impact on the entire sales process, from making prospects more likely to share information during the needs discovery phase, through to buyers taking insights shared by the seller more seriously and the ease of obtaining meetings and referrals. It’s obvious that you are not going to refer a company to a friend when you had a negative experience purchasing from them.
Think about in your own office. When you hear your colleagues complaining about a particular supplier or stating that they will never work with XYZ company again, is it usually the product or the seller/sales experience? In my experience, it tends to be the difficult sales experience or clash of characters that stops us working with a supplier again. The products or services on offer are often available from someone else, somewhere in the world. The difference is how YOU are going to deliver it.