Humanizing the Sales Process

Often, the process of selling is reduced to words like target, lead, prospect, and buyer. Potential customers are mapped to a pipeline; reports reflect numbers. Entry level salespeople are hyper-focused on meeting quotas and CEOs who haven’t been trained in sales swoop in for the close. While there is nothing wrong with any of the above, at the core of it all, a sale is a relationship between people.

Upscale retail magnate Katherine Barchetti was onto something when she said, “Make a customer, not a sale.” This simple statement takes the focus off the transaction and places it on the person. In effect, it humanizes the sales process.

Consider these tips to make more sustainable connections with future customers by emphasizing the people side of the sales process:

Be yourself.
No doubt, you already have many successful relationships with people who value you for who you are. Why change your personality during the sales process? Extroverts bring a natural enthusiasm to sales, capable of engaging prospects and perhaps even making them laugh. Introverts allow potential customers space to be heard and can be a calming influence. As long as you are self-aware and attentive to cues, being yourself will establish a rhythm to the relationship, avoiding what may otherwise come across as a mechanical process.

Be relevant.
Engage your prospect in conversation, asking questions to better understand what they value. Don’t try to force it, but use opportunities that present themselves organically to talk about football, gardening, or other mutual interests. Do you and your prospect both enjoy golf? Do your children attend the same school? Are you both fans of a particular television series? Establish a connection with your potential customer that builds trust and shows that you view them as a person, not just as a checkbook.

Have a process (and follow it).
You can’t rely on charisma or personality alone to secure a lead or sale (read more about this here). It’s possible, even necessary, to follow a sales process while building a relationship. Your process doesn’t have to be rigid or feel scripted, but it does need to move you forward in the sales cycle.The better you know the process, the more natural it becomes and the more capable you are of gathering information while establishing common ground. Done well, working through your process will allow you to get the data you need through “qualification” interactions without making the prospect feel like a target.

We all want to feel appreciated and valued for more than the depth of our bank accounts. The relationship between salesperson and customer is no different. Stop treating the sale like a transaction and focus, instead, on seeing (and treating) your prospect as a person with needs your product or service can satisfy.