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To build successful sales relationships, there are three critical components: expertise, enthusiasm and empathy, all of which lay the foundation for the even more critical component, trust. Unfortunately any of these three individually or any combination of two won’t make much of an impact. It’s the three-legged stool approach that really works – if one is lacking, then the stool won’t stand.


In the world of professional sales, we’ve all heard it before: sell the customer value, deliver great service; sell benefits, not features; handle objections, differentiate yourself from the competition; close early and often and ask the critical questions. Blah, blah, blah and the beat goes on.

So what do customers really want, really?
Everyone tries to come up with a new methodology for selling, new techniques to get the customer’s attention, how to utilize the age of the internet with social media and drip marketing, pull vs. push techniques and most of the time the improvement is negligible. Why? I believe there are three critical characteristics that successful sales professionals display that earns them the right to new business with new customers.

When it comes to sales, relationships trump everything else. But today the reality is prospective customers already have established relationships with partners and vendors. So how do we get the opportunity to establish the same kind of relationship our competitors already have with our prospects so they can benefit from our offerings? What are your attractive qualities that will get their attention in order to see the value you have to offer? Having great products and services and representing a world class company help, but why are some sales people in the organization successful while others aren’t?

To build successful sales relationships, there are three critical components: expertise, enthusiasm and empathy, all of which lay the foundation for the even more critical component, trust. Unfortunately any of these three individually or any combination of two won’t make much of an impact. It’s the three-legged stool approach that really works – if one is lacking, then the stool won’t stand.

Let’s look at how customers define expertise. How knowledgeable are you not only with your products and services, but with your customer’s business, their industry and the challenges they’re facing? How involved are you in their business? Can they turn to you for advice when it comes to future trends? Have you written any articles that have been published in their business trade publications? Have you given any speeches at conventions or tradeshows in their line of business? Do you understand the economic trends that impact their future? When a customer has a critical problem and they need advice, do they call you to provide valuable information that meets their need? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you’re most likely viewed as an expert. Customers value business and industry expertise more than sales technique.

Do You Have It?
How about your enthusiasm? When I think of enthusiasm I think of the donkey in the movie Shrek. Constantly jumping up and down screaming, “Pick me, pick me!” Customers are attracted to sales professionals that are enthusiastic about them, their business and solving their problems. Enthusiasm equates to high energy and hustle. Hustle leads to strong follow through which earns you the right to their business. Customers are attracted to sales people who are passionate about what they do and obviously enjoy the profession of sales.

The last point that customers are concerned about is empathy. Empathy is the emotional appreciation of someone’s feelings and yes, customers have feelings. Empathy is displaying curiosity about what is important to the other person. It leads to better listening which leads to more focused questions about the customer and their business. It touches the subjective side of the customer which can be the reason they decide to go with you and not your competitor! Expertise focuses on the customer’s objective side, while empathy touches the subjective. Customers make decisions based on objective and subjective criteria. We need to remember that customers make decisions based on emotion and then justify it with logic. Empathy can very well close the deal when the customer sees who cares most about their business and their success.

What do customers really want, really? A sales professional that has expertise, enthusiasm and empathy. It shows the customer they have character and competence which builds the foundation of trust and that’s what customers really want, really!

Look at your sales process and make plans today to integrate the benefits of expertise, enthusiasm and empathy. 

About the author

Stu Schlackman

Stu Schlackman

Stu has spent over 25 years in sales management, sales and sales training with…

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