What comes to mind when you picture a salesperson? Is it the unflattering image of the used car salesman depicted in popular culture? If it is, you are not alone. This stereotype persists…even among sales professionals. It is, of course, an image we never apply to ourselves as sales professionals, only to other salespeople.
The stereotype portrays salespeople motivated by self-interest, willing to use dishonest tricks, or to do anything to get the sale. Fortunately, this type of salesperson is a mostly extinct sub-species of the profession. Yet, if even sales professionals, who know better, hold this subconscious used car salesman bias about their profession and colleagues, imagine the unconscious barriers that must be overcome with clients before they can trust the honesty of any sales professional.
Humans are social creatures, but we are genetically coded to be cautious with strangers and new situations. In the early stages of the sales process, this instinct produces protective barriers for clients. They will unconsciously review a safety checklist about their buying experience, and ask:
- Do I feel comfortable with the salesperson and sales process?
- Do I like the salesperson?
- Do I feel right about the salesperson and sales environment?
At this point, the product or service offering that brought the salesperson and client together in the first place is secondary to the newly forming human relationship. Effective salespeople know this and do not rush the process. They also understand that humans are powerfully compelled to trust others and to work together once the caution barriers have been removed. So, skilled sales professionals connect at the personal and emotional level first by being genuine and demonstrating honesty in their approach. They make a friend before they make a sale and these friendships are established on shared values.
The used car salesmen of the stereotype may try to fake this emotional connection in order to get the quick sale, but this leaves the client feeling used and cheated, even if the product or service was appropriate.
If you build genuine relationships with clients, you will overcome the used car salesman bias and enable honest discussion of your client’s needs and an honest examination of the solutions you can offer. In the end, everyone wins, and a solid, ongoing business relationship is established on a foundation of honesty and trust.