When I ask sales reps to boil down the entire selling process into a one-word answer, I get a wide variety of interesting responses such as “service,” “education” or “consulting.” Seldom do I get the answer that I’m expecting to hear: “relationship.” Regardless of your industry, at the end of the day you’re in the people business. As the old saying goes, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

The key to making a successful sale is not a transfer of information but the establishment of a working relationship. Most salespeople shoot themselves in the foot by trying to close a sale too quickly without first taking the time to lay a firm foundation of trust and rapport. This oversight is the equivalent of a construction worker being in such a hurry to get the walls up and the roof on, that he forgets about pouring the concrete foundation.

To build a quality relationship with your prospect, you must sell two things in a specific order. Step one: Sell yourself; step two: Sell the value of your products and services. If you have trouble making a favorable first impression and can’t effectively sell yourself, there’s really no need for you to move on to step two because you haven’t established trust and rapport.

Here are some time-proven suggestions to help you successfully transition through these two critical steps and close the sale.

Keys to selling yourself

  • Create a favorable first impression by being on time and well prepared.
  • Look sharp and dress professionally.
  • Use open body language gestures, a firm handshake and direct eye contact.
  • Use “active listening” skills and keep the focus on your prospect by listening twice as much as you talk.
  • Ask open-ended questions to draw out your prospect and get him or her talking.
  • Build trust and rapport quickly by “matching and mirroring” your prospect’s body language gestures and energy level.

Keys to selling the value of your products and services

  1. Use testimonials to show your prospect how other people have benefited from your products or services.
  2. Highlight the features of your product or service to show how they will directly benefit your prospect by saving him or her time or money.
  3. Downplay the price issue by emphasizing value, quality, convenience and reliability.

The best way to turn a prospect into a customer is to remember that you need to first sell yourself and your company before you even mention your products and services!