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Customers are the raison d’être of your business, no matter what product or service you provide or the size or age of your company. This is the fundamental reason why selling should be viewed as a practice of coaching your client, why customers must be taken care of over the long term to ensure the success of any business.

Your customers ultimately know what they want, even if they don’t clearly express their preferences (which may not be clearly felt or even fully conscious). Customers are also quicker to recognize what they don’t want; this can provide an insight into better understanding what they do actually want. Ultimately your role as a salesperson of any description will be to make customers clearly aware of their needs, of what they really want or what they love, to clarify the options available to them and finally to help them make the choice most beneficial to them over the long term.

Any purchase is of course an act of change, and therefore there will naturally be some resistance to saying yes to a salesperson. As such your secondary role is to accompany your client in this act of change, measuring their ability to and encouraging them to find the resources to overcome this fear of change and ultimately to be fully and consciously happy with their final choice.

These two skills – making the client aware of their choice and subsequently assisting them in accepting their final decision – are at the heart of the attitude which characterizes a successful seller. So what characteristics might a seller draw from a professional coach in order to enhance the strength of their long-term customer relationships?

“People buy from people they like,” is a highly popular if slightly inaccurate expression in the States. More accurately: “people buy from people they trust.” It is the need for trust which is at the heart of the sales profession, and perhaps one of the reasons for its often being negatively perceived (too many people having placed their trust in someone only to be disappointed). A lack of trust makes it very difficult to close deals, and it is therefore essential to develop a well-deserved position of trust, built upon the repetition of small day-to-day events that reinforce this trust.

It is an obvious truth – too often disregarded – that trust, build over several months, can be destroyed within seconds. Beginner salespeople often avoid saying things they believe could be disturbing to their client once they have established an atmosphere of trust, for fear of damaging that trust. When trust is truly attained, one can say almost anything. Restraining oneself from using the strength of one’s sincerity is counter-productive and avoids making use of the freedom which established trust affords to the client/ salesperson relationship.

Trust is built on the foundation of three central components: sincerity, respect and empathy.

Sincerity lets your client know that they can count on you; that you believe firmly in what you are proposing and can be trusted to tell the truth even when they disagree with you. Sincerity thereby starts an open, honest and enriching dialogue which enables you and your client to build together on a sound basis.

Respect creates a protected interpersonal space for the client, enabling and encouraging them to reveal themselves and allowing for the establishment of confidentiality.

Empathy subsequently reinforces this space, creating a compassionate communication environment. A fundamental capability possessed by all humans (even if some don’t use it as often as they could), empathy can be developed and strengthened through different methodologies, for example the Non-Violent Communication approach of Marshall Rosenberg.

By being sincere, your client knows that they can count on you and that you firmly believe in what you are proposing. They may not always agree with you, but they know that you are telling the truth. This starts a dialogue that is honest, open and enriching. Sincerity enables you to build together on a sound basis.

Respect provides your client with a protected interpersonal space. It enables and encourages them to reveal themselves. Confidentiality can be established.

Empathy creates a compassionate communication environment and reinforces the protected interpersonal space established by respect. Empathy is an intrinsic capability that humans have naturally, even if they don’t use it as much as they could. In addition, empathy can be developed and strengthened through different methodologies, such as the Non-Violent Communication approach of Marshall Rosenberg.

By Guy Anastaze, Author of ‘Authentic Selling’