A few weeks ago, a friend was telling me why he opted to do most of his shopping online instead of going to the malls. “This way, I don’t have to deal with pesky salespersons following me around trying to force me to buy something that I don’t need or want,” he says.

We both laughed about it then, but his statement also got me thinking.

Is this a common sentiment among buyers? What does this say about the role of salespeople, especially in a world where social media and the internet has made it easier for customers to make informed purchases even without the input of a real live salesperson?

Customers want to talk to a person, not a sales machine

Looking at how people forge connections and interact with one another nowadays, it’s obvious that a trait people look for is likeability. An effective salesperson has to be somebody you’d want to be friends with, who commiserates with your problems, and offers personalized advice and easy to understand solutions; instead of somebody who bombards you with information you could have just as easily gotten off the internet.

Below are 10 tips you can take from likeable salespeople to be warmer to your potential customers:


1. Know your customer’s name.

It’s common for most calls to be short, impersonal exchanges. More often than not, a customer is somebody you’ve never talked to before, and if all goes well, will most likely never service again. In this case, it’s easy to overlook something as simple as knowing and pronouncing a customer’s name correctly.

Yet, getting their names right is the first thing that shows customers that you care about their problems and are genuinely interested in helping them solve it. It establishes rapport and sets the tone for a productive conversation.

To help you remember names easily, make it a point to ask the customer his or her name at the beginning of the call, and try to find other opportunities to use it. If possible, write it down as soon as you can, or come up with a visual reference that can help you remember more easily—such as Matt has thick hair like a mat. If you have trouble pronouncing their names, don’t hesitate to ask again, remember that it’s always better to clarify instead of repeatedly mispronouncing names and risk offending your customer. When closing calls, it’s always a good idea to repeat a customer’s name as you say thank you.

2. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Customers want, and should get, straightforward, immediate and effective solutions to their problems. But apart from the information that you provide, customers also look for agents who are able to empathize with them—one who understands their needs and are able to respond appropriately.

The first step to do this is to pay close attention to what your customer is saying. Don’t interrupt, and allow the customer to make his point before you start offering solutions. If something is not clear, ask questions. Try to see the situation from the customer’s point of view and keep an open mind when hearing unsolicited advice or suggestions from the customer. Examples of how to convey empathy to a customer having difficulty accessing the system are:

I understand that you’re having trouble accessing the system today…

I am sorry to hear that you’re having trouble accessing the system today…

I can appreciate your frustration in accessing the system today…

Having empathy for the customer will help you get your facts straight and offer a solution that effectively addresses your customer’s concerns. Remember that in general, customers need to feel that they are talking to a human being that understands what they’re feeling—instead of a robot reading a list of answers from a prepared script.

3. Ask the right questions.

Learn the art of asking open questions, specifically questions that encourage your customer to open up and provide more information.Remember that as sales agents, our role is to draw out more information from our clients, instead of just presenting our own viewpoints.

Open questions are even more important when you’re dealing with a customer who has difficulty explaining his needs in the first place. You may ask “Can you describe that more clearly?” or “Would you give me a specific example of what you mean?” to get them to provide you with more information.

You can also try paraphrasing your customer, for example saying that “If I understood you correctly, you wish to know how we can change the terms of your subscription to correspond with your monthly consumption rates, am I correct?” Paraphrasing reassures your customer that you’re trying to understand their concerns, and allows them to clarify their points if needed.

4. Mind your body language.

Call center agents do business and interact with customers remotely. Customers may not be able to see us, but our voice and the quality of our replies can make them feel that we’re interested and are paying close attention to what they are saying. Some body language cues to keep in mind are:

Smiling. Put a mirror on your desk and smile into it before and during a call. Smiling keeps your voice lively and releases endorphins that improve your mood, making it easier for you to deal with difficult customers.

Typing quietly. We’re often required to input client information into the system during a call, but try to do it quietly. Loudly tapping away at our keyboards while a customer speaks can make the customer feel as if we’re not listening or are not interested to hear what they’re saying.

Avoiding unnecessary movements like tapping your fingers on your desk or swaying your feet. These mannerisms convey discomfort and can distract you from the conversation at hand.

5. Learn to deal with difficult customers.

We’ve all encountered customers who are frustrated, angry, or even downright vulgar. How do we handle these kinds of situations while maintaining likeability?

The first step is to recognize that the customer is upset. You might say “I am really sorry that your order is late. I’ll do everything I can to figure out the problem and get this resolved.” This makes the customer feel that you are not downplaying his or her frustration and are taking steps to correct the problem.

If you don’t know the answer to the customer’s questions, be quick to admit it and refer him to the correct department that can handle his concerns. For example, you might say “I’m sorry, but I think our IT department can answer your questions more clearly. Please wait a moment while I connect your call.” If a customer starts swearing or verbally abusing you, remain calm and courteous, but firmly steer the conversation. You can say “I’m sorry that you feel that way sir, can you tell me more about the problem at hand so we can help you address it?”

6. The art of saying please and thank you.

Remember that as a sales agent, you represent the company. Be at your best behaviour and don’t forget to use common courtesies such as “please” and “thank you”.

7. Use plain language.

We sometimes fall into the trap of using company jargon or words that are too technical for our ordinary clients to understand. Keep in mind that many customers call us to get clear instructions and explanations—not a long-winded spiel!Zero in on the problem at hand, and present information in a concise and easily-understandable manner. While you may need to adjust your language based on the technical knowledge of each individual customer, it is always best to start with the simplest, most straightforward explanation.

One way to ensure this is by preparing a script that you can review and tweak based on the circumstances. Having a script allows you to present all of the important points, and makes it easier for you to veer away from terms or phrases that may be too technical or too complex for ordinary clients.

8. Don’t lie.

We sometimes have the urge to embellish your products and services to make them more attractive to potential clients, or to stretch the truth to reassure irritated callers. While this can be acceptable to some extent, never ever lie about what we can or cannot do.

Remember that we live in time where information is just one click away, and if a customer finds out that we deliberately misled him, what seems like a tiny white lie on our part can lead to a huge maelstrom of backlash that we may not be prepared to handle later on.

9. Know your product.

Nothing is more frustrating for a potential customer than encountering a sales agent that doesn’t seem to know his or her own product. As sales agents, it is our responsibility to be updated and know everything there is to know about our services, such as upgrades, new promos or versions. While we can always refer complex questions to the IT department, we should also be able to anticipate issues and concerns that can clients may face when using our product.

One way to do this would be to stay in touch with your respective IT and product development departments, and to allocate time to read up on product upgrades and versions that our potential customers may be interested in.

10. Communicate clearly.

Many potential customers back down from a sales agent simply because they couldn’t understand what was being said, as some agents focus more on completing a script rather than making themselves understood.

Consider this: Which dentist would you rather go to, one that answers the phone with “DrGreenesofficepleezhol” (Dr. Greene’s office, please hold) or one that greets you with “Good morning, this is Sally from Dr. Greene’s office. How may I help you today?”

Agents need to hone a phone voice that is expressive, enunciated clearly, engaging, and energetic. Practice diction and pronunciation to ensure that your customers can hear you, and take your time in delivering your spiel so that they don’t feel as if you’re rushing to finish the call.

I’m sure you have your own arsenal of tips! We’d love to hear them in the comments below.


FREE WHITE PAPER: How Often Do Mortgage Lenders Follow Up via Calls & Emails?

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Dan Sincavage

Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

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