What Your Clients Really Want: The Key is Acknowledgement

A powerful driving force in all customers and sales people is the desire to make a difference. We want to see that our lives count and we need to feel that we matter to someone, that we are noticed and important. That’s why acknowledgement is important. To acknowledge someone is to say: I see you. You are significant. I understand you…I admire you. This is the case with all humans, and because all selling is ultimately Human to Human selling we need to pay attention to acknowledgement and use it everyday to help us sell more, in less time.

People ask: "Is it possible to over-acknowledge someone?" Not if the acknowledgement is genuine. The concern should not be the quantity of acknowledgement, rather the quality of the gesture—whether our sincerity is in the acknowledgement. To my knowledge, no one has ever left an organization or refused to buy a product because they were acknowledged or supported too much. Sadly it’s a different story on the flipside. Who hasn’t heard a story about a customer that leaves a vendor because they perceive that the salesperson or the company doesn’t care?

Acknowledgement is about more than singling out someone and showing them with praise or gifts. There are also implicit support behaviors, and these should be worked into your daily sales calls and routines for all interaction.

1. Be empathetic and compassionatee

Truly care about your customer (no matter how good an actor you are, faking it won’t work). Ask questions, take notes and lean in to show that you’re engaged in their answers. When you take an interest in people, they remember you—and when people remember you, it’s good for business.

2. Observe their eyes, handshake, body language and tone of voice

Try to capture the physical impression your prospect makes, then try to match the spirit of it. Mimicking will not work. Rising to your customers emotional level will.

3. Make eye contact

This is especially important when you walk into a room full of people. Eye contact is also essential after we get to know people, because it cements our existing relationships and lets them know that we’re still interested in their well-being. Very few salespeople ever look their prospects directly in the eye. By simply smiling and making eye contact, you’ll be surprised how much you will set yourself apart.

4. Be a life giver—give first

Share your network of contacts with your customers and don’t expect them to give you their business without you giving them something first. Look to give away things that increase your value. Perhaps they need a referral to a partner of yours, or help finding a new dentist. Or maybe they have a business problem that can be fixed with a new idea you read about or heard from someone else you’ve met.

5. Express your true intent

Tell customers upfront: "I don’t know if there’s a fit between what you need and what I have right now, and I’m hoping we can explore that in more detail during this meeting." Or try this: "I only have your best interests at heart, and I promise to be honest with you throughout our conversation. In the end, I hope that we can mutually decide if there is a reason to move forward. If not, that’s fine too, and I hope you’ll feel comfortable telling me so." The thought of speaking to someone like that might make you uncomfortable. It runs counter to the business habits we see being practiced every day. That’s one of the reasons why only 10 percent of salespeople in any organization are top performers. They do things that most others don’t. Try expressing your true intent. Say it to yourself a few times. You’ll be amazed at the response you get.

6. Don’t go for the big decision all at once

In our personal lives, we don’t propose to someone before we’ve been on a first date. The same is true in our business relationships. Obtain approval from your customer to move ahead in increasing increments. All too often, salespeople jump way ahead of their prospect’s buying curve. This puts the buyer and the seller out of sync. When the salesperson is trying to close while the prospect is still evaluating options or determining risk, trust is broken and the prospect feels pushed. The sale comes dangerously close to disappearing.

7. Use friendly, warm words instead of formal business speak

When you use simple language, people respond better and trust you more. So limit your words to three syllables. Don’t try to impress prospects with your extensive vocabulary—you run the risk that you end up just sounding inauthentic.

8. Use people’s names…with care

When it comes to using names, there are just two rules to follow. Be aware of whether they’re more comfortable being addressed on a first-name basis, and never overuse their name—doing so only sounds corny and false. Dale Carnegie once said, "Nothing is as beautiful to a person as the sound of their own name." Just use your discretion.

Practice acknowledgement everyday by finding one person each day that you can recognize for something great. It can be as simple as a compliment on a new haircut or as significant as a celebration for bringing in a large new account. Either way, your relationship with the recipient will be strengthened. Your success is directly determined by your willingness and ability to acknowledge and support your customer base and network. In good times or bad, the type of salesperson you choose to be is entirely up to you. Chose to be kind—honest, open and supportive of your customers. You’ll see consistent sales growth; you’ll build an excellent reputation and become a leader in your field—regardless of your market or the state of the economy.