This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Psychology Of Selling" by Brian Tracy. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What role does first impression play in sales success? What is the key to imparting a good first impression when dealing with customers?
You can greatly increase the likelihood of a sale if you make a good first impression. To this end, appeal to your customer’s subconscious mind with cues that lead her to think you’re professional, in control, and an expert in your field. You can do this by harnessing the power of suggestion, which plants ideas and beliefs in a person’s subconscious mind with subtle social cues.
In this article, we’ll look at some tips on how to influence customer perception.
Present Yourself and Your Product Professionally
When you’re presenting any idea, product, or service, your customer sees you as an extension of it. Your appearance reflects on your product—if you present professionally, your customer will see your product or company as professional also.
First impressions matter and 95 percent of a first impression is determined by a person’s clothing. Therefore, dressing professionally and neatly are key to influencing customer perception and increase the likelihood of purchase. In addition, be punctual, organized, and polite. If you are late, disheveled, unorganized, or poorly prepared, your customer will think your product or company is of lower quality.
Additionally, present your product cleanly, neatly, and in an organized fashion. Materials should look well-kept; no coffee stains on your brochures or broken pieces.
Organize Your Office
If a prospect is meeting you at your place of business, be sure your offices are up-to-date, comfortable, and clean. Again, your customer will associate these qualities with your product.
Even if you don’t meet customers at your office, always keep your desk organized and clean. When you have an orderly office, you come across as a successful person, and even if you’re the only one to see it, an organized desk will tell your subconscious that you’re competent and in charge.
Additionally, of course, having an organized desk simply makes your job easier. Focus is the key to productivity, and an uncluttered desk allows you to focus on one task at a time.
People are drawn to energetic people, as energy indicates enthusiasm, and a sale is merely a transfer of enthusiasm, whereby a salesperson transfers her excitement for her product into the minds of her customers. There are many ways to convey energy. Some basics are:
- Body language: Researchers have found that in sales, customers pay more attention to your body language and your tone of voice than to your words. Keep a good posture. Walk with strength and confidence. Sit upright in a chair and lean forward.
- Handshake: Greet your prospect with a firm handshake. This is your initial physical contact with your customer and it will convey what kind of a person you are—weak or strong and confident.
- Eye contact: Look your prospect in the eyes when greeting her. This, again, conveys that you’re a person in charge.
Ask Expert Questions
Asking questions also allows you to come across as a professional expert, positioning you as a concerned helper to your customer and decreasing her sales resistance and skepticism.
Think of a meeting with a doctor, accountant, or consultant. To start the meeting, this person will ask a series of pointed questions designed to extract information, from which she’ll assess and evaluate your needs. When you meet with such a professional, you view them as knowledgeable and you get the feeling they are there to help you. You as a salesperson can use pointed questions to convey the same feeling to your customer.
Draw Your Prospect Out
Sometimes your prospect’s body language can convey distrust or reluctance. If you detect this, use your own body language to encourage her to change her pose. Sometimes simply getting a person to change her posture can affect her mood. Some indications of disinterest include:
- Crossing arms: When a person’s arms are crossed, it often indicates her mind is closed, so get her to open her arms. Hand her something that will prompt her to uncross her arms, or ask her to calculate a number for you.
- Crossing legs: If your prospect is crossing her legs or her ankles, it can also indicate reluctance. Try to get her to mirror your more open body language by leaning forward and placing your feet flat on the ground.
- Leaning back: Sitting back in a chair indicates low energy and disinterest. Again, sit forward to encourage her to mirror your body language.
Stay in Control of the Conversation
You can minimize your prospect’s resistance by remaining in control of the meeting. By controlling the tone and the direction, you’ll prevent her from getting distracted, tuning out, or focusing on the wrong aspects of your presentation. To stay in control:
1. Minimize interruptions: Interruptions can break your presentation. A person can only focus on one thing at a time, and if your prospect is getting interrupted during your meeting, her attention will be drawn elsewhere. When she returns her attention to you, her concentration has been broken and she has lost the thread of your conversation. To prevent this, look to present your product in a quiet area. If there are noise and distractions where you’re meeting, simply ask your prospect, “I only need about 10 minutes of your time. Is there somewhere we can go where we won’t be interrupted?”
2. Avoid barriers: If there’s a physical barrier between you and a prospect, like a table or desk, it creates a psychological barrier as well. If your prospect is sitting behind a desk, ask if the two of you can sit at a table side by side, as you have some things to show her. A person will usually readily agree to this—if she doesn’t, you can pull your chair around her desk so you’re seated next to her. (Another tip: if you’re right-handed, sit to the right of your prospect so she can easily see your materials as you flip through them.)
3. Don’t present standing up: No one makes serious decisions standing up: Standing up feels rushed and temporary. If your prospect asks you to quickly pitch her—for example, if she comes out to meet you in the lobby and asks you to tell her about your product right there—don’t do it. If you do, you’ll come across as weak and unimportant, and consequently devalue your product and company. It’s unlikely your prospect will buy from you in such a situation.
Instead, repeat that you won’t need much time but insist (politely, of course) that what you have to show her is important. If she still doesn’t agree to bring you in and sit you down somewhere, request to reschedule the meeting: “If now’s really not a good time, let’s schedule 10 minutes at a later date that would work better for you.” Often the prospect won’t want to bother rescheduling, and she’ll show you in right then. However, if she doesn’t, leave. If you pitch standing up you’ve lost the sale anyway.
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