Partners in Performance Blog

What’s the Most Important Selling Skill?


ShoesWhich of these selling skills do you believe to be the most important?

All are important. But I believe there’s one that beats all the rest hands down. It’s the ability to put yourself in your client’s shoes. To think like they think and feel what they feel. And to see the world from their perspective.

Without this fundamental ability, all your other selling abilities will fall short. You will only scratch the surface and never fully understand what is deeply important for your clients: their desires and what makes their heart sing, their fears and challenges and the niggles that need quieting. When wearing your own shoes, you will only see their world from the perspective of your world. Not good enough.

Remember you can’t wear two pairs of shoes at the same time. Deep understanding at a head, heart and gut level comes only when you are able to slip out of your shoes and put on the shoes of your client.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is simply about ‘understanding client needs’ which we learn in ‘Sales 101’. As critical as this skill is, it is basic. It’s like snorkelling on the surface waters.

This is about taking client needs to a whole other level of deep understanding and empathy. Now we are talking about scuba diving with your dive buddy to unearth and understand what lies beneath. It takes curiosity, a caring attitude and listening skills to develop deeper understanding. Learning to shift your perspective is an invaluable technique.

Adopting the client perspective – how do you mentally shift into your clients’ shoes?

Taking your shoes off to put on your client’s shoes is easier said than done. Perceptual positions, an NLP process for discovering different perspectives and developing empathy, is a technique that can help do that.

This is perceptual position #1: Self

Imagine you are sitting in a theatre. You see the people sitting around you, you feel the upholstered seat beneath you and you are munching on your buttery popcorn. The movie begins and the screen ahead of you is in full panoramic view. You see the scenes, the action and the expressions on the faces of the actors. You hear the Dolby sound track and tune into what the actors are saying. You are looking at the movie from your own seat (shoes or perspective).

This is perceptual position #2: Other

Now imagine getting out of your seat and transporting yourself right into the screen and becoming the hero in the movie. Now you are listening and looking through his ears and eyes and are feeling what he is feeling, The best movies create a rich multi-sensory experience and transport us so into the character of the movie that we easily lose ourselves and experience the world like it’s happening to us.

This is perceptual position #3: Observer or Meta

Finally, imagine that you are now running the movie projector. You are perched in the projection room with the bird’s eye view of both the character(s) in the movie AND the people in the audience. You can even see yourself sitting down below watching the movie with rapt attention and polishing off your popcorn. You notice everything that is going on from your strategic perch.

Developing the ability to mentally transport your physical body to the second perceptual position goes a long way to being able to establish rapport, being more empathic to the Other’s needs and wants. And this ultimately results in building trust which is fundamental to offering better consulting services and buying experience for your client.

And the beauty of the third or meta position is that it enables you to detach momentarily, be impartial and do a ‘self-check’ on your communication behaviours.

The next time you prepare for a sales conversation, mentally take yourself to the movies and imagine yourself in your client’s shoes. Stay in their character for a while as you imagine what their world is like, their challenges, their desires. Then imagine how you could best serve them with what you have to offer.

Does this makes sense to you? Give it a try, you may be surprised. I’d love to hear about your experiences. Contact me here or on LinkedIn.

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