Hero image of Brian McCauley, ProSales columnist

Being liked by customers is important, but don’t confuse “liked” in business with “liked” in your personal life. They are different and must be treated as such.

Our desire to be liked as a person stems from the approval we seek as children. Our entire childhood was spent seeking and working for approval from parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and other authority figures we interacted with daily. Approval was often followed by rewards of varying types. Good grades in school earned us compliments from parents like “you’re so smart, I knew you could do it,” or good performances in games or practices earned us “you’re so good at this, we are very proud of you.” At a young age we quickly linked the approval to the rewards and wanted to continue pleasing those around us…we wanted to be liked. In many people this thirst for likability follows us into adulthood. We want to be included in social activities, parties, get togethers, we want to be liked by others. This desire for likability can hamper you in sales though if you’re not careful.

I’m not suggesting that you give no consideration to being likable in your sales career. Being difficult to deal with, brusquely opiniated, or arrogant can and will negatively affect your success in sales. However, liked in sales stems from the problems you can solve for people and how you can solve them. Helping your customers solve problems or issues with your products and services will make their life easier and can often help save them money and increase their bottom line. This creates a level of likability that is much different and deeper than “this person is nice and a good conversationalist.” To help do this, don’t go into sales interactions with a goal of selling somebody your product. Instead, use these interactions as an opportunity to seek out problems or issues that your products or services can solve. This requires of you the ability to ask well thought out, and good questions—curiosity of people, their businesses, and challenges —knowledge of how your products and services solve different issues and challenges that may exist, and the focus required to succinctly and clearly describe how your total offering will solve the issues your able to bring forth.

Now, let’s consider this deep-seated, emotional desire to be liked, that was ingrained in us as children and look at couple of ways this need for approval can cost a lot of money in our sales career. There are two parts of a sales call that are in direct competition with being liked or being approved of. They are cold calling and asking for the business. Why? Because they are ripe for rejection. Cold calling has always been an important activity, but it’s going to be even more important this year and beyond because all economic indicators point towards a dip in our industry. The last couple of years, business was plentiful, and we were all just trying to keep our heads above water. The market may decline a little, but winners sure don’t want their business to decline. So, you better have a plan for getting back in the habit of regular cold calling and seeking new business opportunities. Secondly, when you ask somebody for an order you run the risk of hearing “No.” And that lack of approval, or rejection could impact your willingness to ask everybody you present a proposal or quote to, to place that order with you. Always ask for the order.

So, there you have it, don’t let a deep-seated emotional need for approval hold you back in 2023. Step forward, get out of your comfort zone and blaze a path to greater sales success. Happy Selling!!