Likeability is first step toward improving sales performance

Jan. 1, 2020
While most of your counter staff might not have access to a Division I basketball or football coach, it might be a good place to look for inspiration when it comes to boosting sales potential. No, they won't be able to draw up a play for you to succe

LAS VEGAS — While most of your counter staff might not have access to a Division I basketball or football coach, it might be a good place to look for inspiration when it comes to boosting sales potential. No, they won't be able to draw up a play for you to successfully land that new customer in town, but what they have might be able to rub off on you and make your confidence grow and your selling abilities shine.

Walter Bond, a motivational speaker and former NBA player, explained his philosophy to employees and customer guests of Zurich at a conference during November's Industry Week. He explained that college basketball and football coaches are great at sales because they sell hopes and dreams, not a tangible product. They talk to you because they assume you know what you're talking about, so they focus on building a relationship.

"People want to buy from people they like," Bond says. If customers like dealing with people they like, who are honest with them and who focus on a relationship, why not focus on that relationship building with your counter staff or teams making calls on local service centers?

Confidence boosts sales, too
But being likeable is just the start. Your employees, including you, also should be confident in themselves and their abilities.

"You can't perform at your maximum capacity without being confident in yourself and your abilities, because, you know, confidence is arrogance under control," Bond offers. "For some reason, our society frowns upon confidence."

But the trick is to remain confident without becoming arrogant, because arrogant people don't grow, he adds. To do this, you need to develop a disciplined mind to be mentally tough and confident.

"Discipline your minds to focus on the positive attributes of your employees," Bond suggests as a way to make this happen. Because, after all, you work with them and get to go home and talk about them, which could lead to problems. But it could backfire. "You see their blind spots, but you know what? They get to go home and talk about you."

Zurich, formerly Universal Underwriters, is focusing on these concepts with its employees, part of the reason the company invited Bond to speak at its event. David Willett, general manager and vice president for the Automotive Specialty Markets Central Division of Zurich, says Bond's focus on values are consistent with Zurich's core values. He adds that they thought Bond could inspire attendees to higher levels of commitment and a stronger alliance.

"Our relationship with everyone needs to be deeper than just a business dealing," Willett explains. "…We hope that everyone grew from the experience professionally and personally. In addition, they realize that we are specialists in the industry and care about more than just making money."

Carving out your place
After mastering likeability and confidence, the next step, according to Bond, is to find your niche. He related this to his experiences playing basketball at the University of Minnesota. He never started a game his entire collegiate career, but became one of the top sixth men in the country because he carved out his niche.

"What niche are you the best at in the world? What have you done to carve out a niche to be the best in the world?" he asked attendees. He points out that if you provide an outstanding service or product and have people who are good at their job and likeable, sales will increase.

It's another way the business world mirrors sports: if you execute the fundamentals, you will be successful. Bond relates this to his experiences on the court when fans would tell him what he was doing wrong, how bad he was and that he wasn't reaching his potential. But by being likeable and carving out a niche, your counter staff can reach its potential and won't have to hear the boos from customers, as a professional athlete does.

Well, except for maybe from Bond.

"You guys want to know why I became a motivational speaker?" he muses. "It is finally my chance to get back at the fans who've heckled professional athletes for years without respecting that they are the best in the world at what they do. Are you the best in the world at what you do?"