Today, information moves at the speed of light. Change is accelerating at unprecedented levels. Technology has brought the circus to our living room, bathroom and all rooms in between. Data supports the paradigm. "Buzz" exploits the news. Operate at anything less than a "nanosecond" and you're bye-bye buster.

A brief look at evolutionary processes punctuates the point. The Food and Gathering stage of human existence occupied millions of years. The Agrarian period was compressed to millenniums. The Industrial Age came and went in little more than a century. The Era of Technology was reduced to decades and holy cow in the Information Age the entire world could change tomorrow. There are those that would tell you, if you're not on-line, you're in-line for disaster.

Hold on a second. While I would agree that technological innovation has taken a quantum leap forward, people haven't. I'm not sure the emotional make-up of Joe and Jane Doe has changed at all. In people related affairs, I've found the behaviors that impressed individuals a hundred years ago impress them today and will impress them a hundred years from now. Not everything hinges on the introduction of a new microchip. When dealing with "homo erectus" you may want to eschew a broadband strategy in favor of civility.

Is it possible that selling in the future will mirror the past-that salesmen who will enjoy the greatest success will embrace humanistic coins of the realm. That we can substitute complex techniques, gimmicks and academic theories in favor of behaviors that exhibit respect, trust, loyalty, support, care and kindness.

Salespeople today are under intense pressure to produce big results faster than ever before. Yet in these tech-driven times—when your performance can be sliced up dozens of ways with a few taps on a computer—the single most important issue in growing sales quickly is very low-tech.   

It's the amount of influence you have with the people buying your product or service. If you thought it was satisfying a customer's need, you may want to think again. When you've satisfied a customer's need you've merely done what your competition has done—that gets you in the ballpark but if you want to compress the time it takes to build a prosperous relationship, gaining influence is paramount to success.

Of course, motivation, closing skills, discipline and incentives help, but they're only part of the equation.  When it comes time for a buyer to decide who gets his business, the salesperson with the greatest influence usually winds up with the order. Simply put, influence is power.

The faster you build that influence, the quicker sales grow.  But how do you gain influence?  Here are some key points:

  • Know your customer's business.
  • Have a desire to do what your customer wants.
  • View no request as too small or big to be acted upon.
  • Always differentiate yourself from your competition.
  • Be honest, consistent and credible.
  • Regularly remind customers of their importance.
  • Make your customer your friend.

Successful salespeople make themselves indispensable to their customers.  They become trusted and loyal business advisors.  They know that a customer relationship is not the means to an end, it is the end.

Other ways to accelerate your influence with your customer may sound simple. I believe many are overlooked—things like thoughtfulness, commitment, generosity, and energy.  When you introduce these qualities into your customer relationships, they usually trigger positive reactions. While your business savvy is most important, little things—having one of your customer's favorite dishes delivered to their office or sending a news clip on a favorite non-business topic—count for more than you might think.      

Making your customer your friend is smart business. They become more open, loyal, consistent, and credible than when they were business 'targets'. You send a different message—you're interested in the relationship, not just the order. If they're incapable of giving you an order, they will give you straight talk. And that saves you time.

Conversely, it’s possible to damage a customer relationship by doing the following:

  • Asking for an order before you've performed.
  • Making disparaging comments about your competition.
  • Not responding to a customer request or returning a phone call quickly.
  • Giving a customer inaccurate information.
  • Not communicating regularly about everything—good and bad—that impacts the relationship.
  • Not understanding the subtleties of your customer's business.

Acceptance, inclusion, reward, recognition, promotion rests in the minds of others. How you influence their willingness to support your efforts is up to you.  You are in control, but until you understand what a critical impact your actions have on another individual's view of you, you will never achieve as much as you could.

 Homework about your customer is Job 1. I mean real work, not just a quick glance at the company brochure. Problem is, most salespeople don't go deep enough. Of 10 others you may be in competition with for a company's order, two are as knowledgeable in key areas as you are.

Your challenge is to break away from the pack by learning as much as you can about what's important to your customer.  Databases of newspapers and magazines at your local library are one great source of information.  Study recent back issues of industry trade publications.  Talk with other people in your client's company.

Successful salespeople have a clear understanding of their customer's strategic vision and an unwavering commitment to helping them down that path. You can do that by doing your homework.

In selling, batting average means nothing! Quantity wins the war. Good salespeople operate outside the Comfort Zone. They recognize that rejection is not an indictment of them but merely a puddle on their journey to success.