Why would someone choose to do business with you over your competitor? If the cost is similar, the product is comparable, and the location is closer, what stands out about your company? People do business with those they trust. Many growing companies expect their employees to establish their value without giving them specific training. According to a study conducted by Harvard, Stanford and The Carnegie Foundation, technical skills account for only 15% of a person's ability to keep a job, leaving 85% of a person's job success based on "soft skills," also known as social skills.
When I think of a company that overwhelms their competition, I immediately think of Nordstrom's. They not only offer quality merchandise, but unsurpassed customer service, before and after the sale. I was recently in a Nordstrom's department store and witnessed a women's attempt to return a pair of summer sandals that looked like they had been ravaged by a wild boar. I immediately formed my own opinion of the situation and steadied myself in anticipation of the sales associate's response. Instead of raising a leery eye, the associate retrieved a manager who did some quick research and provided a full refund based on her complaint of "lack of comfort". I was impressed with the manner in which the sales associate and the manager handled the situation. There is good reason Nordstrom's is always busy when I visit their store.
I lose more sunglasses than I can count, and several times after replacing them, they resurface. The smiling lady behind the Nordstrom's sunglasses counter is always ready to sell me another pair, or return the duplicate of the Rayban's I found in my son's car. No judgment. On that note, I am sharing a few tips on qualities that will set you apart in your own business:
- Know your role as a salesperson. Regardless of your job title, you are an important part of the sales team. Even those who don't sell or interact with customers on a daily basis are technically in sales. I'm a public speaker and though I never considered myself a salesperson, a mentor made it clear many years ago that I was ultimately in sales. You may be an accountant, yet you sell yourself based on each project. Every employee has a responsibility to know the mission of their company and what type of customer(s) they support. They must also be able to summarize the benefits of doing business with their company in a few short words.
- Making a positive impression is a professional obligation. You may not be an extrovert, or particularly social by nature, but it's essential to put your best foot forward when meeting someone new or interacting with your audience (a.k.a. anyone you come into contact with). Look the other person in the eye, focus on the conversation and engage by asking open ended questions. An authentic smile, when appropriate, shows interest and concern.
- Learn how to properly say your name. Extending your hand for a handshake as you introduce yourself by first and last name is a sign of someone that is invested in himself and knows the value of making a strong connection. A firm, but not overbearing grip, demonstrations self-confidence and social finesse.
- Show self-respect through your choice of clothing. While not expected to overspend buying the latest suits, dresses and shoes, a professional choice of clothing communicates respect for your customers and clients, as well as yourself. I am immediately reminded of someone in my own business, Thomas P. Farley, a friend and colleague who steps up for any occasion. He is always dressed appropriately, honoring whatever situation he finds himself in. His trademark bow tie may or may not be present, depending on the event. But one thing is for sure, he knows the importance of proper attire.
- No judgment. Not everyone will have the same opinions, but allowing others to voice their concern without interrupting or making excuses will go a long way in building a strong relationship. The old adage, "Treat others as you would like to be treated" holds weight in business and in life.