From the August 2007 issue of Entrepreneur

The decisions you make about who you're going to sell to, call and build relationships with have a major impact on your success. We often ask ourselves: Should I close now or wait until the next meeting? Should I keep calling on this account or pursue new and more qualified prospects? Should I do business with these people? Do I trust them?

Finding these answers usually means relying on advice from peers, training or the way things have been done before. But you should also learn to trust your gut. Here are some tips for learning how to tap into your natural-born instincts.

  • When meeting prospects for the first time, look and listen. This advice is so basic, but it's amazing how people rarely look you in the eye, especially when it's something important. This conveys that they're not comfortable with the information they're sharing. Also, listen to what prospects say and how their actions match their words. Do they do what they say they are going to do? Sometimes when we take a back seat in the conversation and really listen with our eyes and ears, our instincts will reveal something.
  • Learn to listen to your natural instincts. For millions of years, we lived in the wilderness and trusted our instincts to survive. But today, business owners rely on technologies and other modern resources to provide answers and information. These days, we're rarely in touch with our natural instincts.

    I was shocked during a recent breakfast meeting with a very successful owner of a $50 million-plus company who was considering buying a $20 million company. He said, "Everything I do is based on my gut instinct." He went on to say that in his business, like most businesses, he depends on relationships that are built on trust. The first thing he thinks about when meeting someone new is what his gut tells him about this person. Based on the person's focus, enthusiasm and questions, he asks himself: Can I do business with this person? He insists his gut instinct has never been wrong.

    How many times have you said to yourself, "I should have done that deal," or, "I should have listened to my gut and not done that deal?" The next time your instincts push you in a direction, don't ignore them. Listen to what your gut is telling you--and act on it.
  • Develop honesty, integrity and rapport. Our instincts work best when the customer sees us for who we really are. Your instincts will read situations much more clearly when your customer opens up and both parties are being true to themselves. I've always done well working with people who say with their actions, "This is who I am, like it or not." They are confident in their abilities and have the track record to back them up. My gut instincts are very positive about these people, and it usually works out well.
  • Do your research. A little fact-finding won't hurt. It can provide support and reassurance for what your gut is telling you.