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Suit Yourself

If you want to make the sale, don't just focus on your product or service--chances are, your customers are more interested in you.

When customers buy from you, what are they really buying? Hint: It's not just your product or service. In essence, what they're actually buying is you--and if they don't like you, they won't feel compelled to buy from you.

These three valuable points will help you sell the power of you:

1. Be yourself. In other words, be true to who you are. The following anecdote might raise some eyebrows, but it makes my point: During a steak dinner with one of my longtime customers, I noticed that he had stopped eating--but there was still a lot of meat left on his steak bone. I asked him if he was finished and, if so, if he'd mind if I ate what was left. He smiled and said, "Not at all." I think he actually got a kick out of it.

Here's the deal: What you see with me is what you get. I might not be qualified to write a column on etiquette, but what I've learned over the years is that customers want to work with people who don't put up fronts, who aren't arrogant and whose presence they enjoy. Sure, you have to be careful not to offend anyone. But when you're relaxed, so is your customer. The environment is less tense, and you have a better sense of how far you can go. If you really believe in your profession, are passionate about what you sell and want to add value to your customer's business, it will make it easier to let down your guard and be yourself. You'll come across naturally and effectively, and customers will see the real you.

2. Don't fear silence. Abraham Lincoln once said, "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." There are many things you can pick up about another person by watching and listening. We all know that body language often tells us more than what is actually said. Of course, you don't want to be sitting across from a prospect in his or her office with nothing to say, caught staring like a deer in the headlights. But there are times--at a lunch meeting, for instance--where the best thing you can do is stop, listen and relax. This might not sound like a technique that has anything to do with being yourself, but it does. When you've thoroughly done your homework and learned as much as you can about your prospect beforehand, you don't have to worry about what you're going to say next or jump in with small talk like, "How's that sandwich?" "Nice tie," or "Boy, it's cold out, isn't it?" Being yourself means being comfortable enough in your own skin to let the conversation flow naturally, silences and all.

3. Look your customer in the eye and say, "My kids need clothes and money for college. This sale will really help me out." Just kidding! But don't forget your sense of humor--that, too, is part of who you are. Laughter breaks down barriers and helps your customers feel at ease. You don't have to tell jokes or be a comedian, but you do need to show the human, flawed side of yourself and your ability to laugh at things that go wrong. Use your own judgment. Your ultimate goal is to create a bond so that both of you become more relaxed.

Just being yourself and feeling comfortable in your own skin is not always as easy as it sounds. But in the end, that's what customers really buy--and that's what you should always be selling.

Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at www.BarryFarber.com, or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

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This Is the Most Important Habit for Business Success

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