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22. Making Dale Carnegie’s precepts work for small business

Dale Carnegie’s six simple principles to make people like you: 1. be genuinely interested in them. 2. Smile! 3. Remember their names. 4. Listen well. 5. Reflect their interests. and 6. Make them feel important and do it sincerely. Simple but not easy. Most entrepreneurs are strong personalities, usually quite self confident and self-centred, and in a hurry to make a success. Well sometimes being in a hurry and trying too hard to be successful (having all that essential commitment is the good side) just don’t work in winning customers.

Some of the best sales people I have met have not even been very extrovert, although tradition has it that the salesman should take centre stage and have ‘the gift of the gab’. But stereotypes are not always right. In my early sales training I was told: you have two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in that proportion – not advice that I have always been able to follow, but good advice for all that.

Interestingly, what Carnegie proposes is really that you should become a different person and a better person. And if you start to apply his precepts, you find that they actually all work together to enhance each other. When you smile, people are more prepared to talk about their issues and to trust you; you cannot talk easily while you are smiling, so you are more likley to listen; when you listen attentively you tend to find that you can start to take an interest in what the other person is talking about (I have always believed we get out what we put in and when you listen, you take an interest and when you take an interest, you get involved and then you enjoy the subject more, which makes it easier to smile!). The more interested you get in a person, the easier it is to remember their name (although there are techniques you can learn such as image association and simple repetition which can help) and to remember their interests. The more you do this, the more sincere you are, and if you are sincere, it is a lot easier to seem to be sincere – remember the Groucho Marx remark in my last article.

These days, of course, you can buy a business card reader to put their key details in a database, and add your own notes to that on interests etc so you need never lose what you know about them. The techniques can help, but they cannot replace the genuine interest, the sincere wish to help others. Of course, when you are a struggling small business trying to find enough business to survive and prosper, it’s easy to slip into selling mode and to become quite aggressive. But when were you last on the receiving end of such a pitch, and did it endear the person to you? I suspect not.

We are all most interested in ourselves, and our life and situation and we like people who are interested in us and our issues. Similarly, a successful sales person will ALWAYS understand the potential client and their wants and needs before trying to sell to them. And then he will adapt his sales approach to match those wants and needs.

So you can be a good sales person and be liked! A great idea that becoming successful in business can make you a better person rather than the reverse. Dale Carnegie himself looks a pleasant chap don’t you think?

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