Keep it real: Authenticity in sales

by Steli Efti

What do you do when you’re a certain personality type - e.g. high energy, fast and enthusiastic - and your prospect is the exact opposite: deliberate, reserved, quiet. It’s common knowledge in sales that you should pace or mirror your prospect to build rapport. But should you really?

As a sales pro, you want to master the art of communication. It’s the skill you continuously want to hone and sharpen - through books, courses, coaching and daily practice. But studying psychological sales techniques can be a slippery slope that leads you down the road of deception.

The number one thing you should focus on when working on becoming a better communicator is: authenticity.

Why?

Two reasons:

1) It will ultimately lead to a much easier life and a much bigger career. You won't have to constantly compute what you say and how you say it and keep track of every way you contort yourself. It's requires a lot of effort to keep that show going, and the payoff isn't that great.

2) Your prospects know how to spot inauthenticity. Everybody is great at detecting incongruencies; young kids, old people, and everyone in between.

We all sense it when a sales person says one thing, but means something else. Even if we can’t exactly pinpoint it - we instinctively notice that something is off.

Your prospects dislike incongruent communication. They’ll feel put off by you, your company and your product - even if they’d actually be a great fit and benefit from your solution.

All of that being said; "authenticity" is a big and fuzzy word - what steps can you take to practice it in your day to day life?

Become an effective communicator (while staying true to yourself)

Mirroring prospects, pacing their body language and posture and reflecting their choice of words back to them - all of these tactics are often taught as measures to build rapport.

(I’ve shared my views on rapport in a previous post.)

But many sales reps apply these concepts poorly; they’re so preoccupied with mirroring the prospect that they lose themselves in the process.

Don't try to trick people into liking and trusting you. Instead, focus on making it easy for your prospect to receive, understand and accept your message. The goal is to become so flexible in your communication that you can attune yourself to their way of communicating.

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Be flexible, but stay authentic

When you learn about psychological techniques, take a long-term approach.

1. Observe. Become more aware and fine-tune your antennas. Watch what naturally happens when you communicate with someone and you’re in sync with them… or when there’s a disconnect.

2. Once you’re ready to start practicing, turn it into a game. Practice this with people who are aware of what you’re doing. Play with these concepts to internalize them on a behavioral level.

3. Operate with awareness. Over time, you'll be more naturally become more flexible in your communication while at the same time staying true to yourself and being authentic.

Understand and be understood

Learning to fit the delivery of your message to your prospect will help you to be understood better, and learn to understand better. Which is a prerequisite for discovering opportunities to create value - and close deals.

There's already too many sales people willing to tell you what they think you want to hear to make the sale. Don't turn into one of them.

Don't contort yourself to make a sale. Instead, tap into your true strengths and learn how to use them to communicate in the most effective way with the prospect in front of you.