Retail education: It’s about likability

Home Columns Retail education: It’s about likability

By Kelly Kramer

FCNews Volume 27/Number 12, October 22/29, 2012

If you’re a regular reader of my column you know I don’t discuss politics or religion.

I believe these are two subjects a person in my position has no business writing about— unless I want to lose half my readership. Like Dudley Moore in “Arthur” said, “I’m not stupid, I took the money.”

I mention this so I can use politicians as an example about winning through likability. I’ve always said the three greatest salespeople are politicians, lawyers and preachers. Why are these groups top salespeople?

It’s simple: These people are highly convincing. That means they understand human psychology. My most memorable saying about what makes a great public speaker is “make ’em love, make ’em laugh, make ’em cry.” This, of course, needs to be delivered by a person you either like or respect to be at its top effectiveness.

But when you’re in a position as sales advisor, you understand a new customer has no reason to have any respect for you. In fact she may have a poor preconceived opinion of you before even meeting you. So you have to work hard to first gain likability and let that lead you into gaining respect.

50 12%

That’s the number a politician needs to win an election. Sounds like a pretty low number to me. If I could only get 501⁄2% of my customers to like and respect me enough to buy from me, I’d consider myself a failure. But truth be told, that percentage is actually a higher closing ratio than the average retail sales clerk closes. Really, it’s the truth!

When you talk to any salesperson they will tell you they close 80% to 90% of their new, walk-in business (not referrals). I’m sure there are a few of you out there. But most who have that kind of record either move into a higher-paying field or write about it.

Here is a personal observation/example of how important likability is. Once in a while on my showroom floor I’ll meet a family with a very bright, gregarious, likable five- or six-year- old. So I ask the parents this fun question: “You know what we call a child like yours?” Pause. “Senator.”

This always gets a couple of smiles in agreement and a story about their young senator and just how friendly and smart the kid is. And, by the way, it makes me a more likable person for pointing out their little pride and joy in life.

Now, with likability on my side, I simply need to gain their trust and respect of how my knowledge will work on their behalf. Like I said earlier, likability needs to be gained before the respect can come.

People skills

This is one of my strongest traits as a sales advisor. It’s also the one I forget most often.

When I’m clicking and selling at that 80% ratio, I’m obviously enjoying myself. Not because my numbers are up, simply because I’m enjoying my customers more. During these times my people skills are at their peak. Basically, at this point, I’ve stopped selling (by chance, “Stop Selling Start Winning” is the title of my second book) and started to enjoy and find common grounds with my new friends. When my sales are cold, I look back and can see I was only selling.

Selling is simple. Become liked first, then let your knowledge direct your buyers to the product or service that is in their best interests. My book, “Stop Selling,” gives you a map to finding common grounds and becoming more likable. While my other book, “Selling Clean in Retail Flooring,” tells you how to show your buyer you are a product-knowledge expert.

Thanks for reading.

Kelly Kramer, based in Loveland, Colo., is an author, inventor and owner of Kelly’s Carpet Wagon. To book him for public speaking engagements, call 970.622.0077 or e-mail

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