No matter who you ask, whether it’s the best professional in their industry or a rookie on the job for the first time – We all want to be better. We all want to improve, be more effective, more efficient, and more skilled within our industries. In sales, it’s a competitive environment in which everyone is striving to be the best at their company.

But even though we’re inspired to be the best and have hope and ambition to become the best, it’s not always easy to identify what areas need improvement. It’s sometimes difficult to take criticism, and even more challenging to uncover flaws in your craft when you’re already making great strides in your career.

I want to share with you something that my Pops has told me from the time I was a kid. I built quite the reputation in our family as the kid who thought he had everything sorted out. I came to quick conclusions and questioned everything that came across my young eyes and ears. And with a balance of support and humility, my father always said, “There are things you know. Things you know you don’t know. And things you don’t know you don’t know.” Meaning something like this…

What You Do Not Know Pie Chart

Today, we live in a world where information surrounds us. We have access to academic papers, competitor documents and even the most intimate information surrounding our customer’s lives. The information age has provided us with an opportunity to constantly develop our skills using everything from academic journals found on blogs to TED talks found on YouTube. As such, I wanted to take some of this information that’s readily available online and share with you some sales insights that could drastically improve your approach.

Be Relatable. Be Similar.

Over the years, there have been many studies that show how powerful the concept of similarity can be when discussing relationships with others. A study from Santa Clara University suggests that the simple nature of sharing similarity in a name or birthday can increase your chances of having someone like you.

Demonstrating that you have something in common with a prospect, colleague or employer gives you an increased chance of being liked. Thus, when you’re talking to a prospect, it’s important to listen to what they’re saying and identify opportunities in which you can relate to them on a specific subject.

While it’s beneficial to highlight common interests and get lucky enough to have a similar name, the way you interact also plays a role in developing a sense of similarity. For example, in the book Honest Signals, it suggests that mimicking the body language of a listener made their sales pitch 20% more effective.

Remember Their Name.

It’s a simple concept, but one that carries great power. Multiple experiments have shown that remembering someone’s name increases the chances of them complying when you ask them to buy from you. Studies also show that while forgetting a name doesn’t reduce the chances of them buying from you, it’s not doing you any favours either. Thus, it’s important to try and remember the names of those you’re looking to sell to or persuade. People often see you remembering their name as a compliment and thus, it establishes a deeper connection.

Get them talking about what interests them.

Lots of people think that the more they brag, humble or not, the more likely it is that someone will like them. I’ve sat in meetings with people who were trying to sell me their product and for half of the pitch, they sat back and name dropped or bragged about how great they were at their job. Studies show that sometimes you just need to shut up.

In fact, studies show that it’s more effective for you to get your potential client or lead talking about what they’re interested in instead of going off on rants about your own interests. Sounds easy, but in The Pursuit of Attention, sociologist Charles Derber shares the findings of a fascinating study, in which researchers watched 1,500 conversations and found that despite good intentions, most people struggle with what he has termed “conversational narcissism.”

Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves. For example, if a client mentions that they’ve spent the weekend with their family, instead of responding with: “That’s great, what did you guys do?” they’re more likely to respond with; “So did I. I have a five year old who’s a ball of energy. He’s really into sports and plans on making the NFL someday.”

The difference in these two responses is what psychologists have coined as active and constructive responses. Be more aware of how you respond to everyone from colleagues to potential clients as getting them talking about their own interests and thoughts is a great way to establish rapport and build a bond.

Be Nice. Be Kind. Be Likeable.

Despite the fact that most people will express that they’d rather work with a smart jerk over a likeable fool, studies show, no matter what people say, they prefer likable people over competent people. As such, spend less time trying to seem brilliant and more time trying to be likeable. Spend time practicing the efforts highlighted above, and spend time complimenting and agreeing with those around you.

Focus On Your Main Points when Talking to a Group.

Back when I was in University, I had a group project where we were asked to come up with a business idea and marketing plan. The idea needed to be environmentally friendly and have a social cause associated with it. Ideas were thrown around the room over and over again, but then one member got stuck on their idea and continued to bring it up. Before I knew it, we had zeroed in on his idea and were writing a plan and strategy for its launch.

The idea itself was actually quite bad. I knew it was bad, but because the entire group was so quiet, I had assumed that everyone was in agreement that it was a great idea. It turns out, I wasn’t alone as one of my group members revealed to me the day we were about to present that she hated the idea but thought the exact same thing as I did.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examined a fascinating insight related directly to this situation. The study found that we can tell that three different people expressing the same opinion better represents the group than one person expressing the same opinion three times – but not by much. In fact, the study shows that if one person in a group repeats the same opinion three times, it has 90% of the effect of three different people in that group expressing the same opinion.

Relationships Rule Everything.

We recently surveyed sales professionals from across North America to ask them questions about selling in the technology age. One of the biggest indicators of the power of relationships was found when we asked the respondents what they felt was the most important part of generating business. Our results showed that 98 percent of sales professionals believe that relationships are the most important part of selling.

If you have more suggestions of useful studies or tips for driving success in sales, I’d love to hear them. You can comment below, or find us on Twitter at @Introhive.