Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry Logo

Eight Ways to Improve Your People Intelligence

The single greatest weakness of salespeople today is that they’re product centered, not people oriented, and, to their detriment, they are sadly unaware of this short coming. Salespeople tend to spend most of their time on a call extolling the numerous virtues of the product or service they sell and yet they never bother to ask a single question or identify any needs the prospect might have. They’ve talked a lot, but they haven’t listened at all.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Until you show your prospects that you care about their needs, you cannot expect them to care about your goods or services. It makes sense when you understand that people buy for emotional reasons – not because they fully understand the product or service, but because they feel you understand them. If they feel that you don’t understand them, that you don’t appreciate their position and where they’re coming from, you will not be able to sell them anything, no mater how fantastic your product or service. is.

You are in the people business, and it is crucial to always keep that in mind. You are, in fact, not in the business of selling your product, whether it be wallboard, commercial aircraft, furniture or clothing. As a professional salesperson,
you’re in the people business, and it’s
your people skills that will make your
product knowledge pay off.

Allow your prospect do the talking.
There’s no magic, sleight of hand or
manipulation to it. Simply let them talk.
It shows them how much you care
about their needs-and that you care
enough to listen. It boils down to common
courtesy, kindness and a genuine
regard for the other person. If you show
people that you care, they will respond
positively to you.

Here are seven quick and easy reminders
you can use to help you do this. As I
mentioned before, they don’t require
magic or manipulation, just sincerity
and an honest concern for the needs of
your potential client.

Smile. It’s a universal sign of friendship
in any culture. The Chinese have a
proverb: “Man who cannot smile should
not open store.” Think about it.

Be genuinely interested in others.
When you have sincere interest, it
shows. Demonstrate your interest by
looking directly at the person when he
or she is talking. Use your facial expressions
to reinforce your interest. Ask
open-ended questions, allowing your
prospect to answer them fully. If you
take interest in your prospect’s feelings,
you’ll be able to respond with sensitivity
and understanding.

Your body language is a powerful tool.
Utilize it by showing your prospect
through your actions that you care
about what they‘re saying. Likewise,
improve your awareness to the subtle
cues of the body language of others.
Watch your prospect’s body language for
clues. Become a masterful observer of
human behavior and pay attention to
what is said as well as what isn’t said.

Talk in terms of the other person’s
Your prospects may not have
the time to talk about what you want to
talk about, but they will always find the
time to talk about what they want to
talk about-and most people’s favorite
subject is themselves! Ask effective,
open-ended questions that encourage
your prospects to talk about themselves,
their personal lives and problems, their
business needs and particularly changes
in their business climate or conditions.
As they describe these issues, have empathy
by viewing those situations through
that person’s eyes, seeing the realities
they face. The more you can listen to
and learn from them, the more effective
you’ll be at meeting their needs.

Use their name. It’s the sweetest sound
anyone ever hears. That’s why it’s so
painful and embarrassing when you mispronounce
someone’s name. If you’re
unsure, clarify with the prospect as to
how to correctly pronounce his or her
name. Also, never take liberties with
someone’s name unless you have specifically
been given that privilege. In this age
of casual dress, fast food and informal
behavior, it’s almost too easy to make an
ignorant faux pas like walking into a
prospect’s office and saying, “Hi, Jim.
How’s it going?” Do not allow yourself to
make such an unprofessional error as it
will do nothing but reflect poorly on you.
Instead, start by using someone’s title,
“Hello, Mr. Smith,” and show the
prospect the respect he deserves. Then the
prospect can respond by saying exactly
how he or she would like to be addressed:
“Please, just call me Jim.”

Give compliments. Everyone likes compliments.
They must be genuine. Make
a concentrated effort to practice giving
three honest and sincere compliments
every day. You’ll be amazed at what this
simple act will do for your relationships
with other people. Further, you should
understand the value of a compliment,
both to the receiver and the giver. It is
unfortunate that so many young people
today reply to a compliment like “You
did a good job” with “No problem.”
This shrugging-off of the flattering
remark negates it entirely and, even
worse, it may make the giver feel belittled.
This person was thoughtful enough
to pay a genuine, sincere compliment.
Offer them the same level of respect
they’re offering you by responding with
a heartfelt, “Thank you.”

Listen. It’s the greatest compliment you
can pay. How many people do you
know who are really good listeners?
How many people are you really able to
open up your heart and soul to because
you know that they will listen carefully
to everything you say? The truth of the
matter is, most of us don’t want someone
to tell us what to do. We don’t want
others to give us their opinion. We just
want someone to listen.

Listen actively to what your prospect is
saying. This means taking in the information,
processing it, remembering it
and using it to help meet your prospect’s
needs. Give your prospect feedback when
he or she is talking so you communicate
that you are understanding what is being
said. Use simple phrases like, “I see,” “Of
course” and “Yes, I understand,” to convey
your comprehension. To be sure of
what your prospect is saying, you can also
practice reflective listening by paraphrasing
their comments and repeating them
back for verification. Then you’ll both be
clear about what was said.

Make the other person feel important.

Every person is important. Let your
prospects know they are meaningful to
you, When people are given courtesies,
they inevitably pass that good will onto
others. It’s what’s known as “Paying It
Forward.” It is very powerful. Treating
others, whether in business or in your
personal life, with courtesy and respect
speaks volumes about your values and
integrity, not just as a salesperson, but as
a human being.

Common courtesy, unfortunately, seems
to be disappearing from our society In
Germany Juergen Schreier, the Minister
of Education in the State of Saarland, is
fully aware of this phenomenon. His plan
to implement a “social competency” program
to instruct German children on how
to behave properly is a seemingly radical
idea that is meeting with overwhelming
approval—more than 80 percent of the
population supports his plan nationwide.
It’s not a program about discipline or regulating
student appearance; its focus is on
basic good manners, punctuality, presentation,
paying and receiving compliments
and practicing common courtesy. The
curriculum, which starts with children in
the first grade, was implemented at the
beginning of this year. As Schreier has
said, “Education is more than simple factual
knowledge. It’s also about social competency
and demonstrating courtesy and

The concept of good manners, and the
evidence of a global departure from com-mon
courtesies, has alarmed the Germans
enough to take action to improve the sit-uation—
and to invest in teaching their
children the proper and decent way to
treat each other. Developing your “social
competency” reaches far wider than simply
improving your sales or succeeding in
business. When you polish your people
skills, you’ll find they pay off in your personal
life as well. When you build people
up and show them the respect they
deserve, they will return that courtesy to
others. This approach of genuine kindness
toward your fellow human beings will
reach further than you can know.

Finally, it is vital to evaluate yourself
How effective are the solutions you’ve
offered to solve your customer’s problems
or fill their needs? Have you listened?
Have you assessed the situation
accurately? Do you have something to
offer your prospect that is both practical
and on target? Bear in mind that people
will buy from you not so much because
they understand your product or service,
but because they feel you understand
them. Your product knowledge or technical
skills are very important, and they
give you credibility. However, as a professional
salesperson, it should remain
paramount in your mind that before
anything else, you are in the people business.
It is only through your finely
honed and intelligently applied people
skills that your product and technical
knowledge will truly pay off.

About the Author

Roy Chitwood is an author and consultant
on sales and customer service. He is
the former president and chairman of
the board of Sales & Marketing Executives
International and is president of
Max Sacks International in Seattle.

For More Information

Max Sacks International can be reached
by calling 800.488.4629, or by visiting
the company’s Web site at If you would like to subscribe
to Chitwood’s free Tip of the Week, send
an e-mail to

Browse Similar Articles

You May Also Like

A truckbed full of T2Earth product.
ByT2EARTH® is a science-based manufacturer of sustainable, toxic-chemical free, fire-retardant and superior-performance forest building materials.
Young boy plays on drum kit at home. Elderly man irritated by noisy neighbor, screams, knocks on the wall. Low level of sound insulation. Apartments separated by thin wall.
We may take this for granted, but we all experience reality through our five senses, not the least of which is our sense of hearing.
AWCI's Construction Dimensions cover

Renew or Subscribe Today!