Opposites Don't Attract: Relate to Prospects & Celebrate More Sales Won

This is the first post in a series of three, explaining effective ways to convey value quicker to win more sales pitches. Today’s post starts with the how. How do we form judgments? How can I better position myself to potential customers right off the bat?

Imagine you are at a coffee shop, grabbing a quick snack before heading back to the office to finish your day. As you walk out, you run into one of your biggest sales prospects that you recently saw at an industry event, but didn’t get a chance to meet. You stop, introduce yourself and try to pull together a coherent sentence on the fly about how you should set up a meeting to discuss moving his IT needs over to your staff. Do you know how long you have before this person forms a judgment about you? Three to seven seconds. That’s it.

The moment a stranger sees you, his or her brain starts asking itself a series of questions about your trustworthiness, approachability, authority, confidence, etc. These calculations are made at breakneck speeds in your brain and they quickly lead the person to form an immediate opinion about you. I don’t need to tell you that first impressions are crucial in business interactions.

Competence Grid

At CompTIA ChannelCon 2015 I was able to listen in to a very interesting keynote from Adam Alter, the author of “Drunk Tank Pink,” who showed the audience the competence grid below:

competence grid displayed at comptia channelcon 2015.png

According to Halter, there are two main dimensions people pay attention to when making judgments about people: warmth and competency. If you are able to convey both (quickly), you get placed in the “Hero” category. I think the labels of each quadrant speak for themselves and if you spend a minute thinking about the descriptors, I’m sure a few people you know will come to mind for each. ;-) 

But how exactly do you convey “warmth” to someone? Well, smiling, nodding, alertness and being attractive help, but there are also other strategies to consider.


We Naturally Gravitate towards People We Identify with

In a paper published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, psychology professor Jesse Chandler found that people were more willing to donate to hurricane relief funds if the initial of their first name matched that of the name given to the hurricane! After Hurricane Katrina, people whose name began with “K” donated 2.5x more money than those with any other first name initial. Think about the power the World Meteorological Organization has to influence charitable giving!

Going back to the initials/names example, when I was at a prior company, I sat with the Sales team. One day I heard a rep on the phone excitedly shout, “My mom’s name is Martha too!” When the call ended, I asked the rep what that was all about. The answer, “Oh, I always try to find out the name of a family member, and then I make up that I have a family member with the same name. It works like a charm.” Now, I’m not advocating this dishonest tactic, but it seemed to work well. Behold the power of warmth through identification, or the idea that we feel closer to the people we relate to.

The power of the subconscious is undeniable. We want to do business with people we identify with. The next time you are prepping for a sales call or planning to present to a new customer that you've not yet met, put some real thought into how you can gain their trust by establishing common ground. How are you and that person similar? Do you share any mutual hobbies or life experiences?  Do your research (LinkedIn is a great place to start) and find a commonality that you can put forward early in the conversation to cement you in the “warmth” quadrant of the competence grid. It might sound trivial, but I can assure you it’s not.


Recall the competence grid once more. Warmth is only one piece of the puzzle - all good IT solutions providers must also be knowledgeable of the products and services offered and their business value for clients. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Have you perfected your Elevator pitch? 
  2. Do you know what makes you different from the competition, your Unique Selling Proposition? 
  3. Most importantly, have you partnered with a vendor that takes responsibility for your IT channel success and enables your growth?

If not and you're experiencing lackluster sales, you may want to go back to the drawing board. A change could do you good.