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To Make More Sales, Try Making More Friends

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"Learn to love, respect and enjoy other people."
-- Dale Carnegie

In 1936, Dale Carnegie published "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Since then, his book has sold more than 15 million copies and is widely credited as being the first book in the modern self-help genre.

The core of Carnegie's simple philosophy is that one of the greatest human needs is to feel important. If you want to win people over to your way of thinking, they need to like you. And the way to get them to do that is to take an interest in them.

When learning how to sell better, we often hear the advice to ask questions and listen to the customer. This advice, though, is frequently given in the context of using questions to gather information helpful to the sales process, and to listen for clues that will help you convince the customer to buy.

What Carnegie suggested was that the true path to being a successful salesperson, leader, or well-liked individual was not to focus on your desired outcome, but to put your attention on the other person. Here are Carnegie's six ways to get what you want by making people like you:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile.
  • Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
  • Make the other person feel important -- and do it sincerely.
  • Notice the emphasis on being genuine and on sincerity. Despite the fact that Carnegie was talking about how to persuade people to adopt your point of view, this really isn't some sort of manipulative sales technique. It's a recipe for making friends.

    This idea wasn't just a personal theory of Carnegie's. To write his book, he interviewed the most successful people of his day, from Clark Gable to Franklin D. Roosevelt. He studied the writings of philosophers from Confucius to Benjamin Franklin, and the lives of famous leaders from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Ford. [p Carnegie spoke with many professional salespeople, and also with many of their customers. Here's what he discovered: "Thousands of salespeople are pounding the pavements today, tired, discouraged and underpaid. Why? Because they are always thinking only of what they want... The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking. So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage. He has little competition."

    All the great salespeople I know are people others refer to with adjectives like "friendly," "nice," and "likable." When you see them across a room, you are drawn to them. When you get on the phone with them, you don't want to hang up. They seem to have the ability of making you feel as if their conversation with you is the only thing in the world that matters to them.

    And they're not faking it.

    What sort of shift might it create in your selling if you took Carnegie's advice to heart? If instead of trying to make sales, you simply set about making friends? Imagine what a difference it would make to how you dealt with everything from cold calling to attending networking events.

    Picture yourself on a cold call, smiling, talking about the other person's concerns, and making him or her feel important. Visualize yourself at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, getting people to talk about themselves, and expressing your interest in what they have to say.

    Showing a genuine interest in others not only makes them feel good, it makes you feel good. Instead of trying to convince someone of your point of view, your job becomes to see everything from the other person's side. Conversations that used to be challenging sales situations can instead become opportunities to make new friends.

    If this approach appeals to you, here's what to do next in Carnegie's own words: "So, if you desire to master the principles you are studying in this book, do something about them. Apply these rules at every opportunity. If you don't you will forget them quickly. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind."

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