It's no secret that lasting success in sales, no matter what kind of market you're working in, relies on building and maintaining long-term business relationships with your clients. Indeed, most of us get plenty of advice on activities we can do to help make that happen—from follow-up calls to thank-you notes. As a sales trainer, I've noticed that what's often missing from that advice is a recognition of what needs to come first…the missing element that is at the root of all great communications.

If you want your efforts to be meaningful and memorable, you must connect emotionally with people. Without that element being present in how you interact with others, no amount of hard work will help boost your sales performance…and no amount of ambition will get you to where you want to be in your organization.

Consider the compelling results of recent market research on the subject. A 2003 Gallup study suggests that no matter how high a company's customer satisfaction levels may appear to be, "satisfying customers without creating an emotional connection with them has no real value. None at all." But when Gallup looked at customers who credited emotional connection as part of their deep satisfaction and loyalty to a store, they also found that those customers visited that business more often and spent more.

Don't' lose sight of what it means to connect emotionally with someone. It's not enough to just pick up the phone and call clients and talk about yourself, or tell them all the great things that your product or service you can do.

Connecting emotionally with someone starts with understanding that it's not all about you…it's about them. When we engage in open, honest communications, we connect with others with empathy. We listen first. And we demonstrate that we understand what it's like to be in another's shoes. Indeed, empathy is an important skill and one I discuss in further detail in the book I co-wrote with Steven Gaffney, entitled "Honesty Sells." (Available from John Wiley and Sons)

Let's look at four things you can do today to improve the way you connect emotionally with people…

Sharpen your listening skills
There's no better way to understand the needs of your customers than by listening carefully to what they have to say. As a sales professional, learn to be less preoccupied with the need to force your opinion on others. Instead, make it your job to listen to their opinions and feelings, ask questions, and then find tailor-made solutions to fit those opinions and feelings.

Tell stories
Human beings are hard-wired to be receptive to the power of compelling stories. As one writer recently quipped to me: storytelling is a lens through which we can catch a glimpse of the lives of others as well as mirror of our own. When you share with your customers your own stories of challenges you've encountered in business—even mistakes you might have made in the past—it humanizes who you are. It helps remind others that you're not all that different in terms of your aspirations, goals, as well as in terms of what you worry about.

Be thankful
Whether it's people in your personal or professional life, you can never say thank-you enough. People love it when they are recognized, appreciated and made to feel special. So take every opportunity you can to demonstrate how thankful you are by way of thank-you cards, modest gifts, treating a customer to lunch…your choices are endless. What's most important is that your gesture demonstrates how much you value that person and not their money.

Be thoughtful
As I've noted in a previous newsletter article, being thoughtful is where your creativity and attention to detail can help you really stand out. That goes a long way in an effort to connect emotionally with others. I was once told a great story about a top salesperson who was asked what set him apart from everyone else in his business. "I genuinely love people and I like showing how much I appreciate them," he explained. "There are plenty who remember to send out a birthday card to a friend or client, but I'll bet I'm the only one who thinks to also send out a birthday card to that person's beloved dog!"

Connect with Colleen today!

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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