Why Nice Guys Finish First in Sales — And How to Become the ‘Nice Guy’

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We’ve all heard the saying “nice guys finish last.” And in love and war, the saying might hold true, but the opposite applies in sales. Nice guys, brace yourselves: Today is your lucky day.

The not-so-nice guys have actually done us a favor. The overplayed and deeply dreaded used-car salesman stereotype is burned into our brains. Any hint of aggression or underhandedness will send a prospect running. As for the nice guys, you have the ability to set yourselves apart from the rest and reap the long-term gains.

Win ’Em With Kindness

Being nice doesn’t mean being a sucker, which is a common misconception that gets people into trouble. Encourage your sales team to adopt these strategies, establishing themselves as valuable members of the community and as successful salespeople:

• Develop long-term relationships. Look beyond the immediate sale, and treat prospects with respect and sincerity. If the sales rep establishes a trusting relationship, he or she has the opportunity to sell to each client for years to come.
• Get involved in the community. Insist that your sales team participate in activities designed to grow their networks and position themselves as part of the community. Over time, people will begin to come to them (and, in effect, your company) because of the trust that’s been built through goodwill.
• Don’t cross the line on social media. It can be tempting to tout political beliefs or launch into a heated Twitter debate. Instill in your sales team the need to resist that urge — or risk alienating prospects. Play the middle, and avoid anything that could be controversial or open to interpretation.

It Pays to Be Nice

Being genuine helps you build a diverse network. Plus, you never know when a strong personal relationship will turn into a lucrative business one. Take my current business partner and me, for example. We met through a mutual friend and got to know each other while playing in a basketball league. At first, we had no idea of our mutual interests in business and technology, but we stayed in touch and developed a friendship.

When my now-partner came to New York for a conference, we began exchanging business ideas, and eventually, our company was born. We could have “sold” each other on business ideas and opportunities earlier, but instead, we let the relationship take a natural course, which led to a much bigger reward.

Being a nice person pays off even more directly in sales. Take my business partner: He had occasionally helped a contact in the local business community by doing consultations and speaking at events she organized. Rather than nickel-and-dime her for his work, he did it for free, knowing the relationship could have a much greater payoff down the road.

Later on, when five chambers of commerce were looking for a company to develop a social network for them, my partner’s contact was the key decision maker in the deal. Because he had her backing when he made his proposal to the committee, he won the contract over much larger companies.

When you’ve garnered favor by cultivating good relationships, it makes it that much easier to approach someone for a favor or pitch an idea. Sometimes, you don’t even have to ask.

In general, people are wary of salespeople because they don’t want to be duped or disrespected, so the first step to proving you’re not out to do either is showing a contact or prospect that you’re a nice person who isn’t there to take advantage. The nice-guy strategy will earn you loyal, long-term clients while the greasy, stereotypical used-car salesman chases away his prospects.

Image: Shutterstock

Janis Krums
Janis Krums is the founder and CEO of OPPRTUNITY, a professional discovery platform that matches professionals based on real opportunities to do business. Janis is a serial entrepreneur, an advisor, and an investor for startups. He can be reached on Twitter or Google+.

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