Sales Training: Putting yourself in their shoes

One of the things all sales closers should do is to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Essentially, this means embodying the Golden Rule of sales training: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“I have a dream”

How important is the capacity to put oneself into another’s shoes? In one of the most stirring speeches in recorded history, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, it is precisely King’s capacity to put himself in others’ positions that makes the speech so compelling. The speech’s most notable rhetorical characteristic is its repetition of the phrase “I have a dream.” However, what is perhaps more powerful is King’s ability to sympathize with others:

“I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations,” King says, “Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering.”

In selling the premise of racial equality, King Jr. does more than put himself into the shoes of the fellow African Americans that he addresses during his speech. He also puts himself in the shoes of onlookers that will read transcriptions of the speech around the country and paints a perspective for them as well. It is exactly that ability that made King Jr. such a compelling force for change.

“Powered by Service”

Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer, holds customer service at the core of its business – in fact, that’s the company slogan, “Powered by Service.” Employees have their commitment to the company and its customers tested as soon as they are hired; employees are trained for two weeks and are then offered $2,000 to leave the company. In doing so, Zappos vets its staff for those that are truly dedicated its business.

The culture at Zappos is to give customers exactly what they want. This effectively demonstrates the business savvy of the company; it treats its customers exactly how they themselves would like to be treated. There’s one anecdote that illustrates this point well: a customer mistakenly calls Zappos for pizza. Rumor has it that in sticking with the company’s mantra, the salesperson decides to buy and deliver the pizza to the customer himself, rather than inform the customer that he’d dialed the wrong number. It’s this dedication to giving customers exactly what they want that makes Zappos such a success today.

Next time you’re engaged in a sale, put yourself into the customer’s shoes. What does he or she want, and how can you provide it?