This column was originally published in the October 2011 issue of Salon Magazine. John Steinberg wrote the “Last Word” column for 11 years. He passed away in August 2011. His words of wisdom still have weight today.
I don’t know about you, but I love books. The world of knowledge a good book holds between its two covers is like the world of knowledge a person holds between his or her two ears — except that you can dip into it whenever you choose.
I was browsing my bookshelf recently, and I came across a couple of books that have much to offer anyone already wisely thinking aheadto maximizing his or her merchandising and retailing for the upcoming holiday season.
One is Napoleon Hill’s Succeed and Grow Rich Through Persuasion and the other is the intriguingly titled How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, by Nicholas Boothman. Napoleon Hill, of course, was one of America’s foremost success and motivation authors. He’s the chap who wrote Think and Grow Rich. And you may not know the name Nicholas Boothman, but this Englishman was a successful fashion and advertising photographer who became a leading expert in face-to-face communication, giving seminars and talks worldwide.
Obviously, if you want to see some good sales figures in the holiday season, your ability to persuade is crucial. So let’s start by seeing what Napoleon Hill has to say about the persuasive personality. Hint: it has nothing to do with being pushy or manipulative.
To begin with, Hill says that your personality, more than anything else, decides whether people like or dislike you. And people far prefer to do business with those they like and trust. Here’s a summary of what he advises:
• Smile when speaking, and be tactful, sincere, fair, thoughtful, tolerant and patient.
• Don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking.
• Use “you” more than “I.”
• Develop your sense of humour—it helps you relax and remain flexible in trying circumstances.
• Never use profanity.
• It’s more important to be an attentive listener than a good speaker.
• To be effective when you speak, know what you’re talking about.
• People can sense what you’re thinking about them, so always look for the good in others.
• Take a genuine interest in the person before you and what will benefit his or her well-being.
Boothman’s book is subtitled The Magic of Instant Rapport. He quite rightly points out to anyone promoting a product or service that “before you promote anything you must first be able to promote yourself.” And promoting yourself revolves, once again, around paying close attention to the person you’re addressing.
For example, Boothman advises using a very simple question, “What’s most important to you about…” that we can use in a consultation. “What’s most important to you about your hair?” The answer, if you really hear it, will not only tell you how to have a satisfied and happy client, but also what products will help your client achieve what’s important to him or her.
Then there’s your body language. Open body language that silently but effectively conveys your willingness, enthusiasm and approval includes open hands, uncrossed arms, a slight movement or lean toward the other person, standing with hands on hips and feet apart and even an open coat or jacket. The idea is to literally open your heart to the other person.
Add to this making eye contact and making sure to smile while you say hello and give your name, and you’re well on the way to establishing a rapport with a client that will enrich not just your cash register, but both of your lives.