“It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”   -Tony Stark, The Avengers

One of the suggestions I make to sales people when opening a sales call is to avoid making comments about the pictures on the wall, the *lovely* mahogany desk, or the office décor in general.  Most the time, when we comment on these items, we come across as insincere and irritate our prospect.

There are more effective ways you can open a sales call.  One of them deals with sincerely complimenting your prospect.

When I coach sales people in our programs, we perform an exercise that addresses the strategy of how to compliment a person without coming across as contrived, insincere, or attempting to play to to their vanity.

Where to Focus your Compliments

There are three strength levels for your compliments depending on where you place the focus:

  1. Things.  This first level is where most people focus their compliments.  It is the least effective level and, unfortunately, the most prevalent because it is the easiest to deliver.  This is the level that most sales people use when they enter their prospect’s office and comment on the picture on the wall.  It’s the “nice tie” or the “nice shoes” compliment that we typically give each other, or the “nice job” some first-time managers give members of their team.  It comes across as empty and contrived
  2. Achievements.  At this level, you must discover something about the prospect you are meeting with.  You are essentially acknowledging an accomplishment that they have made.  People in general are proud of their achievements and appreciate being sincerely recognized for them.  When you compliment at this level, you have their attention.
  3. Personal traits and characteristics.  A compliment at this level takes some real research and thought.  At this level, you are focusing on the unique strengths, qualities, or characteristics that you’ve noticed about your prospect.  You probably won’t use this level in your lead generation activities and rarely when opening a sales call with a new prospect.  However, if you at the stage of presenting your solution and your contact has positioned you as the expert in front of the corporate board of directors, you need to be at this level.

Sales Call Example Using A Compliment As An Opener

Here a quick outline to help visualize this concept.

If I walk into a prospect’s office and notice a sales trophy on her desk, I have to recognize that it’s there for a reason – it’s something that she is proud of and she wants the world to know about it.  As the sales rep, if I say, “Nice trophy!  Man, that is a really impressive trophy” then I am at the first level. I’m focusing on something that she owns.

Now, if I walk in and say, “I see you were the top sales producer for 2008.  That’s quite an accomplishment especially in a down economy” now I am complimenting her at the level of achievement, something that she’s done.

I can take this one step further and say, “I see you were the top sales producer for 2008.  That’s really quite an accomplishment.  In a down economy like we had in 2008, it takes a special person to persevere through the tough times to achieve something like this, which is why I’m glad we’re talking today.”

Now I’m complimenting her on her accomplishment and acknowledging that I noticed in her the personal trait of perseverance.  People will establish rapport with you faster if you are observant enough to notice their accomplishments and you are wise enough to extrapolate those accomplishments to general positive behavioral traits.

Oh Yeah. One Last Thing…

Use evidence to prevent your compliment from becoming flattery.  We typically use evidence in our sales presentations to give credibility to our solution.  Do the same here to strengthen your compliment.  You already have an arsenal of personal stories that you can reference from your past adventures with other clients.  And the news provides an endless supply of facts, figures and statistics that you can pull from.

My recommendation, if you are meeting with your prospect for the first time and you want to open the sales call with a compliment, start at the level of achievement or above. You’ll achieve rapport faster and make your competition green with envy.