Does it seem strange to use the word love when referring to a business relationship? Substitute another word if you prefer — “like,” for example, or “respect.” However you want to express it, the point is to consider how much you care about the people you sell to — their needs, goals, desires, concerns — all the elements of their lives that might be involved in their decision about whether to buy from you.

Love prospects

If you don’t love your prospects, they will know it. We’ve all been sold to by someone who didn’t care about us. The salesperson who pressures us to buy a car with options we don’t need. Or the telemarketer who launches into a lengthy script without asking if she’s interrupting our dinner. Or the guru who entices us to purchase a high-priced solution without bothering to find out whether it has any relevance to our situation. We can feel their disregard, and it turns us off.

On the flip side, you’ve probably had the pleasant experience of being sold to by someone who took the time to find out exactly what you needed, explored with you respectfully the match between what he had to offer and your desires, and allowed you to come to your own decision about the purchase. An experience like that not only makes you feel good about spending money, it makes you want to buy more from that person as soon as you can.

You know when people who are trying to sell to you care about you and when they don’t. You can sense it in what they say (and don’t say), the type of questions they ask (or don’t ask), how they listen to you (or don’t listen). You always know. And so do the people you are trying to sell to.

So how much do you love your prospects? Do you look forward to spending time with them, or dread going to places where they gather? Do you enjoy talking with them on the phone, or find reasons to avoid calling? Do you take pleasure in learning more about their problems and goals, or resent the time it takes? Do you try to sell them only what they need, or hope to sell them anything you can? Whichever it is, you can bet that your prospects know it.

I’m not suggesting that you truly dislike your prospective clients. It may be that talking to them just makes you nervous. Or that selling brings up the fear of rejection. Or that you’re so focused on making a sale, you’re not really seeing the person you’re selling to. Whenever we’re anxious, or afraid, or intent on our own goals, we tend to become self-absorbed or defensive. As a result, we may hold ourselves aloof, or talk too much, or stop listening, or disregard what others want.

But those are the very same behaviors that other people interpret as “not caring.” You’re uncomfortable or hyper-focused, so you withdraw from others, ignore them, or override them. They feel your disregard, so they react by pulling away from you. You feel them pulling away, so you either give up — and lose the sale because you’re avoiding them — or try even harder — and lose the sale because you’ve alienated them. It’s a self-defeating cycle.

There is a way to break this pattern, but it’s not a new set of skills to learn or techniques to try. It’s simple but not easy; subtle but incredibly powerful.

Love your prospective clients.

Picture in your mind the ideal person to become your client — the sort of person you went into business to help. Imagine the problems they are having and the issues they are struggling with. Think about the goals they are working toward and the dreams that inspire them. Visualize them getting what they want and need, and what that would mean to them.

Now, what feelings do these thoughts evoke toward that client? Do you feel warm, friendly, connected? Thinking about their problems, do you feel sympathetic, supportive, encouraging? Imagining their goals, are you approving, enthusiastic, excited for them?

This authentic state of mind — a caring, supportive, loving attitude toward your prospective clients — will help you close more sales than any skills or techniques you could learn. And as an added bonus, it can help you become more comfortable with selling than you ever thought possible.

Whenever you find yourself struggling to make a sale, or to reach out to a prospect, stop what you’re doing. Take a few moments to consider all the reasons you care about that person. Even if you don’t know them, you know others like them. Ground yourself in an attitude of friendship, support, and respect. Then start again.

If you begin to really love your prospective clients, you may just find that they will love you back.

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