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3 Classic Dale Carnegie Lessons for Modern Sales Teams

By: Andrea Panno

Before Dale Carnegie became an immortal figure in the world of business with his books, lectures and courses on human relationships, communication and public speaking, he was a successful salesperson.

He went from selling correspondence courses to selling bacon, soap and lard for Armour & Company so successfully that his sales territory of South Omaha, Nebraska led the nation in sales. His time in sales, along with extensive research on leadership and psychology, inspired the books and courses he created, which are still in use around the world.

While the world of sales may look very different from when Dale Carnegie sold his first correspondence course, the reason his name is still synonymous with success in business and public speaking is because the principles he taught are timeless. We’re looking back at one of Carnegie’s best-known works, How to Win Friends and Influence People, to demonstrate how his tried and true principles apply to modern sales teams—teams that are increasingly staffed by millennial members of the workforce. 

Make People Feel Important

Wanting to be important, to matter, is one of the central human drives, Carnegie states. His extensive studies of psychology led him to conclude that human beings need to feel relevant to one another and need to perceive their own influence upon the world around them. Building relationships with prospects and customers is more important now than ever before, and relationships flourish when people feel valued and secure.

All the other principles we’ll be discussing stem from this central idea, so the actionable methods of making prospects and customers feel important will come to light as we cover those. For now, let’s take a bird’s eye view of what truly makes B2B prospects and customers feel important:

  • Being referred to and remembered in a positive and personal way
  • Hearing information about their needs
  • Feeling that their needs and wants are understood
  • Receiving clear information pertinent to their needs and how they can fulfill them

When you read about the next few principles and how to put them into practice, keep this list in mind.

Every action you take in interacting with prospects and customers should be geared, in some way, towards these goals, which are designed to help you establish the foundational elements of positive relationships.

Take a Genuine Interest in People

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you,” Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

He was right, of course: marketers who changed their approach to focus on the interests of prospects and customers saw a huge impact upon their businesses, and salespeople need to do the same.

Once you recognize that the wants and needs of prospects and customers are what ultimately decide the result of your company’s marketing and sales efforts, you can fully understand how important it is to be genuinely interested in your prospects and customers. There may be certain aspects of the products or services you sell that you’ve been leaving out of your sales pitches and cold calls because they don’t appear important to you when, in fact, they’re very important to your prospects and customers. Without taking a genuine interest in your customers, you’ll never build the positive relationships your business needs to prosper.

Prospects and customers no longer want an unsolicited lecture about the details of what you offer. You’ll be more successful and possibly even save energy for other tasks if you let the prospects and customers direct the conversation toward what they truly need or are looking for.

Taking a genuine interest in prospects and customers involves putting into play another Carnegie principle, one that he felt was one of the core ways to inspire positive feelings in someone by being a skilled conversationalist: you need to be a good listener by encouraging people to talk about themselves.

To do so, you need to begin warmly. Make sure your sales emails and cold calls have a friendly tone and begin on a positive note. Don’t rush or be too eager. Begin as you would a conversation with an acquaintance. Then, ask the right questions and really take note of the answers. Focus on:

  • What customers and prospects are looking for
  • What their core needs are, beyond just the product or service they’re shopping for
  • Their company’s goals and values
  • The details that matter to them when investing in a new product or service

Prospects will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to really learn what matters to them, and the understanding you gain from doing so will strengthen your customer relationships in the long run.

Talk to Customers About Themselves

Dale Carnegie wrote that acknowledging and validating what a person truly wants and showing them how to get it, is one of the secrets to getting that person to warm to you. You’ve asked the right questions and really gotten to know our prospects and customers. You understand well what they’re looking for and they feel confident that you do. Now it’s time for your response. Talking to someone about themselves works in two ways: it interests them with relevant information while forming a positive bond by demonstrating your investment in and knowledge of their wants and needs.

Use the information you’ve gathered to make bold statements about what your prospects and customers need and where they’re headed in terms of their goals. They’ll appreciate when you combine the knowledge they’ve provided with your unique, outsider perspective. The vantage point you offer as an objective party familiar with them and their situation is valuable and bolsters your relationship.

Summing Up

Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People to be a comprehensive tome on human relations that helped people communicate effectively and advantageously. Though the book was originally published in 1936, many of the principles it espouses are gaining new relevance in the era of modern and personalized sales and marketing. With the right classic Carnegie lessons on making people feel important, taking an interest in others and hearing about their needs, your sales team can’t lose. Take a page from Dale Carnegie’s book and start building lasting, genuine sales relationships today.

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