At the very least, all sales professionals have this one thing in common: we are all people. And treating people like people is a concept we should be talking more about.

When I first started out in my career, I was working in admissions for a large, private university in Maine. On a Tuesday morning, one of my newly enrolled students came to me, distraught, about how she didn’t think she could start school. She didn’t think she was smart enough and didn’t think she had it in her to earn her degree. If she did attend college, she questioned whether the major she chose was the right fit for her. I could have handled this situation in a couple different ways. I could have been selfish and encouraged this young woman to start school and stick with her chosen major, simply to reach my own admissions quota. Or I could have sent her to a different advisor because helping her meant rearranging my schedule for the day. But a different path was calling my name. I acknowledged her concerns, asked questions when appropriate, and empathized with her. Most importantly, I listened, supported her, and treated her like a human being.

This student ultimately began school, switched their area of study, and received their degree in a field they were passionate about: early childhood education. As coincidence would have it, she is now a teacher at the school my son attends. When she landed this position, I received a handwritten note from her, saying she would not have gotten there if it weren’t for my support while she was in school. She recalled our meeting and said how meaningful and refreshing it was that I treated her like a human being — instead of just a number.

The holiday season is upon us, and I wanted to share this story with you as a reminder to treat people with kindness. Your customers are not just people to whom you sell. They have entire lives outside of their jobs — remember this as the days get busier and the holiday madness sets in.

Commit to Kindness

Unfortunately, many of us are much more likely to extend kindness to someone who is extending it to us first. We are selectively kind. But I challenge you to be the person who initiates kindness. Research shows that when people receive an act of kindness, they pay it forward, and often to someone entirely new. So, ‘tis the season for doing nice things for everyone around us, including our customers. You can take comfort in knowing the effect of your selfless acts will trickle down and have a positive impact on many.

Spend More Time Making Positive Contact

If you’re familiar with Carew's Dimensions of Professional Selling® sales training program, you know that Positive Contact is used at the outset of any customer engagement. It is accomplished through a professional greeting and appropriate, business or non-business-related conversation of interest to your customer. It is an effective means to create more personal connections with customers and build rapport. The past few weeks, I have been dedicating more time in my sales calls to Positive Contact. As a result, I have learned a great deal about my customer’s lives, what their holiday plans are this year, and what they have going on outside of their jobs.

Although it’s been said many times, many ways, the importance of kindness cannot be overstated. It has the power to mitigate the ill effects of our oh-so-busy lives, increasing trust, boosting productivity, and simply making people’s day along the way. We are living in a world where consumers have a myriad of people and places to buy from. Kindness can be your competitive advantage. Don’t be a mean one, Mr. Grinch.