How to Compliment Your Customers and Prospects

How do you feel when someone gives you a compliment?

Provided the compliment was sincere, you feel pretty good, right? We all like compliments. We typically respond well to them and we typically appreciate the person who utters them.

If this natural and fundamental rule of social interaction holds true, then why not use it in the  telephone selling process?

The Compliment

By giving clients a compliment you can improve your sales results.  A compliment is a positive remark, a word of encouragement, or a sincere acknowledgment.

While it is no real mystery why a compliment works (everyone likes one) it is important to understand the “triggers” that are activated inside your client. There are three triggers that come into play.

First, at some level, a compliment,  no matter how small makes people feel good. This is a positive trigger and helps develop rapport with the client.

Second, because the client feels good or positive, he or she tends to be more receptive to you and your selling effort.  Don’t get me wrong, they don’t necessarily swoon simply because you tossed out a kind remark, but again, at a gut level they open up a little more; they cut you a little slack.

Third, when you compliment an individual, there is a subconscious desire and tendency by the client to somehow reciprocate or pay you back. There is a tendency for her to want to return the compliment in some way, shape or form. From the client’s perspective, this usually means being a little more forthright, more patient, more attentive, and a little less judgmental towards you.  More often than not it leads to better, more candid information which in turn, increases your chances of a sale.

The Art of Giving a Compliment

Tossing out a compliment might seem easy enough on the surface. But there is a danger. If done improperly, a compliment can backfire. The client can see you as “pandering” and phony. Instead of opening up, the reverse is true; they close down.

Here are three rules of thumb.

1. Listen for Opportunities

Don’t toss out a compliment just because you feel like it.  The comment must be given when appropriate.  Tune in and listen closely.  For example, suppose a prospect returns your call after you left a voice mail message. You might say,

“Thank your for returning my call, Mr. Lobel. That was kind of you.”

By suggesting to the prospect that they are “kind”, they tend to be kinder! You can apply the same approach on a cold call. When you reach your prospect you might start off by saying:

  “Thank you for taking my call. I know your day must be busy.”

By acknowledging that their day is busy, you show your prospect respect. In turn, they tend to show respect back.

It’s not much, is it? But phrases like these are rarely spoken by sales reps.  The compliment cannot help but evoke a somewhat positive feeling in the prospect.  In addition, it is difficult for the client to hang up or tune out once someone has shown a measure of courtesy. It buys you time, even if it’s only thirty or forty seconds.

One more example: imagine the client asks you a tough question or poses an unusual objection. You might start off by saying:

“That’s a really good question.”

Somewhere deep inside the prospect feels a measure of pride concerning his insightful question.  It acknowledges his or her business acumen. It is only human. Chances are the prospect will open up a little bit more with their responses.

2. Be Simple and  Avoid the Lavish

Here are some additional examples of simple, effective compliments:

  • “That’s a good point.
  • “Thank you for that information. It really helps clarify things.”
  •  “That’s an interesting perspective.
  •  “That was very helpful.”
  • “You are very knowledgeable.”
  • “I like what you are saying.”

These compliments are kind acknowledgments. Avoid lengthy compliments. People become suspect if you go on at length. Be subtle. Less is more.

3. Deliver it Well

When delivered over the telephone, about 85% of your message is tonal. Only 15% of the message is the actual words that you use.

What this really means is that you must sound sincere, respectful and natural. Your message may be short and concise but if you overly inflect or gush, the compliment loses its meaning entirely.  On the other hand, you should place some emphasis on the words so that they do not sound trite.  This is hard to illustrate on paper of course, but common sense will tell you what sounds sincere and what does not.


Sometimes we forget that selling is a basic interaction of two individuals. Making someone feel good helps nurture that interaction to a certain degree. It creates a positive impression or mood. People respond to a kind remark. While it may not guarantee you a sale a compliment can certainly contribute to it.

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