I like people. Genuinely like people. I love learning about their points of view, their foibles and even their families and what makes them tick. So customer interactions come easily to me.
I love the give and take of coming to solutions together that will enable and empower their business. I love the way different customers bring their unique frames of reference to every conversation enabling me to see things from a different point of view all the time. Generally customers respond to this. Maybe I am just lucky, but up until a certain point I had never had a client who didn’t respond to me. So imagine my shock, my sheer surprise when I first came across a client who not only did I not connect with, but they clearly weren’t loving me as much as I thought they would (who am I kidding – as much as I thought they should!).
I tried with them, I really did. I tried the ‘chatty’ approach; I tried the ‘all-business’ approach. I tried the ‘mutual interests’ approach, I even tried the ‘solely-interested-in-your-solution’ approach but we just weren’t getting there. Sure we could talk to each other, but we talked in circles, never quite agreeing (or not for that matter) and as any decent sales person can tell you, just barely being able to communicate with each just won’t cut it. People buy from people they trust and if they can’t even talk to you, well let’s just say that I wasn’t banking on hitting sales targets from that customer any time soon!
Then one normal Wednesday tea-time, as I was morosely hanging about the coffee machine contemplating the drip-drip-drip as a tactic to delay my meeting with said client, one of my delectable Avos – spotting that I wasn’t exactly enthusiastically getting ready to head off to my 11AM meeting – saved me. And no they didn’t offer to take the client off my hands. They reminded me that making a connection isn’t always an instantaneous thing. It doesn’t always come naturally and - just like losing those last five kilograms - sometimes it takes a little extra effort.
We have an incredible AVO Byte which takes you through a 90-minute session on how to build this connection, but having faced this problem myself, I want to give you some points to consider for your next troublesome customer interaction.
Date your customer
Remember the first few weeks of your last serious relationship? You took it a little slowly, respected each other’s boundaries, but kept in touch, and therefore top of mind. Do the same with your customer. Respect their time. They are just as busy as you are, so make sure that if you have a meeting set up, you have an agenda and it’s not all about you and what you want to sell. On that note, just dropping in to see a client can turn a normally even-tempered human into a rabid hyena if they are having a stressful day. So make sure that you respect the rules of relationships that you would want respected.
Send them thoughtful things. No – not roses or jewellery. That’s weird and inappropriate. But articles you know would be of interest to them, or if you know they are a keen vegetarian chef, possibly send them a special recipe you were sent by Nigella. Ask their opinion, people want to know that they are valued and deemed as knowledgeable enough that you would want to know what they are thinking.
So the last time you sat in a room with someone who was only thinking about what they wanted to say, or their point, didn’t you want to hold them down and muzzle them with the whiteboard cleaner? Well it’s the same for your client. Don’t sit in an interaction with them planning your response. Stop and listen. Listen not only to what they say, but also for what they don’t say. Clarify their meanings, and try not to come across as if you have an agenda. If you are genuinely interested in what they say, not only your solution to it, then you have already achieved what most sales people never attempt to. Seeing things from their point of view.
Ahh this one is hard. Persistence in the face of adversity. We have an innate need to be liked. When we aren’t immediately embraced we assume so much about why we aren’t liked and instinctually retract. Sometimes it just takes a little time, and a little more effort. If your customer is even entertaining time with you, you have a way in, to improve the relationship. So keep trying to make the human connection.
Remember to make it about them. Don’t rush to your hard sell, and remember you don’t have to rush to a solution in every meeting; sometimes it’s going to be a customer interaction where all they want to do is explain their difficulties. That’s ok too. You can leave the meeting not having got one word in about how your solution will work for them. You can always follow up with an email and a personalised suggestion on how they can alleviate some of their issues.
Relationships, any relationships take time and effort. One with a customer is no different. You won’t always ‘gel’ at the first go. Sometimes you won’t gel at the second or third either, but persistence, respect and listening will go a long way to ensuring that you are able to at least build a foundation of trust and understanding which underpin any relationship.
Join us for a 90 minute session that will teach you to create a spark with customer you may previously have not been able to engage.