It is increasingly disturbing to me how many conversations I have with potential customers (and even friends) aren’t really conversations, but one sided arguments dominated by the other party. The short lesson here is to never interrupt your customer; potential, current, or otherwise.
Thomas Zweifel wrote a series of books, Communicate or Die. Honestly I didn’t like the books. They really weren’t on a professional level, but this isn’t a book review blog. He did have one very popular concept called The Matterhorn of Masterful Listening. Here is a great synopsis of his chapter:http://www.swissconsultinggroup.com/mediapage.php?newsID=2005101311361176 . In my professional opinion, level four “Respecting” should be your focus. Zweifel actually calls this the lowest acceptable level of listening; and he would be correct. When we are talking to customers and soliciting feedback, we must be careful to actually identify what their needs are. I get plenty of customers that want to ramble; and equally as many that answer in short terse responses that make it a pain to carry a conversation.
I want to review all the levels from Thomas Zweifel in this blog, but I do not want to infringe any copy write. Plus, I very much want you to go read it in his words; if you have his book that’s even better. The “Controlling” and “Projecting” levels really intrigue me because when reading about them you realize how your conversations might have taken a turn down these paths. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again: Sales people get a bad rap. These two levels are why in my professional opinion. If you think your a great salesman or woman, please take a moment to reflect on your conversations and determine if you are guilty of Controlling a conversation or Projecting your interpretations. I sure have been guilty of these so don’t be discouraged by my request. The goal for building your customer relationships is to reach level 4, “Respecting.”
So how do you reach level 4? You must never, ever, interrupt your customer. Think about why a customer is calling you. They have a very specific need. While I hope you’re the first person they called or emailed, you’re likely not. I’ll cut to the chase here: every conversation you marketing and sales professionals are having stem from the fact that someone wants to be heard. Here’s an example. When I go into Best Buy and ask them questions about certain features of HD TVs, I legitimately do not care if I buy from Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, or Amazon. But if the rep is good, he’ll engage me in conversation; if he’s done his homework, he’ll have answers to all my questions. From those two points, my relationship with that rep has grown substantially. I could have found those answers online, reading through countless forums, but really I want to ask a specific question and not get 100 trolls come back and give me bunk info. I want to be heard, I want to be understood, and I want to be respected.
Carry this line of thinking over to your clients and customers. Make sure you are mastering your listening skills to pick up on their needs. If you don’t offer a solution, tell them! There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know.” It lets the customer know that you’re not just rattling off a spiel and more importantly you are lying to them. What is wrong is leaving the conversation there. Go find an answer and let the customer know you’re researching it for them. Of course, you can’t really research the question if you don’t fully understand it. Always solicit feedback and make sure the customer signs off, per se, on your interpretation of their needs.
In the comments, tell me about an experience you’ve had being a customer where you don’t think the sales people were respecting your side of the conversation. I really do want to listen to your stories!