QUITE a long time ago, it was determined through research that there are fundamentally only two reasons customers quit doing business with a provider or supplier: Customers either felt cheated or they felt taken for granted.
Why would they feel cheated? Maybe the product didn't work. Was it imprecisely represented, perhaps?
Why would they feel taken for granted? A promise was broken. You said you'd do something, but you forgot. The customer didn't, though. You can think of lots more and different examples. Maybe, at the core of it, there was not enough trust.
Businesspeople trying to sell, to get more customers, should understand that people will listen to people they like. They will do business with people they trust.
Businesspeople who are poor at sales typically are imposing product-pushers employing too much pressure while not understanding the customer. They'll get some business just because they're there. Typically, their business is fleeting, and they may need a lower price just to hang on. They're not a trusted business partner. The customer looks out for himself, of course.
The "essence of selling" is that people will pay attention to information they want or ask for. They will prefer to do business with people they trust. These two things go hand in hand and can be leveraged with professional sales skills.
Skills development is a choice that requires a positive attitude and a willingness to develop new habits. Great sales professionals are actually made, not born.
Extroverts and introverts alike can demonstrate a positive, engaging and caring attitude. Extroverts may need to "scale back" their outgoing nature, while introverts may need to "ramp up" their more solitary nature.
Here's a modified Golden Rule: Treat people the way they want to be treated. How is this best determined?
Become a professional conversationalist. Here are a few do's and don'ts: Be yourself. Believe in yourself. Don't be boring. Talk, but not a lot. Ask better and better questions.
Stephen R. Covey teaches in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about "public victories." He calls them the paradigms of interdependence: think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood, and synergize. These can be some of the learned skills of a professional conversationalist and a sales professional.
Learn to ask better and better questions. An effective conversationalist knows that an "ice breaker" based on commonality is a great tool. He does not use an onslaught of questions as an interrogator would. He understands that there may be tension early on, but it'll go away in time if he does a good job conversing.
He is respectful and clearly interested. He is an active listener. Rather than framing an interrogation, even with open-ended questions, he frames a conversation with words like: describe, explain, share with me, tell me about and tell me more about.
He is a good talker because he uses few words but tells interesting stories. He understands how important effective conversations are to his job. He plans and rehearses them. He reviews them and endeavors to improve his skill. Yet, he knows conversation is an art form and endeavors to create pleasing ones.
What's the point of these conversations — to be likable and liked? Sure! People pay attention to those they like. Remember, though, people tend to do business with people they trust.
Effective conversations can lead to trust because the sales professional can discover what interests the customer, what the customer needs and wants to accomplish. He can understand the customer's personality and can treat the customer the way the customer wants to be treated. He can make better and more efficacious product recommendations. He can eventually be seen as a valuable business resource. He can be given the benefit of the doubt when push comes to shove. He may become a friend.
Think of some great conversationalists. Maybe top-of-their-profession TV interviewers like Barbara Walters and Bob Costas come to mind.
Can learning and practicing effective conversation techniques lead you to a career in television? Who knows? However, it can easily lead to being the most effective, differentiated, trusted person your customers deal with.
*Pat Whidden has enjoyed a 40-year career in animal agriculture-related agribusiness, with experience ranging from the dirty boots to the boardroom. He is a consultant specializing in strategy development and execution, as well as sales and customer service coaching, seminars and corporate events. Contact Whidden directly at (615) 719-2447 or [email protected] Watch for his Sales Professional column in the first issue of every month in Feedstuffs.