Have you ever thought about how you come across in most of your customer conversations?
There are a number of fascinating books starting with the classic Stephen Covey's ‘7 habits’, Chip and Dan Heath's ‘Made to Stick’ and of course Dale Carnegie 'How to win friends and influence people'. All provide great insight into improving one of the most critical life skills you can have. The art of communication.
In a world where the ability to connect seems endless but our clients still say they don't feel connected to the providers they use.
How do we have better and more meaningful conversations with our customers?
There are clearly a number of different types of conversations you can have, such as: negotiations, updates, proposals, casual conversations etc… We very rarely consider the implications and goals from each type of conversation we have.
What you want to ensure every client conversation you have is meaningful
Meaningful conversations are specific, client focused, contribute to moving the relationship or goal forward, opens up the truth of how your client actually feels and ultimately deepens trust.
Sounds like a lot but this can all happen with a simple acknowledgement of four things I’ll get to. I want to bring to your attention those conversations you have day to day that can often pass you by as non-important or non-specific. It's in those moments you can make your client conversations count even more.
Every time you're in front of your customer, you're in the greatest competitive position to increase your value and deepen trust
Your competitors would love the opportunities you have to speak to your clients. By putting a value on each conversation you have you can train yourself to engage at a deeper level.
If you’re not cashing into the relationship bank between you and your customer your unlikely to get to the return on the investment you put into that client.
I want to share four conversational practices you can start to implement and invest in every customer conversation you have. Once you do you'll immediately notice the shift in quality in having better and more meaningful client conversations.
ONE: Pick up on a positive conversation you never got to finish
This can immediately kick things off on a good note. If you can evoke the moment they felt best with you, you can amplify your likeability and their openness to where the conversation might go next. This is validated in study by numerous social psychologists. One named neurobiologist Dr Amy Banks who co-wrote the book wired to connect discussed the findings of four significant neuropathways to connection.
· Smart vegas nerve (calm you get from healthy relationship and controls stress)
· anterior singulat gyrus (controls feel of distress and rejection)
· mirror neurons (resonance ability to read intention and emotions of others)
· dopamine reward system (energy in relationships. chemical and physical reward we get from people and activities we attach to).
A lot of big words! The one I want to focus on is the dopamine reward system. When people start speaking about positive things we get a hit of positive energy and motivation. We also create mini associations with that person who share that experience. It’s why we share so much with people we have the most fun with. If you can begin with a something positive you can create the environment for a more open conversation.
TWO: Look for ways to help them move forward
We all like to feel that we’re making progress. It justifies the days we have and can give us that hit of motivation we sometimes need to make the needed next step toward that goal. We all enjoy that feeling. What if you can both support and create that feeling for your customers.
A breakthrough piece of consumer research by professors Joseph Nunes and Xavier Drèze, analyzes showed how artificial advancement affects customer effort when it comes to loyalty programs. They called it “ The Endowed Progress Effect,”.
Nunes and Drèze began their study with the assumption that customer loyalty programs could persuade customers to stick around—if customers were given a comparative head start in reaching their “payoff milestones.”
300 loyalty cards - car wash all told they would have the card stamped next time (Free car wash)
· Group 1 were given card with full 10 stamps
· Group 2 were given card with two slots already stamped and only 8 more stamps
· Result: group 1 - 19% group 2 - 34%
Why: it’s all about perceived progress. Client has already had a benefit and emotional payoff and reward before even taking any specific action apart from agreeing to take the card.
How do we use this idea in our everyday conversation?
Be aware of the things that might be challenging your customer about how they are best using your service or product. In fact ask the question. Where are you getting greater value from our service and where would you like to be getting more? Listen and look for the progress points you can add value to.
Example: if your client is struggling to get communication to a certain number of managers around a change in the service you have. If possible say you’d be happy to contact a few on their behalf and that will mean he/she would have less to do and would have more time to progress on other things.
Suddenly your client has less weight on their shoulder, they’ve discovered a solution and feel like they have more control of moving forward. You have shared progress together which is a powerful relationship connector.
THREE: Follow the thread
Great coaches do this and great sales people too. This is simply about going deeper in a particular area discussed.
For example; if your client has mentioned a few times about a challenge at work. Simply ask. Tell me more? or how did you feel about that?. All of a sudden you'll open up a gate of new information and understanding of your client that you never knew before.
Why? Believe it or not there is a psychology for asking questions published by research gate. Turns out when a question is asked based on the current thought a person has they can gain a deeper awareness about themselves and become more open to suggestion.
There is so much more in that study. It just shows the value you can bring to a client simply by following the thread of their last comment can be significant. It simply start with the phrase "tell me more about that?". Note: This is not meant to be used on every statement but ideally where there is an opportunity to help your clients solve, shape or settle something they’ve been considering. This can also be sparked by something you've asked.
FOUR: Pay attention to what’s not said
Our customers are human like you. We all have the ability to pick up on that internal intuition. Neuro scientists refer to it through ‘mirror neurons’. We may hear the frustrated breath or cautious tone in our client’s voice.
Picking up on these subtleties, noting them and sometimes naming them can show real care and consideration. Never underestimate those small moments of empathy and vulnerability.
Whenever we demonstrate empathy we get mirrored responses that create deeper connection.
BONUS: Have a clear next step on every call
Clarity is essential. You can have the best call in the world. You’ll have missed out on a critical step to the end of that call. Getting commitment. This can be anything you want appropriate to the goal of the call or something that was raised in your conversation. In needs to be simple enough to do. Doesn’t require huge resource on your clients time. Make that next step, time specific with clear actions for you and your client agreed to by them.
If you do need something that costs more time and energy for them. Find a way to reduce the risk of burden. Break it down into smaller commitment or find a way to take some of that load off so you can get the work or task done faster.
Don’t ask for the world here like a PO for a million dollars. What we’re doing here is creating the habit of the request and shaping for future larger commitments through smaller.
An Exercise: Note down how many types of conversations you have with your clients and the ones coming up. Review these ideas, print them out and start to apply one or two with every call (always include the Bonus step). Come back and let me know in the comments.
If you manage the most important customers in your business, manage a team of account reps, or own a company where you want to ensure you get the most profitable outcome from your client investments. Get in touch and sign up to my mailing list at www.jermaineedwards.com
Jermaine – Your customer growth guide