Have you ever been in a meeting with a customer and knew they were holding something back? you could sense there was some sort of inner dialogue going on disrupting their attention, preventing them from acting and shifting their behaviour.
You start to ask a few questions but get very vague answers. There is nothing there you can really call a specific objection. You respectfully but assertively challenge the first answers and ask a follow up question to go a little deeper. You see you're making some progress but there is still something missing.
Then you hear the words that validate your suspicions of something more. "I don't want to talk about it"
This was the exact scenario I experienced this week while working with a client and discussing an ongoing project. I had just got to know her over the last five months. At the moment she mentioned those words I took a step back and suddenly felt very aware of the environment we were in, not in a negative way but I could see her eyes wander in the room and body language shift. In my mind it was time to wrap things up but something in me just said ask one more question.
Here is what I said
- ME "Do you believe I'm here for your best interests?"
- ClIENT: Yes, I trust you or we wouldn't be working together
- ME: "great, then because of that trust can I share something I've observed in our conversation today ?"
- CLIENT: Thats fine, but I can't promise anything
- ME: Thats ok, (I began to share what I observed. She seemed guarded, answers were vague and responses unlike her and our experience over the last few months. I also shared my own thoughts around the challenge I see for her in the business and difficulty and timing of the project)
Most people would recoil and retreat and I recognise not many people will be as bold as to do what I did. In many cases I think you have to have built some level of relationship to do it.
The result was she began to open up and during that conversation I heard the internal dialogue that was impacting the flow of our conversation. I don't think this is unique to her but to many of us and many of your clients. The challenge of managing the internal voices that can cause you to worry, cause confusion and stop you from acting.
Here are the internal voices I uncovered in that conversation with my client
- I can't deal with more decisions
- I'm not sure I want to stay at my job
- The business is challenging all my decisions
- I need to show my boss results soon
- Do we really need this right now?
- The project has gone well but the rest feels like a hassle?
- What will the boss think of this decision?
- Our employees may complain if we don't finish it
We're we able to deal with all these concerns in one conversation. No. but it did something more important, it accelerated trust between us and we now both have permission with each other to ask the harder questions. It was the combination of courage, care, challenge and empathy that made that possible.
We can often read the signs of something not working and either ignore it or blame someone or something else when it goes wrong. If you really value the relationships and partnerships with your customers its time to get yourself ready for the 'hard questions' and to 'give the harder answers' yourself.
To uncover the hidden voice of your customer just being nice wont cut it. You have to set a safe environment for openness. Sometimes that means dealing with the 'elephant in the room' and acknowledging the tension so you can get past it.
Your ability to become a master relationship builder is critical. Although you know its important you may not know how to make that a reality with all your customers. Good intentions don't help you to produce great results. This is not just about adapting to behavioural styles its about understanding people.
If you're interested in knowing how to increase your influence and begin the process to transform your own customer relationships get connected to my customer growth email series HERE. You can start the process of learning a new framework of thinking to growth. www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.