I recently read a survey on change that asked people if they wrote New Year’s resolutions. It might seem like a given, but it’s clear: the people that wrote either resolutions or goals—or even a series of questions—ended up achieving more than those who didn’t. My favorite part was the fact that it didn’t matter when they wrote them—January, February, or March; the simple fact of putting them on paper increased their success.
Of course the people who scheduled actions and took forward-thinking steps did even better. There is an orientation toward success that is self-fulfilling: you lean into your goals, rather than away. For salespeople, writing and scheduling clear intentions and objectives now is best. What do you want to do differently? How can you go about getting there? What can you add to your customer consciousness that moves you from theory to practice?
This post will give you four ways to get your new year’s footing: The stance is all toward customer connection. Make sure you share your thoughts in the comments! I’ll share some of my own goals and thoughts as we go along.
1) Make the customer the hero
The truth is, we’re here to make the customer the hero. To do that, look to say anything but “Do you want to buy more?” when you talk to customers. It’s not always 1-2-3 in your customer conversations. Sometimes it’s 1 then 8 and back to 2. Curve around; check for the angles.
You also need to look for more things that bring value—whether it’s sending a link to an article or meeting face-to-face for coffee or a workout. Professional is always personal too. Be open to ways to genuinely and memorably connect with customers. Know their hobbies, their histories—know their story, as best you can.
Check out my recent “3 Ways to be a Human for the Holidays” post for more thoughts on building trust and connection.
2) Make the customer shine, Men in Black style
However, it’s not enough to simply agree that making the customer the hero will transform the way our team connects with customers. That’s too gauzy to be useful, or maybe too pat. So we actually do a lot of role-playing to practice, we work with how interactions flow. To start, ask high-level open-ended questions: then you’ve got the customer talking 75% of the time. Taking time, practicing and focusing on the details—where did that conversation go south, when did that one turn the positive direction—will bring solid improvements. We say to customers, “We’re here to make YOU look good; the last thing I want you to worry about is me.”
Did you see Men in Black II? Remember the scene where Will Smith is with Tommy Lee Jones, and Smith turns in the midst of all the action and says about his suit, “I make this look good.” Basically, we’ve outfitting our customers in the suit; we run around backstage finding tips and features and information to make our customers the hero. Luckily for our work, it’s black-tie optional. For our customers though, keep every thread in place.
3) Making customers look good gets you good in return
If we make our customers look good, the returns often rebound back our way. For example, one of my team member’s customers went to present his company’s service to a large search engine company in Northern California whose name has become a verb.
During his presentation he asked for a show of hands of who knew about iMeet, and a few hands went up. So he showed them on his laptop how it helped, and after the meeting the company execs said, “That’s it, we want you to have the exclusive contract.” One person later said it was because of iMeet. That kind of organic build-out is priceless, but you can position it to happen by cultivating credibility with customers.
I think you can safely say he was the hero that day.
In this era when everybody’s mobile and busy and in need of constant collaboration, we’re the bridge. We facilitate productive meetings, crisp communication and smooth focus. We clue in the customers, and they take it up running:
- These tools eliminate those tedious strings of consensus-searching emails that go on for days
- When you’re all discussing it together, you get so much more done. It’s more real, and it works
- Good tools open the door to finding out what’s missing, what our customers really want. Big hint: in these meetings, sometimes that’s as easy as just asking.
4) Get goal clarity: it’s the significant step to goal completion
My resolutions for 2013 include talking to my team to understand what their goals are. As a leader, I simply want to align with where each of them wants to be in one year. They each have specific goals for making customers the heroes. I ask them to see the goal moving forward, gears shifting, speed rising.
Every time they do, it’s a great feeling. Few things substitute for setting out a plan and seeing the fruits of the labor. After all the adventure and drama and action, things settle, resolve, and turn out well. That’s when we get to echo the superheroes and say, “Another day saved!” Send the superhero tights to the cleaners and make plans for the next day.
Image source: Flickr