Get Out of Your Own Way in Customer Conversations


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Four tips on improving the comfort level in your customer conversations.

Many times, we are our own worst enemy. We are so enamored with our breadth of knowledge and our point of view that we cannot understand another point of view other than our own.

Unfortunately, some sales representatives come across that way, causing decision-makers to build walls to shield themselves from this behavior.  These walls may be the gatekeepers who cannot buy but do control access to the actual decision maker or those who cannot say yes but can say no. Many office managers or practice managers have been assigned this role.

On the other end of the spectrum are many sales reps who are also talkative, but their motivation is self-protection. Their descriptors are timid, unsure, scared, and often “new.” Their biggest fear is that the decision-maker will ask them a question to which they won’t have an answer. So, in an attempt to prevent that embarrassing situation, they try to control the conversation by doing a data dump on their audience. Once again, the walls that decision-makers have built are effective in screening out these amateurs.

More than three decades ago, Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was published. One of those habits is, “Seek first to understand, and you will be understood.” Despite the passage of time, this concept is still easy to understand but difficult to do.

I’m convinced you can simplify that process if you remember the following four tips. Try this and then determine if it helps you understand more about your clinics, do more business with those clinics, and reach a quiet confidence that is the mark of a real professional.


No. 1: Give the other person your 100% attention 

Our computers and smartphones excel at multitasking, but most human beings are mediocre at best. So, one thing at a time – be present in the conversation. Make the other person feel as if they are the only person in the room. Then take it one step further. Clear your mind by suspending your own point of view at that moment in time. When you do this, you will hear things you missed before and understand the customer’s situation so clearly that the perfect solution will appear with little effort.


No. 2: Respond appropriately 

The appropriate response is much like driving a car in traffic. So, if the other traffic is going 20 mph in the slow lane, it would be inappropriate to try to drive 80 mph with your hair on fire. Slowing down or speeding up based on the customer’s reactions in the conversation demonstrates that your responses are appropriate to their situation.


No. 3: Prove that you understand 

The operative word is prove. Too many times, we say we understand and then do or say something that shows we have no idea about the situation at hand. So instead of saying you understand, prove that you really do understand by asking a relevant question or by briefly summarizing the situation as you understand it.


No. 4: Demonstrate respect for other points of view 

This is most difficult when facing a point of view that is the opposite of your own. Some people fear that saying you respect another’s point of view could be misconstrued as you “agree,” but nothing could be further from the truth. You are simply demonstrating respect for the other person’s right to hold a different point of view than your own at this point in time. Unless you do this, you will never have the opportunity to explore and influence other points of view.

The good news is these four suggestions are very effective in getting customers to open up and feel comfortable telling you exactly what they think and, in many cases, why they think that way. That allows you to tailor your conversation in such a way that it makes good sense to those with whom you are talking. The bad news is that these are four suggestions to remember, and if you are like me, I sometimes have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. I need things to be simple.

So simply remember the word respect. If you demonstrate sincere respect for other points of view, the other three suggestions will happen naturally.

The real purpose of a sales conversation is not to tell people what you think. The real purpose is to find out what they think first so you can communicate what you think in the most effective and efficient manner. So, you are getting out of your own way and doing business the customer’s way.


About the author

Patrick T. Malone is a business advisor and leadership mentor based in Taylors, South Carolina. He is the co-author of the best-selling business book “Cracking the Code to Leadership” and may be reached at [email protected] or 404-630-7504.


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