Point Of View
Doing business from the customer’s perspective
In the last issue of the Livestock edition, we focused on listening well to what your customers are really saying. Listening to understand your customer’s perspective is an excellent first step, and people love those who listen and take them seriously. However, you have a job to do, so it is crucial that you be able to do business by customizing your approach to your customer’s current point of view.
Let’s start with the typical range of customer attitudes and then discuss how successful reps are able position to those attitudes and do business from their customer’s perspective.
Indifference. You can change the subject temporarily. Find out what they are interested in and connect there. If not, accept the apathy and move on. Nothing is more painful than trying to convince an indifferent individual that they shouldn’t be indifferent.
Troubled. Acknowledge to the customer that “It sounds like a problem” and then explain how your idea might be of some help. Gradually reveal solutions which provide help. When customers are troubled, they are asking you for one thing – help. They seldom can believe that you are going to immediately make the whole problem disappear … even if you can.
Fearful. Explain how your idea might help them avoid real or perceived risk. Usually your idea can be explained in terms of helping the customer avoid problems or risk. If it can’t, just align by offering to help them figure out some Avoid strategies. Your objective isn’t to convince, but rather to stay in the conversation without losing rapport.
Hostile. Immediately respond with an acknowledgement like “got it” and stop trying to sell. Focus the customer’s attention on the details behind the reaction by asking probing questions. Then figure out how your idea can be explained in terms of stopping something that is undesirable. Slow down and give yourself more time to think on your feet. Just acknowledge attention, impact and understanding until things calm down enough to discuss in detail. However, do not quit the conversation if you really do want a solution. It is you and the customer versus the problem.
Competitive. Acknowledge that there are many ways of doing things and looking at situations. The challenge is to find the best one for the specific situation at hand, even if it isn’t the usual best way for most situations. This is the time for you to be competitive without sounding pushy. Failure to align with someone who is competitive is usually viewed as weakness.
Neutral. Relax and explain how you and the customer can look at the relevant information, at things now, how they used to be and how they might be going forward. Ask the customer if he/she would like to see or hear the prevailing points of view. Have others take a look, conduct a trial and observe the results. This is the time and place where the features, functions and benefits found in the SoundByte program are especially effective. This is the first place the customer is open to your ideas, suggestions, etc. This is also the point that you switch from follower to leader in the conversation.
Reserved. Discuss the facts, and how they make sense for this situation. This is the time to demonstrate how your idea is reasonable or realistic. Use words like “study,” “conservative,” or “moderate.” Avoid using superlatives at this point. When using SoundBytes, remember that customers buy benefits; Features and Functions only provide the roadmap to Benefits.
Interested. Generally this is the point where the customer starts asking positive questions and your best acknowledgements are answers – brief and to the point. Then ask your customer questions back such as “what else?” or “what other questions do you have?” Keep the questions and answers going until the customer indicates they are finished. Keep the conversation at high interest and avoid negative words like “concerns,” “problems,” etc. Instead, refer to “questions,” “opportunities,” etc.
Enthused. Enjoy the moment and take a pause. Your customer is thinking of buying your idea or suggestion, so let them talk. In many cases, they will suggest the next decision. You are close to commitment, but keep in mind close is not closed. Enthusiasm is good intentions at this moment in time. You still have work to do.
Confident. This is it. Quickly net out your message. Speak with decisive conviction. Suggest a decision by stating your beliefs. Never ask a question, as the conversation will likely fall back to Interested. Use a statement to close such as “I suggest we ….”
Positioning is more than just personally relating to people; it is relating specific information to people at the appropriate time. It is a powerful skill because it creates mutual respect based on logic and emotion together.
Positioning requires flexibility and acceptance. If you stereotype character or personality types, or if you start judging attitude as good/bad, right/wrong, you will miss opportunities to connect with momentary attitude changes. Remember that change is what leadership is all about. It is what makes leadership possible and teamwork desirable. Positioning coupled with the appropriate strategy produces results.