Are your salespeople addicted to sharing technical features with customers? Do they surround themselves in a fortress of information? I will admit that I used to be like that! (In fact, that’s how I was formally trained when I began sales. Scary, huh?) I tried to tell my customers all about my product’s great data – and it backfired badly! In the quest to become a product expert, it’s easy to get hooked on the data. When you’re justifiably proud of your services, it’s tempting to want to tell the world. So how can you keep a reasonable balance between information and emotion?
Culture. Give permission to sales people and any client facing team members to listen. If you can’t easily explain the answers to the following three questions about a key customer or prospect, go talk to the client some more. And listen carefully!
- What does the customer care about?
- How, specifically, are they trying to grow or change their business?
- Can you describe that customer’s unique story in a few sentences?
The most practical definition of good listening that I’ve found is: Deeply active and generous listening means helping someone else to share their story.
Customer as hero. The customer is the hero! Your product is not the hero. Gigahertz, milligrams and percentage rates are helpful terms only to the degree that they help the customer to imagine him or herself successfully using the product or service. Ask, “How would it be if you could accomplish _________?” Dr. Melanie Green at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has conducted research showing how stories in which readers and listeners can actually visualize themselves being involved lead to “narrative transport,” a flow-like state. People actually can become cognitively and emotionally involved in the story, and may experience vivid mental images. With your all your communications programs, make it easier for the customer to become the hero.
Skills. Practice, practice, practice. Sharing the story behind your company and offerings isn’t magic. Story-sharing is a skill that can be learned and reinforced with regular practice by sales & marketing teams. Devote time to developing this skill across the organization for better communication and improved results.
It’s easy to get addicted to info. Fortunately, the habit can be broken!
Illustration courtesy of Hiking Artist.