I’m really fortunate in that I have close friends in my life from the time I was 11 years old. I also have friends that I’ve been close to for more than 20 years. Over those many decades I’ve built trust with them (and vice versa), which is the key to our longevity. I mention this because the similarity between my long friendships and valued clients came to mind a few weeks ago when I held a Sales Strategies seminar. After finishing a point about building trust in the “Problem / Solution Dynamic” between the client and the business owner, an attendee I’ll call Carmen asked, “How do I know what problem I’m solving for my client?” I told her the answer is the easiest thing to know but for some it’s the hardest thing to do: Listen.
The center of “Trust” contains “Us”
There’s NOTHING more important than building and maintaining trust with clients … and friends. Yes, as business owners and entrepreneurs, we invest a lot of time and money honing our skills, developing our services, fine-tuning our product offerings. But if the client doesn’t believe in us or our businesses then we’re just spinning our wheels, because they either won’t buy from us the first time, or won’t return for another visit.
Listening is 100% of relationship success — whether it’s with a spouse, partner, friend or client. And listening is the key for anyone to build trust. It should be baked into your customer service process (think of Zappos), and employed as the best way to serve your client and better your business. Clients are coming to you for help — whether it’s for a new health plan to reduce their dependence on medications; or a mobile-friendly website that better reflects your brand, or for help dealing with accounting issues —they need direction and that’s why they’re talking to you. If you’re not listening you’re doing yourself and them a huge disservice and losing trust by the second.
Do you hear what I hear?
By not intentionally listening to our clients we’re making those sales conversations about us, and not about them. How can you tell? When you’re thinking about what’s in it for you:
“Okay, I got it, I got it. Let me get to what I want to tell you about.”
“He keeps repeating himself. When will he get to the point?”
“If I land this deal, I’ll be 50% to my sales goal for the month!”
We have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts ricocheting around our brains every single day so listening with intention may not always come easily but it’s the only way to build trust. Before you meet, do these five steps first.
- Try to remove any distractions. If you’re meeting in a public place do it when it’s not busy or highly trafficked. If you have to keep asking “what did you say?” because the smoothie machine is drowning out the conversation, find a new spot.
- Physically lean forward when they’re speaking. Show them that what they’re saying is important to you and they have your complete attention.
- Tape the conversation. Instead of taking notes ask if you can record the conversation so that you can stay focused as they’re talking. I like Tape A Call, which is easy to use in person or over the phone.
- Calm your mind. Before you meet or get on the phone, review your process and take a few deep breaths. The client is about to reveal some vulnerabilities so you want to be in the right mindset to guide and support them.
- Be confident. Let go of desperation, fear or uncertainty in yourself. They’ve asked to speak with you because you have presented yourself as a pro in your field. Trust in that and then let go.
Here are six keys to remember when you’re speaking with a client:
- Learn — Take in what they’re saying as well as what they’re not. Use your intuition and read between the lines. You’re the expert and they’re seeking your know-how.
- Identify — Relate to what they’re saying. Find the commonality whether it’s physical, situational or emotional.
- Support — Let them know you’re there for them and can provide helpful solutions.
- Trust — Create a place where they can place their trust and vulnerabilities, so that you can learn all you need to help them.
- Engage — When you’re really hearing what’s being said, you can truly engage in a conversation. Show them that you’re partnering with them on a solution.
- Nurture — Don’t make the relationship transactional. Whether or not they say “yes” to you at that moment, stay in touch via social media, your e-newsletter, and email check ins.
If you ‘d like me to listen and learn more about your business challenges contact me to set up time to chat!