This is the Habit Your Customers Hate

Too many salespeople have a habit that I call over-pitching and under-relating. I’ve seen such behavior first hand and I can tell you the outcome: the customer runs as fast as he or she can to get away from such people.

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Let me give you an example.

In the late 1980s, Hewlett-Packard was leading the effort to educate customers about how open systems and how we were the best choice the modern IT environment. Open systems would allow customers for the first time to easily integrate components and software from different suppliers thus enabling increased choice.

Through a course at MIT taught by Cambridge Technologies Group, we invited technology executives from major corporations to a two-day class on open systems. But it wasn’t all work and no play. We also built in time for account managers to spend time with their customers at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, enjoying art and a nice meal.

I spent about an hour touring the museum with the Boeing CIO, who was not a fan of HP or salespeople. As we sat down together for dinner, I asked him what he thought of the first day’s events. He begrudgingly spent about two minutes sharing thoughts and asking questions. I gave brief responses, making sure to mention HP’s commitment to open systems and our capacity to help Boeing embrace it. Even though he engaged, his body language said, “I don’t want to be here!”

I changed the subject.

“What do you like to do when you’re not working?” I asked.

He turned to me with a big smile and told me about his love of hiking and travel. He asked about my interests and we were soon immersed in a discussion about music, hiking, fishing, and the challenges of work/life balance.

Unfortunately, the account manager sitting on the other side of my customer was in full pitch mode to his customer, loudly talking nonstop throughout the meal. At one point, he even pulled out slides!

Here’s what happened next: That loud account manager’s customer grabbed the first taxi out of there as soon as he finished dessert. The bewildered account manager wandered around trying to find his customer (who didn’t even return to class the next day).

My customer on the other hand – the one who didn’t like HP or salespeople – told me that he had enjoyed our conversation. “Thanks for not doing to me what that guy did to his customer,” he said.

We went on to enjoy more of the museum. After that, we had quarterly meetings and I could get an appointment with him whenever I needed.

It doesn’t take much to find a way to relate to your customers and thus boost your CREDABILITY. It just takes observation, genuine curiosity and being a good listener. Starting a discussion with a goal of what you want to get across is good. However, fitting it into the discussion, especially during a social situation, is much more effective than over-pitching and under-relating.

What are some tactics you use to avoid over-pitching and under-relating with your customers? Please share below.

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©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities® LLC

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