When was the last time you recommended something to a client? If you’re in sales, I’m guessing you’ve already done it 20 times today. But, how many of those recommendations had absolutely nothing to do with selling your product or service? How many were instead about showing your client you see them and want to solve their problems – whether or not it makes you any money?
Consumers and business leaders alike have an increasingly mercurial temperament when it comes to the relationships they have with brands. Digital connections are far less painful to sever and far simpler to replace than they once were. This volatile end-user environment has left tenured sales executives scratching their collective heads on the best way to maintain affinity.
Accenture provides a clue to the best way in its research. In a survey of nearly 25,000, the firm found 33 percent of customers abandoned a business relationship because personalization was lacking. That may be due to the fact 48 percent of people expect specialized treatment for being a good customer. (And, how many of us consider ourselves to be anything less than a good customer?)
Personalization and specialized treatment take many forms, but each rests on a basic foundation of empathy. Sales and client service executives who are active listeners have an easier time delivering on the shifting expectations for hyper-personalized experiences.
Want to get better at active listening? Here are few concrete ways to develop or hone your skills:
- Have coffee once a month with someone who will never buy from you. Yeah, I know, never say never. But, we all have those prospects we know either can’t or won’t formalize a relationship with our business, likely ever. That does not mean someone in their network won’t ultimately need what you offer. Nor does it mean you can’t provide your coffee mate with the benefit of your expertise. Sure, it’ll be free, but it will be even more appreciated that way.
- Research a customer’s issue even if it has nothing to do with your business. A colleague of mine at the bank recently prevented a client from losing thousands of dollars to a social engineering scam. Rather than accepting the client’s gratitude and moving on, she took the extra step of finding out why the scam had been so effective and made suggestions for beefing up the client’s internal controls. None of those suggestions required a financial product investment, nor directly benefited the bank.
- Be okay with recommending a competitor. Are you still reading, or did I lose you? For many salespeople, the thought of turning a hot lead over to a competitor triggers an allergic reaction. But, connecting a prospect with a provider that will ultimately serve them better than you is actually in your and your company’s best interest. The last thing you want is for a client to fully engage with you only to discover it’s a bad fit. On average, men tell 21 people when they’ve had a poor experience (women tell 10 people).
In 2020, work to enhance the interactions you have with clients and prospects by becoming an active listener. You’ll be surprised how much doing so injects richer meaning into your work. You may even discover that you’re selling more by selling less.
Mark K. Phillips is vice president of treasury management services for Bank Iowa, Iowa’s second largest family-owned financial institution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit bankiowa.bank. Member FDIC.