In a survival setting, high on the list of essential needs is water. Water comprises at least 60% of our body and is the key element that connects our systems and keeps our body working as it should. Because of that fact, a person can only survive a few days without water before the essential organs within the body shut down completely. Like water in the body, connection is the element in Empowered Selling that carries the essential items from where they originate, to the place they are needed, and in a way that is relevant to the individual customer.
The higher the cost or more complex the concept, the more important individualized connection becomes.
When the cost to buy the product or concept goes up or the benefit is difficult for the customer to automatically realize, the impact of a broad marketing message goes down. This is when personalized connection becomes very important.
Connecting our product, service, or concept to what is most important to our customer, not us, is a fundamental principle in sales
Connection brings in a personal component and adapts the marketing message to what is most important to our specific customer. For example, the cost of reducing time browsing social media aps in order for a teenager to clean his room on a daily basis is usually too great a cost, despite his parents frequently saying that his room needs to be cleaned to demonstrate responsibility on his way to becoming an adult. Connecting his room being cleaned to what is most important to him, not what is most important to his parents, is what is needed to achieve lasting results.
Establishing expectations and following through on consequences works when the child relates not cleaning his room with the loss of phone privileges, when that peer-to-peer interaction is a key motivational driver. The cost of not cleaning his room becomes greater than the cost of cleaning his room. This may create habits that last into adulthood. On the other hand, it also may not when those consequences cannot be enforced as the child ages and pays for his own phone or when the life of a parent become too hectic to police their child’s responsibility.
When connection continues and is taken a level deeper on how the teenager cleaning his room on a daily basis teaches the skills, discipline, and responsibility required to be an effective leader on his baseball team, increasing the fulfilment of his peer-to-peer interactions, while also adding a level of importance to his social standing, real change occurs and real life lessons are taught that transcend the simple act of cleaning a room.
The connection Empowered Selling incorporates contains two components:
1. How the product or concept helps our customer accomplish what is most important to them, and
2. Personal connection, which builds trust and capitalizes on the fact that we like to interact with people who are like us and who demonstrate genuine positive interest in us as individuals.
In order to identify what is most important to our customer, two key tactics need to be leveraged:
- Observation, and
- Open-ended questions
When lost or stranded in the wilderness with a mission to survive, you must first slow down and diligently assess and observe the environment around you. What are your most urgent needs? What tools do you have with you? What resources does the forest, desert, or plain provide? With careful observation, you may not find exactly what you want, but you will find the answers to what you need.
In this situation you may want a tent, a nice sleeping bag, and a large steak for dinner. That’s not reality. With our target customer, we may want them to think and feel the way we do, but that’s not reality. Our job as a sales person is to slow down to assess and observe in order to uncover what is important to our customer and to identify what is preventing him or her from achieving their goals. What obstacles are getting in their way?
For a parent, observation might include paying attention to the following:
What does your child do in his free time?
What makes her eyes light up?
What appears to bring stress or cause him to shut down?
How does she react to praise?
How does he react to constructive criticism?
What toys does she actively display or play with?
What does he draw pictures of or write about when able to choose his own topic?
When questions are asked, do the answers appear to be authentic?
With Active Learning, sales is taken off the table. You are only present to listen, observe, and learn
True observation requires you to be fully present, which means not rehearsing your sales pitch in your mind or balancing your attention between incoming texts and the conversation taking place. Active Learning, where you are present only to actively listen and learn from your customer, is an effective strategy to being in the moment. No selling takes place during Active Learning. When the pressure of having to figure out how to sell your customer is mentally taken off the table, you relax. When you relax, you hear, see, and learn at much deeper level.
Just as in the wilderness, observation can be the difference between success and failure in a professional and social environment. Tattoos, pictures on the wall, clothes worn, displayed diplomas, accents, vehicles, bumper stickers, affiliations, ethnicity, pictures, social media pictures and likes, reactions to what I say, and reactions to other people and different situations all tell us a bit about each person.
The story behind what is observed often tells us more than what we have observed
In many settings, the actual items observed do not matter as much as the story behind what we have observed. A picture of a scenic ocean view may be where your customer had their honeymoon. A University of Arizona sweatshirt may be where your customer’s child is studying film production. Fidget spinners on a desk may be for an autistic child. Pictures with famous people may demonstrate the desire for affiliation with others that are considered important to society and may demonstrate the desire to be considered an important person. Tattoos are one of my favorite observations to ask about because they are often personal and provide me a glimpse into what’s inside a person and what this individual holds as important. But, in order to know the story behind what we have observed, we must first ask our customers, or ask those with close affiliation to them, about what we have observed.
Open-ended questions require an answer beyond yes or no, which prompts your customer to provide a more detailed answer. Open-ended questions are a very important tool to uncover customer goals and barriers that are in the way of achieving those goals. A customer response to an open-ended question can be expanded further by following up with, “tell me more.” Depending on the situation, open-ended questions could include:
- Tell me about what you do
- What are the primary goals you are looking to accomplish?
- Ideally, what would you like to achieve?
- What does success look like for you?
- What are the largest obstacles that you’re encountering?
- What is the most difficult part of what you do?
Answers received for each of these questions can be used to connect the relevance of our product, service or concept. How does our product, service, or concept better help our customers achieve their goals? How does our product, service or concept better help our customers overcome obstacles or reduce frustration?
Showing genuine interest through open-ended questions is an effective way to connect personally
Open-ended questions should continue to expand beyond uncovering the goals and obstacles our customers have. Uncovering personal details help us connect personally with our customers. People want to be significant. One of the most simple, yet impactful ways to connect with another person is to show genuine interest in them. Despite that truth, next time you are out in a social setting, pay attention to how many people lack that skill. It is not uncommon for me to ask others about their life, engage in a half-hour conversation, and not receive any questions about me or my life.
Take another non-typical sales situation like dating. Having spent the majority of my career teaching and training others to sell, when I was thrust into the dating environment after a long marriage and a difficult divorce, identifying if someone held the qualities I was interested in and then making a connection came easier than I thought it would. I literally remember thinking, “wow, where was this skill in high school and college?” The secret had to do with what I had learned in sales.
I asked about her interests, desires, and perspective on things. I shared small bits of similarities and connections as I uncovered them, but then quickly turned the conversation back to her. I uncovered what I needed to know to make a decision on whether I wanted to spend more time with this person. Yet, in many situations, she professed to want to spend more time with me, despite not knowing much about me. What my date knew was that I was genuinely interested in what was important to her.
Sales occur more often when the customer speaks more than the sales person
People like to share what is within them to someone who shows that they care. People often do not remember what is said, but they do remember how they feel when they are with you. Having someone demonstrate genuine interest in you feels good. Put this concept into practice today. This concept alone will transform your relationships. This concept is also a driving factor for the truth that sales occur more often when the customer speaks more than the sales person does.
People are more likely to buy from someone they can relate to
Another concept highlighted by the dating example is that people want to buy from someone they can relate to. When I ask questions, I’m looking for common knowledge, common interests, similar experiences and background, or even topics that I know nothing about that intrigue me.
I often start with statements or open-ended questions similar to, “tell me about….” and follow up with “tell me more” to uncover the story, learn more about the individual, and move towards real connection. We all have a natural and innate desire for connection. This approach helps to find what that connection is.
The combination of observation and authentic inquiry helps to uncover gaps, goals, needs or opportunities to what means the most to our customer. When we connect our product, service, or concept to enhance or support these customer goals, win-win solutions are established.
Let’s talk about a couple of examples on how uncovering what is important to your customer is relevant in various settings.
When speaking to children as a parent, what is most important to them? If the child loves sports and expresses a desire to be a professional ball player, that knowledge should be used to tie in the benefits of how something we would like them to do, like homework, relates and helps them progress towards that goal.
An office receptionist, who has a goal to create an inviting and personal atmosphere for the organization she represents, will use knowledge obtained from questions asked on prior customer visits to further enhance and personalize the experience for them. For example, “how did your daughter finish out her volleyball season?” or “tell me about your trip to Hawaii.”
A nurse will relate the importance of diet, exercise, and taking the heart pill daily as a means to maintain the ability to play golf once a month, after seeing her patient’s eyes light up when talking about his time on the golf course.
In summary, connection is a vital component in both typical and non-typical sales situations that impacts both our professional and social responsibilities. Observation and open-ended questions or statements that request the customer to “tell me more,” are key principals in connection. When done with genuine interest, connection and mutually beneficial actions occur.
Excerpts from EMPOWERMENT through Sales, a proven, simple, and widely applicable formula to positively shape the world around you, by Travis N. Jensen and CYFworld Press. For information on the upcoming publication subscribe at CYFworld.com