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Tips on Selling

Make customers feel special by listening
Make customers feel special by listening

Shut up and listen to your customers

Listening is central to the selling process and is also at the core of good customer service practices. RICHARD SHAPIRO explains the true meaning and bene ts of this crucial sales tactic.

When staff listen patiently, it gives customers a feeling of control. Customers want to know they are uniquely important and that their specific needs are being addressed.

They don’t want to feel trapped because you are trying to sell them something. After all, selling is not about offering customers a long list of items but discovering what the customer wants and matching a product to it.

What is the best way to achieve that goal? By engaging the customer in a meaningful and personal dialogue.

If staff spend their time listening, they will give the customer that special feeling of priority.

Listening pays big rewards

Joe Girard is the world record-holder for selling cars. He began in 1963 at a Chevrolet dealership in Detroit, US and retired in 1977 with an average sell-through rate of six automobiles (or trucks) a day over the length of his career. To put that in perspective, the average car salesperson sells seven cars a month! In fact, Girard exceeded his own lofty expectations when he sold a whopping 18 cars in a single day!

Girard gave so much attention to each customer that word spread and it wasn’t long before there was a line outside his office with people waiting to exclusively see him.

He started making appointments to ensure each customer would get his undivided attention.

He also did this because he knew his attention was worth the wait and he advised others of this, saying, “People may have had to wait for an appointment but when I was with them, I was with them body and soul.”

Listening to emails

Recently, one of my clients wanted to know how their service and support for email responses compared with those of 20 other companies, each of whom were customer service leaders in their respective fields.

To achieve this, 10 different email enquiries were developed to send to target companies so we could measure the speed and type of responses.

In one scenario, the test email began, “I just had a baby and have a question about your product.” Only one of the companies acknowledged the news in its response: “Congratulations on the birth of your child.”

Obviously the other respondents ignored the underlying emotion even though it is easier to pay attention to an email than to a conversation.

For example, you have an opportunity to re-read the email, which is considerably easier than asking a customer to repeat what they have just said.

Another test email went like this: “My dog accidentally chewed and digested part of your packaging. Do I need to worry?”

“You never know where a conversation may lead! Listen with your ears and your heart before responding. Make the customer feel respected and important.”

Several of the companies answered almost instantly with the reply, “Please take your dog to a veterinarian.”

Good reply. The only problem was that a couple of the companies didn’t send that message until two weeks later!

Listening is not just listening; it’s also acting upon what you have heard. In this case, offering such a slow response to a potential emergency might actually communicate less care on the company’s part than if there had been no response at all.

Missing the signal

Do you remember the great comedian and TV personality Groucho Marx? He had a show called You Bet Your Life where any contestant that mentioned the magic word of the day would be rewarded with a prize, and a rubber duck would fall from the ceiling to celebrate the moment.

When I was doing research for my first book, I would frequently make a statement, a ‘magic phrase’ to determine if a sales associate was a good listener. It’s intended as an opening to engage the customer.

For example, I would start the conversation by saying one of the following:

  • This is my first time in your store;
  • I just moved into the neighbourhood;
  • My friend suggested I might like your merchandise;
  • I’ve never used your website before;
  • This is the first time I have called your contact centre;
  • I have been buying this since I was a teenager.

A representative who answers with just “Okay”, “That’s nice” or says nothing at all has missed a golden opportunity to start a dialogue critical to securing repeat business. You never know where a conversation may lead!

Listen with your ears and your heart before responding. Make the customer feel respected and important.

When you pay attention, you can hear the underlying emotion and then establish a human-to-human connection that has the potential to last a long time.

Richard Shapiro

Contributor • The Center for Client Retention

Richard Shapiro is founder of The Center For Client Retention, offering research, training and consulting services, and author of The Endangered Customer: Eight Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business. Learn More:

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