How social interaction can teach us to communicate more effectively in business
Are you a great party guest? Or a party bore? Imagine you’re at a gathering and have engaged in conversation. The person you’re talking to has told you a lot about themselves. But they ask nothing about you – they don’t seem to be interested in anything but themselves.
Frankly, you wouldn’t spend very long talking to them if they didn’t show any interest in you, would you?
It’s the same in business. Our target clients want us to be interested in them, in getting to know them, in understanding their background, their objectives, their goals.
So why is it that so many companies’ communications just scream “me, me, me”.
If we want to be heard in business, we need to talk about our target audience, show some interest in them, what they do and what they need.
Start With The Customer – But Not With Their Problems
Many organisations think that they are doing this when they start with describing the customers’ issues and problems. This is certainly the approach that has been taught in classic sales training for years. “Start with the customer’s issues” we were told and yes, whilst that is talking about the customer, not ourselves, I would suggest that it is not actually the ideal place to start.
Again, put yourself into a more social situation and see if you think you’d like someone opening a conversation by talking about all your shortcomings and the things you could do better!
I believe that there is a step before ‘customer issues’. Rather than just dive in with your target clients’ issue and problems, first take the time to understand what your clients are good at, and reflect it back to them.
Nobody is going to disagree with you if you talk about their strengths, and it will give you credibility and an instant level of rapport. It will open their ears, ready to hear and receive your message. It establishes a platform from which you can ask questions to help determine more about the issues they are facing and with which you can help them.
Then you can move on to talking about what you perceive as the issues they might need to address – issues, of course, that you can help them resolve. It is important that they ‘see themselves’ in your communication to them, so that they know you are talking to them.
Put really simplistically, in written form, it might go along the lines of: ‘You’re a leader in your field, known for your innovation and technical leadership. [What you’re good at]. But changes in the industry and new competitors mean that you find yourself struggling to maintain that position [Problem]. We can help you manage your business operations more efficiently, free up time to devote to client service [how we help], which will help you retain your market leadership’ [how you benefit].
In verbal form, it may take the form of questions to uncover which issues are those that really bother them, but essentially it follows the same basic structure.
There is nothing in the above scenario about product feature and detail. Not that this isn’t important, it’s just not the very first thing the potential customer needs to hear. Those first few minutes (or even seconds) can be when the potential customer decides whether they are going to invest any more time listening to your message, so it’s crucial to give them a reason to hear you out.
It’s (Not) All About Me
One of the biggest mistakes is the belief that ‘sales’ is all about us – and telling people how great we are. This seems to be particularly true on websites. Go and check out a few – and see for yourself just how many home pages shout ‘me, me, me’. The first words you read are all about the company, its products, its services, its history. Some or all of this may well be appropriate and useful information. But what they are missing is the single most important part of the message – the customer. There is nothing that allows the ideal customer to recognise themselves, with their strengths, goals and issues. Nothing to keep them on the site long enough to even read about how they might benefit from working with the company, and how problems might be and how they might benefit from working with you.
There is nothing to open their ears and ensure that they hear the message.
If you want to really be heard, make like a great party guest – engage, talk about the other person and stop focusing on yourself.