A true story: I was on a business trip at my company’s head office with clients. I had 2 people from my team with me and 4 clients. One of the clients was a rather cantankerous individual who kept throwing up road blocks for us, I will call him Bob (Although, he liked to spell his name backwards). The senior most person on my team made a valiant effort to get to know this client and break down that barrier. While enjoying the company of the others, I watched in amusement as he repeatedly crashed and burned:
“So, where did you go to University?”
Bob: “I went to Waterloo”
“Really, me too! I took …. (Insert long diatribe on his own personal story)”
Bob: “Well, that is interesting. I was there long before a young pup like that” (I wince, good one Bob. Shut down the conversation and insert a put down all at once)
Insert silence, followed by the sound of a big crash followed by a burning sound. So, why did this conversation fail? Why did he not get the opportunity to build a relationship?
Because he did not LISTEN. When Bob provided the PERFECT opportunity, he talked about himself. What did this accomplish? Bob got to learn all about him, whether he wanted to or not. Bob also got the message that he was not important. The sales person’s role is to build that bridge, to understand the client at a personal level. Only by understanding what makes someone tick, can you build trust on THEIR terms. The salesperson does not get to dictate the terms of the relationship (As he tried to do by talking about himself), the salesperson must conduct a reconnaissance and, as every single relationship is different, build the bridge of trust according to the terms that the client dictates.
So, how did this end? I stepped in, asked a few questions and LISTENED. Before I knew it, Bob was talking all about himself. Unlike my counterpart I was not listening to the conversation thinking ‘Gee that is nice, but let me tell you this about myself’. I SINCERELY remained interested and found the common threads upon which to build a relationship. To the amazement of my colleague, we spent the evening laughing and talking about some very diverse topics (I learned that he was a sci-fi nut, and I love sci-fi. I also learned that he has a cool hobby that I know nothing about and now know alot about). We started building a relationship while he sat on the outside.
Over time, that relationship strengthened. Bob began sharing his concerns about our company. We built a relationship and the barrier came down. We started doing business. An additional benefit was imparted, I learned from Bob (A side benefit that most people miss and a topic for another blog).
In summary, the key is sincerity and the ability to listen. Check the ego at the door, your opinions and views are not important, what you are about to learn is. So what do you do with that knowledge? With so many daily contacts – how do you keep track of it all when you can have a bad habit of forgetting names? (A topic for another blog)