Guest Blog - Improve Conversations with Customers: Make a Personal Connection by Michelle Davidson

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: May 29, 2015

Michelle's post originally appeared on Rain Today.

You read all of the time about how people are busy and don't have the time or patience for long emails or long-winded phone conversations—that you need to get your point across quickly and get out.

That might be true. I know when I receive an email three or four paragraphs long, my first instinct is to delete it. But being succinct in your communication doesn't mean you can't make a personal connection. It's those personal connections that get people to take notice, start to trust you, and want to hear what you have to say. They get you past the email delete barrier and the automatic hang-up barrier.

It involves taking some risk, as Charles H. Green writes in his article Trust Takes Time—Not.

"There's no two ways around it: you have to take a risk if you ever want to create trust," he says. "The best kind of risk to take, on trying to get meetings with new clients, is a combination of credibility and intimacy."

For example, when trying to set a meeting via email, you want to mention personal connections—one of their blog posts, an idea for a future blog post, the person who referred you, etc.—and you want to take risks by hypothesizing their situation and leaving the decision to them.

When you take risks, you feel vulnerable. And that trait is a key factor in having successful sales conversations, says David Newman in his article 15 Dating Tips to Boost Your Sales Success. Other rules he follows include asking great questions, being a source of humor and fun, focusing on the other person, not talking too much, and being open.

Keep the Conversation Going

Similarly, Mark Goulston says you want to keep the person talking until they sell themselves on your solution. To do that, pay attention to adjectives and adverbs they use during conversation and invite them to expand on what they mean, he says in his podcast interview Talking with Customers Is Like Talking with Hostage Takers.

"So, when someone says, 'Oh, this is an amazing opportunity' or 'We have to do this quickly,' when they finish—even if they say, 'So, what do you think?'—you say, 'Well, say more about the amazing' or 'Say more about how you need to do this quickly,'" he says. "What you'll notice is they will go deeper and they will develop more emotion in the conversation."

During the conversation, you can also use phrases such as "Really" and "Mmm hmm" to encourage them to talk more and go deeper into the topic.

If you don't do that, Goulston warns, you're just like your competition. You're purely transactional, and you're missing an opportunity to get your customer to open up to you.

"What I suggest to people is get [your customers] to open up, focusing on adverbs, adjectives, hyperbole, and inflection. Have them speak more, so they're getting more off their chest, more in the conversation, and more wanting to hear from you," he says.

Communication Guidelines

If you have a team of sellers, you want to provide them with written guides, processes, and definitions to help them with their email and phone conversations with customers, writes Elisa Ciarametaro in her article 8 Factors for Building a Strong Inside Sales Pipeline. Reps should be instructed on the process created for them so they can perform their jobs efficiently.

Give them guides and scripts for phone calls and emails, and include success stories and qualifying questions that they can incorporate in their conversations, she says.

New sales reps should also learn from experienced reps. They can do this via informal discussions, such as lunch meetings, and by observing sales calls.

With the right tools, guidance, and practice, all of your sales reps can make personal connections with customers that improve conversations and lead to new business.

Michelle Davidson is Editor of RainToday. As such, she oversees all of the articles published on the website and publishes the weekly newsletter, the Rainmaker Report. She also produces the site's weekly podcast series, RainToday's Sales Tips & Techniques Podcast, and the site's webinars. You may contact her via email at mdavidson@raintoday.com  and via Twitter at @michedav.