Relationships are emotional rather than intellectual. Therefore, rather than treating customer relationships as business agreements, approach them as an interaction between your emotions and those of the customer. This requires mastering three emotional skills:
Emotional openness strengthens relationships. However, you can't be emotionally open if you're not fully aware of your own feelings.
Self-awareness allows you to understand and identify the emotions you're feeling and predict how those emotions might affect your behavior. You can compensate so that you don't do or say something that you'll later regret and even use your emotions to build a stronger bond.
For example, suppose you're frustrated and angry that an important customer stood you up. If you lack self-awareness, you might go into your next customer meeting with a chip on your shoulder.
However, if you're self-aware, you might start the meeting by telling the customer that you are "having a tough day and so if I seem a little out of sorts, be assured that it's not about you."
Empathy is the ability to feel what the other person is likely to be feeling. For example, suppose, during a routine sales call, you discover that the customer's firm just announced layoffs. There are at least three possible responses:
The first two responses will create the (probably correct) impression that you're a jerk. The third response, based upon empathy, builds a stronger relationship.
Ultimately, customer relationships are built on your ability to satisfy the customer's needs. While those needs often pose as business issues, in many cases the real needs are emotional (such as a need to be reassured that your company is reliable.)
The best way to simultaneously satisfy both a customer's business and emotional needs is to combine realism and optimism into your selling process. You do this in three steps:
The trick here is to use both your realism and your optimism to help the customer--regardless of where the conversation leads, rather than let yourself become merely a conduit for your firm's products or services.
Like this post? Sign up for the free Sales Source newsletter.