Instantly Click With a Customer: 6 Steps
To paraphrase sports agent Mark McCormack, All things being equal, people prefer to buy from a friend and all things being unequal, people still prefer to buy from a friend. Because that's true, it's incredibly useful when selling to know how to make friends quickly.
Contrary to popular belief, you can't win friends by acting "friendly." In fact, acting too friendly too soon turns customers off. For example, starting a cold call with a hearty "How are you doing today?" is a good way to make a customer hang up on you.
In the bestseller Social Intelligence, Daniel Goldman explains that the most basic parts of the human brain contain the ability to read the expressions and actions of another in order to determine whether that person is friend or foe.
Therefore, in order to "click" with a customer, you must signal on as many levels as possible that you're a friend (a member of the same tribe) rather than a foe (a member of another tribe.) Here's how:
1. Wear the same uniform.
If you're meeting in person, model your appearance on what people wear in the customer's environment. When you meet with brogrammers, wear a polo shirt and a smartwatch. If you're meeting with Fortune 500 CFOs, wear Armani and a Rolex.
2. Take on a compatible facial expression.
Again, if you're meeting in person, model your facial expression so that's it's complementary to the customer's facial expression. For example, if the customer smiles, smile back. If the customer looks worried, take on a sympathetically worried demeanor.
This is not an exact science. Mostly, you're trying to avoid looking like you're on a completely different wavelength, which is what happens if you try to thaw a cold customer with a warm smile. (That says: "Wolf in sheep's clothing!")
3. Mirror the customer's body language.
Once more, if you're meeting in person, put your body into a more or less mirror image of the customer. If the customer slouches, slouch. If the customer crosses his legs, wait a bit, and then do the same.
I said "more or less," because you don't want to make it obvious, like a mime pretending to be inside a mirror. You're not trying it imitate the customer exactly, but to signal that you're in a compatible emotional state.
4. Echo the customer's tonality.
If you're meeting face-to-face, but especially if you're on the telephone, make minor changes to your voice to match the customer's voice. If the customer talks fast, talk at the same speed. If the customer has a slow drawl, draw out your words a bit.
Similarly, if the customer has an accent, take on a smidgeon of that accent in your own voice. This isn't being fake, because everyone does this unconsciously anyway. All you're doing is speeding up the process a bit.
5. Use the same expressions.
This is essential regardless of how you're communicating with a customer. The customer's choice of words is a manifestation of how they think about the world. Using the same words says that you think the same and are therefore friend rather than foe.
The trick here is to mix the customer's wording naturally into your side of the conversation. For example, if a customer uses the word "terrific" to describe, say, the weather where's he's located, you might use "terrific" to describe how you feel today.
However, you should use only terminology that seems natural to you. For example, if a customer uses the term "meat space" to describe the non-digital world, and that seems like a weird metaphor to you, don't use it.
6. Prepare to be amazed.
Just so you know, this technique is almost like having a superpower. After following the five steps above, I've had people that I've just met tell me within five minutes that they "feel like I've known you all my life."
What's really cool about this "superpower," though, is that when I use it to connect with people, I always discover that these are people who I would want as friends anyway. The trick doesn't work on jerks, because I can't get myself into that space.
Like this post? If so, sign up for the free Sales Source newsletter.
Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.