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How Well Do You Know Your Customers? (Be Honest)

As I attempted to write this post over several days, I struggled to make it interesting. On the surface, “how well do you know your customers” can be dismissed as a generic topic that does not peak people’s curiosity.

“Of course I know my customers Tim. What are you talking about?”

I can hear you making silly comments to your computer screen now!

In all seriousness, what I am about to say will have tremendous value for you long-term with your current customers and prospects. Be honest with yourselves. How well do you really know your customers?

I went on joint calls with one of my Sales Manager quite often. After one particular call (visiting Bob and John), he asked me what I learned about the two associates. I drew a blank for a minute and said that I did not know. His reply,

“Bob loves to golf, and has twin daughters who are 12 years old. The family likes going to Mexico every winter”.

“John is single, enjoys playing recreational sports, and has two dogs”

I asked him why knowing this would matter. He responded by saying that now that I knew some information about each of their personal lives, it would be easier to keep discussions going in the future. Speaking to them about business was always the primary goal, but when it was time to have casual conversations, personal topics would really get them engaged. One word answers like “yes”, “no” & “inaudible mumbles” would not be an issue then.

They might like to talk about their kids, their golf game, current sports stories, upcoming holidays, or hobbies. I always stayed away from touchy subjects like religion and politics. It was not worth the hassle if a nerve was struck with someone. Previously I would often go in to calls and talk about the weather, or something that was in the news. But it was not personal to them.

How awesome would it be for you to look into a customer’s eyes and remember any of the above details (even what they take in their coffee), by only asking once? Better yet, how awesome would it be for them to know that you cared enough to remember?

The key to keeping details straight (and not confusing Bob and John) is to record them as soon as possible. Take a few minutes after a call, sit in your car and write things down. Test yourself – can you remember three things you learned about your account today? And don’t expect that you’ll remember all of this at the end of the day.  A few minutes early on will pay off in the long run.

You can also dig deeper, in terms of the “rules of communication” with the account contacts:

  • Do they want you to make an appointment first, or is it ok to just drop in unannounced?Do they like to be contacted by email, text, cell phone or land line?
    • Is there a best time of day to drop by if just stopping in?
  • How often do they want to be visited?

The earlier you make notes on each account, the sooner you will understand the level of engagement they want. You may want to engage them face to face more than they want to be engaged, so you have to find that balance and not be a nuisance.

Oh yeah, work your butt off to remember their names as soon as possible. That is a must! Statistics prove that people respond better to what you are saying when their names are used during conversations. I had documents that I would refer to before going in to each call.

I don’t care how you record this information, as long as you do it. It could be through CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, task lists on email programs, iPhones, Blackberries etc. Heck, good old-fashioned notebooks still worked last time I checked! But it is imperative that you have separate files for each account to avoid confusion and disorganization.

Showing interest in customer’s personal lives, and remembering minor details that nobody else takes the time to, will strengthen relationships more often than not. The primary goal in sales is to obviously sell stuff; but the ones who show genuine interest in their customers and CARE will win in the long run.

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We Are All Leaders

Everyone develops leadership qualities personally and professionally in different ways. Many people may not even aspire to be leaders, but “accidentally” end up being role models for others.

You can become a leader very early in your career. It does not necessarily mean that you are a loud “rah rah” person. You don’t have to run around the office “high fiving” everyone, or be super enthusiastic every minute of the day!

I have been very interested in sports leadership for years, and the one who set the bar the highest in hockey since the early 1980’s was Mark Messier. Not only was he known for winning 5 championships, his fierce competitiveness, and leadership qualities, but he was confident. Those who follow hockey closely will remember when he guaranteed victory in the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs while playing for the New York Rangers. Not only did they win that game, but they won it all for the first time in 54 years!

For every Mark Messier, there are many others who quietly lead by example in sports, business, and every day life.  I always love the comment,

“They don’t speak up very often, but when they do everyone stops in their tracks to listen.”

Those quiet people are also leading and providing great value.

When I first got in to business, my perception of leadership was very one-sided. I thought that managers and executive management were the only ones who were leaders. Many of them did motivate and inspire their teams, but others unfortunately did not understand the importance of being a positive influence on others.

You can start showing leadership qualities from the moment you start a new role.  Focus on things like:

  • Caring
    • Care about the job that you are doing, your customers, and everyone around you
  • Having a strong work ethic, and becoming a “go to employee”
    • Being the type of person that others want to be around
  • Doing the “little things”, and being attentive to details
  • Doing more than is expected of you
    • “That is not my job” is not in your vocabulary
  • Taking advice and criticism as a professional
    • Being open to learning
  • Supporting team mates and encouraging them
    • Celebrating their wins, and supporting their losses
  • Being enthusiastic & positive
    • Having lots of energy
  • Smiling

Before you know it, people will start to look up to you and aspire to be like you. They notice that you have taken steps forward and have become promotable sooner than most.

Everyone has leadership qualities in some way, shape or form. The million dollar questions are:

  •  Are you using them? And better yet…
  •  Do you want to use them?

Take stock of how you are leading now, and how you may want to lead in the future.

Shhhh… I will tell you a little secret.

You might actually like it if you don’t already!