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How to Talk to Customers 101

By: Dave Brock


business owner talking to a customer

As sellers, our job is to talk to customers. But apparently we do a very bad job at it. Research report after research report say the same things:

  • The majority of customers prefer a rep-free buying experience. Over 83% (and climbing) prefer to learn about products/solutions without involving a seller.
  • For those that do involve sellers, they minimize the time they invest. Currently, it’s around 17% for all sellers–not just us, but our competitors.
  • Customers say sellers waste their time.
  • Sellers don’t understand the customer and the business, they don’t talk about what the customer cares about.
  • They only talk about their products/solutions, yet the customer can learn all bout that digitally.

Sellers don’t need this research to know there is a problem. Response rates to emails, phone calls, social outreach continues to plummet. We produce more and more volume, but the number of respondents and meaningful conversations continue to plummet.

Our job to is to talk to/with our customers, yet they want nothing to do with it! They actively do everything possible to avoid these conversations.

Maybe something’s wrong?

Maybe we don’t know how to talk to/with our customers. Maybe what we talk about isn’t interesting or relevant to them. Maybe our customers don’t feel they are being heard when they talk to us. Maybe our customers feel we don’t really care about the conversation, we are just going through the motions because our job is to talk to them.

Nothing seems to be working, or at least as effectively as we need it to work, yet we persist doing the same things over and over again.

Perhaps, we are talking to them about the wrong things? Perhaps, in our conversations, we are demonstrating that we really don’t care? Perhaps, we are so focused on what we want to talk about we forget we want to engage them in two way conversations.

What if we paused and asked ourselves, what do customers want to talk about? How do we get them engaged in two way conversations?

Is what we want to talk about interesting and important to them? If not, then we are wasting their and our time?

Are we interested in what they want to talk about? If not, we are wasting their and our time?

If we are interested in what they want to talk about, can we hold up our end of the conversation?

What will the customer learn, what will we learn as a result of talking with them? Is that important to each of us? If each of us isn’t learning something new, then we aren’t having as impactful discussions as we should. If each of us isn’t learning something we care about, then we are have the wrong conversations.

Our job is to talk to our customers, to engage them, to help them identify and address problems and opportunities, to help them imagine new possibilities, to help them grow and achieve.

We seem remarkably unskilled a talking to our customers.

Action Item: For the next 50 conversations you have with prospects or new customers, don’t talk about what you sell, even if they ask you! Focus your conversation on them, what they care about, what their problems are, what they want to achieve. Once you have gone through that discussion (which may take several meetings), they will ask how you can help and you will know, specifically, how you can help.

Published: August 23, 2023

Source: Partners in Excellence

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Dave Brock

Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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