One of the most important roles of anyone in business is to create customers. Regardless of our role or the size of the organization, we have some responsibility to create and to keep our customers—but for those in a direct sales or service position, that mission is critical.
We often operate under quotas, deadlines or other conditions that drive us to work hard to develop new business. Unfortunately those situations, while motivating, can keep us from truly connecting with the needs of our customer. When we’re under stress to meet a number or hit a date, we can risk behavior that hurts our listening ability, creativity and empathy—all of which are needed to be influential.
When we’re feeling stressed, we may revert to selling “how we’d want to be sold to,” rather than adjusting to the needs of our customer. A client recently reflected that when he was running behind on business development, he could feel his anxiety grow during the prospect meeting, which led to him over-explaining, subconsciously thinking that if he gave them enough information, they would buy.
It’s natural for our “IQ” and “EQ” to drop when our anxiety goes up. The key is to recognize which situations lead to distress and how you can manage yourself differently. This can help you prevent “selling” to others only how you tend to “buy.”
This rep recognized both the situations when his anxiety ran highest (behind on his sales pace) and what to remember when having conversations with different customers. It’s helpful to understand the six perceptions that people use to process information. Based on work by Dr. Taibi Kahler and research completed by NASA, they identified six different lenses through which people perceive the world.
While we all have the ability to use each of these lenses, one of the six will be our strongest. This is helpful to remember if you’re hoping to connect more effectively with different people. These lenses are:
- Facts: See the world through facts and communicate using logic. Bring your information and be ready to share it. This perception needs things to “make sense” and are interested in saving time and money.
- Opinions: See the world through their value system and communicate using opinions. Building trust, keeping your word and doing quality work are critical.
- Emotions: Experience the world through feelings and communicate through compassion. Connect on a kind and warm level. Be sincerely interested in them as a person and be available to help as needed.
- Reactions: Be fun! Be spontaneous! Be yourself! This is all about communicating in a lighthearted, playful way. Don’t bog them down with a bunch of facts. How will you make their life easier? Are you having fun together? That’s what matters!
- Actions: They want to do something. Sitting here for an hour talking about all this stuff isn’t getting anything done! Connect about opportunities and actions they can take now. They’ll figure it out along the way, instead of planning every detail before starting.
- Reflections: Time to ponder and consider the possibilities is important. They don’t want to be rushed, but they also don’t want the conversation to be too ambiguous. They need to know clearly what they need to reflect on and when a decision needs to be made.
Through training and practice, this rep was able to better manage the sales rhythm that was adding to his anxiety. But more importantly he began using different communication styles with different prospects based on their perceptions. By having more ways to connect with people, we’re better able to take care of them as clients. PM
Dean Heffta is principal consultant with Clarus Results, LLC, a Peoria-based leadership development and business training firm.