Do you have difficult clients or are they just different?
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How Your Procurement Practices Affect Your Sales and Brand - By Sue Barrett
Style adaptability is where a person can read another person’s preferred communication style and adjusts their own communication style to that of the other person, thus making shared communication and understanding easier. It is imperative to the principle of exchange and critical to any sales role, yet it is often one of the most poorly executed skills. Time after time we come across teams of sales people who have no conscious idea about how to adapt their style to that of another. Instead when they come across differences, communication usually breaks down and they will speak about the other using derogatory terms such as calling them an idiot, or moron, etc. Sound familiar?
Those who are adaptable often do so unconsciously, it just seems to work for them. For the rest of us, we are often left wondering if we have landed on another planet when we meet with people who are different. These interactions often leave everyone confused and worse off. People make judgments about difference claiming them to be difficult because they are seeing things from their own perspective and missing vital clues that could have been dealt with simply and easily.
A case study
We worked with a Customer Service team who supply scientific instrumentation equipment and consumables to scientific and medical laboratories. Our role was to help improve their customer service and telephone selling skills. When we started discussing dealing with customers, they told us that almost all their customers were difficult and rude. When asked why this was, they advised:
“They are so abrupt and blunt. They never say ‘hi’ or ‘how are you going’. They are cold and seem to ignore us. Some are really pushy and always seem to be in a hurry, while others always want too much information and take forever to make a decision. It drives us crazy.”
We acknowledged their feedback and then introduced them to a 4-quadrant Communication Style model. We use this as a starting point to help people understand and adapt to different communication styles. The first place is to understand where you are, so we got the team to identify their own individual communication styles (both what their preferred style at work and at home or in their personal lives). NB: It is true that some people like to communicate a certain way at work that differs in their personal lives. We then asked them to identify what communication styles they thought their clients were.
The findings were as follows:
- With a few exceptions, the customer service team was very people friendly and quite fast paced in their preferred communication style. They are bubbly and enthusiastic, warm and social and readily shared stories and feelings.
- Their customers on the whole, who were either lab mangers, scientists or lab technicians, were very task oriented, liked facts over social conversation, were direct, to the point, on the other hand others were slow paced, methodical, liked a lot information, and didn’t like to be rushed.
We can clearly see that difference does not necessarily equate to difficult. We ran a series of follow-up sessions with this team and to their credit two weeks later during the first follow-up session we asked them how they were going with their ‘difficult’ customers:
“We don’t have rude customers anymore. We adjusted our communication style to how they like be approached and they are really easy to deal with now. And what is even more amazing is when we did that some of them then started to warm up and become friendlier which we never expected.”
So, as illustrated, it is possible to learn how to adapt your own style of communication to other people.
We taught the team some simple tips and techniques they could remember and apply easily. But they needed to listen and tune in very quickly to clues the other person was giving them and adjust their style to meet that of another without changing who they are as a person. It was all was about speed, tone, and topic.
Another term that is used to describe style adaptability is Mirroring. As described in Wikipedia, Mirroring is a human behaviour in which one copies a person while communicating with them. It is often observed among couples or close friends. It may include miming gestures, movements, body language, muscle tensions, expressions, tones, eye movements, breathing, tempo, accent, attitude, choice of words, metaphors, or other features discernible in communication.
Mirroring is common in social interactions and awareness of the process is a powerful way to influence other people’s behaviour while maintaining your own position and intent. The best rapport may be gained by mirroring not too exactly, but close enough so they get that comfortable feeling without feeling mocked.
By simply tuning into your customer or colleague you can quickly work out how they like to be communicated with and adjust your style accordingly, whilst remaining sincere to your own authentic self.
Rather than venture any further into the topic of style adaptability at this point, I would like to acknowledge that much has been written about how to relate to and read people. Some of it is valid, practical, and useful. Some is valid but very complex and for experts only and some of it is downright dubious and boarders on deceitful and manipulative. I would suggest that whatever method you use you should ensure that it does no harm to you or others and is backed up by sound research.
My intention here was to highlight the importance of style adaptability in sales and its power to enhance honest and open communications with others and to help improve our chances of working effectively with our customers and colleagues. Understanding how we and others like to communicate and acknowledging that there are differences, rather than difficulties, can make the life cycle of sales and customer attraction and retention easier. Remember, if one can understand and respect oneself, one is more likely to understand and respect others.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.
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How Your Procurement Practices Affect Your Sales and Brand - By Sue Barrett
About the Author: Sue Barrett
RSS for Sue's articles - Visit Sue's website
'Selling is everybody's business and everybody lives by selling something' so says Sue Barrett, sales expert, writer, business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur. Sue founded Barrett in 1995 to positively transform the culture, capability and continuous learning of leaders, teams and businesses by developing sales driven organisations that are equipped for the 21st Century. Since inception, Barrett has worked with hundreds of Australian companies challenging thinking to create compelling reasons and continuous learning pathways for people and organisations to develop their skills, knowledge and mindsets to create the shifts they want and ensure they are well informed and equipped for the sales journey ahead.
Sue is one of the leading voices commenting on sales today. Sue has a unique way of getting to the heart of the matter - she combines extensive knowledge, research, insight, and practical experience with a deep sense of compassion to bring forth a more enlightened way of thinking and participating in the world. This makes her stand out from the usual crowd of existing business commentators.
Her ability to distill complex ideas and relate them to life's everyday challenges and opportunities has audience members and readers leaving with a stronger understanding of "self" and how they can begin to achieve excellence through purposeful action. Presenting and writing on a wide range of topics about the world of 21st Century selling Sue's presentations and articles include sales philosophy and culture, sales leadership and coaching, sales training, selling skills, resilience, neuroscience in selling and more. Sue's articles are some of the most widely read in Australia and she is gaining a following overseas as well. Besides publishing on Barrett Sales Blog site, Sue has been the lead sales writer for www.smartcompany.com.au since 2007, and is also regularly published on other highly regarded publications such as Australian Anthill Magazine, Niche Magazine, Marketing Mag, Business Chicks, and Business Deals.
Click here to visit Sue's website.
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