Connect with customers by listening, understanding

February 15, 2013 By    

Do you know your customers? Sounds like an elementary question, but do you really know your customers?

As I train and interview customer representatives and salespeople around the country, I am often reminded how important it is to fully understand what your customer is looking for from you.

The first step is to try and understand how your customer thinks. To determine this, you need to listen closely to what he is saying. One of my mentors always reminded me “we have two ears and one mouth; use them proportionately!” Listening is really the key. Ask simple questions to understand what is driving the customer’s decision process. The responses you get from the questions you ask will help you identify the type of personality you are dealing with.

For example, if a customer calls and asks about the dependability of your company, what does that tell you? He could have had a bad experience with a previous company, doesn’t want to be worried about managing you, or may not be primarily concerned about price. So your response should be focused on your track record and confidence in your company. So many reps will go on to talk about price and options that this customer has not even indicated are important to him. This only confuses the customer and increases the chance he will go somewhere else to compare your services.

Consider an elderly man buying a new car. He walks into a showroom and the salesperson sees that the gentleman has the means to buy a top-of-line vehicle. The sales rep immediately takes him to a very expensive car. The sales rep shows the man the sexy interior, state-of-the-art stereo, the high-tech connections for his phone and computer. What did the rep fail to do? He did not ask what factors were important to the man. Does the elderly man want to know how to hook up his computer in the car? Without knowing what was driving this man’s decision, the sales rep was wasting his time and the man’s time. The man politely said thank you and went to another dealer. The rep was oblivious to what had just happened.

Asking the proper qualifying questions is essential to knowing your customer and delivering to his expectations. The proper approach for the car dealer was to ask the gentleman first, “What can I help you with today, sir?” He should then listen closely and understand what is important to the customer in purchasing a new vehicle. Had he done that, he would have focused on the customer and had a more successful encounter.

Remember that without your customers you would not be successful. Do not take knowing them for granted. It is up to you to understand their needs and deliver your service and products effectively. Challenge yourself to really know your customers and you will increase your business and have a more loyal customer base.

Ed Varney is president of Eagle Sales Performance and a member of the LP Gas Editorial Advisory Board. Contact him at

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