Get on the Customer's Wavelength

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Much has been written about different sales pitches and techniques over the years, and while nearly every customer service program or presentation technique is probably effective to varying degrees, that is not the entirety of what you need to consider to be proficient at taking care of your customers. 

Personally, I believe a very well thought-out and detailed presentation is by far the most consistent and best-producing method there is.

 Just getting out there and winging it may produce some spectacular results on occasion, but it will never consistently produce the winning results a well-constructed presentation can — no how and no way.

In my shops, we all use very detailed and well thought-out scripted presentations. A detailed and scripted presentation has several advantages over any made-up-on-the-spot presentation:

·       It uses the correct language and terminology every time. No chance of inadvertently leading your customer to think you said one thing when you really meant another thing by using the wrong word or phrase.

·       It ensures you will not forget to say the things that are important for that particular product presentation to be the most effective.

·       It prevents the technician from looking uninformed and unqualified by removing all the “umms” and “uhhhs” that always pepper the speech of someone trying to get a spontaneous technical thought out.

·       It allows the technician to concentrate on the customer’s reactions to the presentation instead of concentrating on what he is trying to say.

The last bullet point is possibly the most important one on the entire list. There is only so much front-of-the-brain capability available at any one time for a person to cogitate with during a conversation.

In a typical, live and spontaneous conversation, most people spend a lot of their cognitive reasoning ability thinking about what the other person is saying in the conversation and they will typically blurt out the first response that “pops” into their mind when asked a question or when a decision-making opportunity presents itself. Now, while it is likely most of these quick responses are good ones, they cannot all be. Some will be clunkers, no doubt.

At the same time your brain is thinking of a response, it cannot be fully entrenched in thinking about the customer’s responses and actions.

Contrary to years of popular belief, there really is no such thing as multi-tasking within the human brain. Decisions can be made one after the other so fast it may seem they are all being made simultaneously, but that is not true. The brain makes decisions and calculations in a very linear, single-file method. Granted, it makes thousands of decisions one after the other so fast it may seem as if they are all happening simultaneously, but they are not. It stands to reason if your brain is not tasked with having to form ideas, calculations and decisions concerning how to make an immediate and spontaneous presentation, it will then have an extra capacity to expend pondering something else — namely, how the customer is reacting to what you are saying and doing. This increased ability for you to carefully observe your customer’s subtle nuances and reactions to your well-practiced presentation is what allows you to make the small and almost imperceptible adjustments to your presentation as it is delivered.

How well you interact with your customer and make subtle adjustments during your presentation is a part of what is called matching up.

There are many techniques you can learn about, practice and ultimately master that will give you an unparalleled ability to match up with your customers:

   Body Language

The study of human body language is called kinesics, and this is where anyone who wants to be particularly effective at making consistently successful presentations should begin.

Many sophisticated clinical studies have consistently shown 70-80 percent of all face-to-face communication between humans is non-verbal. Read that again: 70-80 percent.

Careful study of how your customer physically moves and reacts to you during your interactions with one another will tell you precisely how they perceive you and your presentation.

Furthermore, when you employ a careful and well-practiced application of specific body language techniques while talking with your customer, you subtly help to establish feelings of trust, confidence and interest from your customer.

There are enough well-documented and amazingly effective techniques to fill several books on the subject, but here are a few that work well in any lube shop environment:

·       Shoulder to shoulder: As you speak with your customer, you should never take a direct face-to-face squared-off stance against your customer. This puts you in a very aggressive and adversarial body-stance position. Think of two boxers standing facing each other — that is no way to promote feelings of relaxation and trust from your customers. Instead, try to make the imaginary line across the tops of you and your customer’s shoulders line up as nearly straight as possible. Even a 90-degree angle is better than squared off. This subtly tells the customer you are both on the same team.

·       Keep the authorities with you at all times: You should always make it clear and obvious that any technical and specific information you tell your customer comes from a clear authority on the subject, and you are not just pulling the information out of thin air. You may very well know what application is required for the job you are quoting, but is the customer as sure about your facts as you are? Ease their doubt by having the authority there with you to add some confidence to your presentation. The authorities I am talking about are the manufacturer’s recommendations you use to determine needed services for any vehicle. If you keep the printed pages on a clipboard, use it in front of your customer and refer to it in an obvious fashion when you make specific recommendations. If your recommendations are displayed on a monitor, then point to the area you are referring to and show the customer your recommendation, indeed, comes from an authority.

·       Keep no secrets: If you do use a clipboard with any technical documents on it while you are making your presentation, there are times when you may not be referring directly to any of that information while you are talking to the customer. During these moments, be sure you have positioned the clipboard so if your customer so desires to, they can easily see what is on it, even though it may not pertain to anything you are directly talking about at that particular moment. This will prevent the customer from thinking about what you are possibly hiding from them, and, of course, it will prevent them from being distracted by those thoughts. Again, if you use a computer monitor for determining service recommendations, don’t keep the display hidden from the customer. Let them openly see whatever is on the screen.

·       Welcoming gestures: Try never to fold your arms across your chest or show the back of your hands unnecessarily to your customer. In the deepest, darkest, most primal part of your customer’s emotions, these gestures are seen and subconsciously felt to be aggressive and adversarial. Keep your hands out of your pockets at all times. Weapons can be concealed in pockets, and this may trigger a negative subconscious reaction from your customer. Wave big to your customers as they approach the building. Show the palms of your hands as often as reasonably possible and practical. Nod your head imperceptibly when speaking to your customer. Smile and lean in slightly when the customer speaks to you. These are all welcoming gestures that encourage feelings of trust and friendship.

Mirroring

The study of how one person’s physical gestures react and respond to the physical gestures displayed by the person they are conversing with is called isopraxism, and it can help you immensely when trying to create a customer-friendly environment.

·       Pay careful attention to the physical gestures your customer displays as you talk to them. If they lean in when you are talking to them, you should also lean in slightly when you respond to them.

·       If your customer backs up or crosses his arms, that is a signal he or she is feeling uncomfortable with whatever it is you are saying or doing at that moment. Stop whatever it is you are doing immediately and use one of the welcoming gestures mentioned above.

·       If, as you are giving your presentation, your customer subtly reaches around and puts his hand or hands in his back pockets, or she casually touches or reaches for her purse, then you have just been given a crystal-clear signal that they subconsciously think you are about to ask them to spend some money and they don’t want to do it. They are symbolically protecting their money. If this happens, your presentation is far too aggressive. Relax a little, and spend more time telling them the benefits of the service before you approach the close.

·       If the customer responds to any question you may ask or statement you make while at the same time putting their hand or hands anywhere around their face, this is an indication that they are not telling you the whole truth. (Customers don’t lie to us, do they?) If they actually cover their mouth when speaking, they are typically telling you an out-and-out lie. Their subconscious knows they are lying and is attempting to prevent the words from leaving their mouth. 99.9 percent of those who do this are unaware they are doing it. And if they are doing it, it is because you have made them feel as if they must do so to prevent you from continuing on the path you are leading them down. This would indicate they don’t believe or trust what you are saying to be in their best interests.

These techniques are just the absolute bare-bones essentials when it comes to matching up with your customers. There is so much more available information for those of you who are interested in it. There is no doubt this stuff works, and it works very well. Practice the few items I have listed here, send me an email and let me know how it works for you.

As always, good luck, have a great attitude and make it happen. 

See y’all next month!  

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