Do you ever reflect on how a client or prospect felt after leaving a meeting with you?
I recently faced the trifecta of iPhone debacles for someone running a mostly-mobile business: a cracked screen, non-working audio, and no signal…on a 93-degree day, in Manhattan, in between two important prospect meetings. Over the course of the next 3 hours I visited an Apple store and a Verizon store and dealt with two completely different customer service representatives. Here is what I learned. (Hint: according to LinkedIn, one had behavioral and communication training.)
1. The customer is always right. Even when they’re wrong. In times when negative emotions are running high- stress, frustration, fear, sadness, anger- empathy and understanding are your most powerful tools. Pointing out what they could have done better or what they should have done is not helpful. Providing them with reassurance that there is a solution and that you can help make sure this never happens again IS.
2. The focus must be on what the client needs from you in that moment. It may not always be the same and it may change over the course of the meeting; look for the signs. If the client is frustrated, even aggressive, do not respond in kind. This seems obvious but oftentimes our natural reaction is to respond to aggression with…defensiveness and attitude. Consider what would be most helpful: allowing them to vent? Empathizing with specific statements? Agreeing with them? If the client softens, reconsider your approach; perhaps it’s time to now talk through powerful steps forward or map out all their options for them in order to give them a sense of clarity and control.
Keep in mind, there is a big difference between listening, teaching, advising and coaching. Tap into each appropriately.
3. Act like you have all the time in world. If they’re the right clients, they will not take advantage of that. Imagine these two scenarios: a visit to an urgent care facility with fifteen patients in the waiting room and a physician who briskly walks into the examination room and barely looks at you, or a visit to an office where the doctor takes off his/her glasses, sits down without looking at your chart, and tells you he/she is here to help. See the difference? As patients, customers, clients, human beings, we naturally relax and have an easier time opening up when we feel as if we are not inconveniencing others.
Here is my recommendation:
Write these two questions on a piece of paper and have that paper with you in each client meeting as a reminder. What do they need from me in this meeting? How can I be helpful to them based on their emotional signals? Post-meeting, spend 5 minutes reflecting on whether you were able to answer the questions and adjust accordingly.