The Go-Around And How We Communicate With our Customers
“This is the Captain; everything is OK. The aircraft ahead was going too slow, so we’re doing a go-around. Should have you on the ground in about 10 minutes.”
This is what our pilot said to us while landing a couple of months ago in Atlanta. Have you ever been on a flight that did a “go-around?” If you fly with some frequency, you probably have.
A go-around is when the pilot needs to go around the airport and try to land again. I’ve had this happen with flights I’ve been on a few times, but the Atlanta go-around – and one just two weeks ago – made me realize having different perspectives can affect communication with our customers.
A go-around is needed when a landing isn’t going to be by the book—the planes are too close together, there is another airplane on the runway, or some other reason. When the landing gear goes up, and the pilot hits the gas, it gets your attention. And you start really listening to what the pilot is telling you.
Here’s what our pilot said on a flight to Providence two weeks ago:
“Ah, folks, from the flight deck, I’m sure you’ve noticed we’re doing a go-around. The spacing between us the aircraft in front of us got below the minimum. Not sure if they were slow, or we were fast, but to be safe, we are going to circle and will be on the ground in five minutes.”
A similar situation as Atlanta, but this pilot had a very different perspective. Why do the perspectives of pilots landing matter to us sales professionals? Because they show us the communication difference from those who are Other-Centered® vs. those who are not.
This might be a stretch, but the Providence pilot had an Other-Centered perspective. He didn’t know what was going on ahead, if they were slow or we were fast, but he responded and didn’t worry about blame. He saw things from someone else’s point of view. His willingness to take potential blame was actually a signed of confidence.
The Atlanta pilot’s perspective, however, was self-centered.
Maybe the plane two spots ahead of us was slow; maybe Air Traffic Control gave the other pilot a different command. Despite the situation, he was sure to let all the passengers know he was right, and the other pilot was wrong. But maybe, just maybe, he was the one was going too fast.
The perspective of other people is their reality. In sales, your customer’s perspective is reality. Many times, I see salespeople not stop to heed the simple advice of Dale Carnegie – put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Easy to say, but harder to do.
Failing to heed this advice will likely make you seem like the stereotypical, self-centered sales person. Instead, try to keep these points in mind to differentiate yourself as Other-Centered.
Understand that your potential sale is not their most important priority
Look at your to-do list – personal and professional. Then add all the other stuff you are thinking about but don’t really know where to begin: A home-improvement project, car repairs, vacation plans. How many things are on your total list? Twenty? Fifty? More? It’s a lot.
So let’s pretend that you visit a local travel agent to get some ideas about that vacation and where to go this winter, but you decide to put off the trip. In the travel agent’s mind, his hard close at the office didn’t work, and now he follows up with you every other day to see if you’ve made a decision.
How does that make you feel? You realize that all he cares about is getting the deal closed, and he doesn’t care that you told him you wouldn’t be sure of your budget until after summer. Remember how this feels when you follow up with customers over the different stages of a complex sale and keep that perspective in mind – your customers have a lot on their plates. Try these techniques to be more Other-Centered:
Ask them a powerful question to help you help them
“Where is this on your priority list?” If they communicate that it’s low, ask them what things are higher. See if you can help with those things. At a minimum, communicate that you will balance helping them keep this moving, but not be more proactive than is helpful to them.
Customers won’t always remember what they said last time, and things might have changed – so don’t act like a lawyer and re-read the transcript to them. Restating “Last month you said that you would have a decision by this week.” won’t get you anywhere with that customer. Focus on where they are now and how you can be helpful in their decision-making process.
Try to end each meeting with a next step
Telling the customer why the next step is in their best interest, not yours is the key to advancing.
I see a lot of reps use a favor-close technique without even knowing it. “Could I get some time on your calendar to come meet in person next week to show you our solution?” or, “I’d like you to come to our office so I can give you a hands-on demo.” Re-read those questions as a customer. What is the benefit to the customer of either of these options? There isn’t one.
If customers don’t understand why it’s in their best interest, they are less likely to say yes. In fact, not only is there not a customer benefit, these options clearly communicate you are going to make a sales pitch. What customer is excited about that?
Instead, give the customer the specific benefit of the next step that involves action – make an Other-Centered offer.
Adjust to your customers
I see Sales Reps struggle when they work with customers who are different than they are. We all think and act in many different ways, but as soon as you start thinking your way is right, or better, you will get frustrated. The customer will sense it, and your chance of success in connecting with that customer decreases. I know. I’ve been guilty of it. Instead, back up and look at the things from their perspective.
A Different Perspective
Let them know they are first for you
When you send customers a calendar invitation, think about how it looks on their calendars, not yours. If my customer is ACME Widgets, my self-centered side wants to put “ACME Widgets” on the invitation. That helps me, but when customers see in on their calendars – how does it look to them? A meeting titled with their company name is no help to them. Sending an invitation named “Overview of ASLAN Training for ACME Widgets” helps us both. It’s the small, but important details that communicate I’m working with their perspective in mind.
Use their words
One of my clients uses all small letters in their company name. Once I noticed that, I was sure to do the same. Try to start a sentence with a word that is not capitalized. Yes, it takes an extra three keystrokes to undo the autocorrect. The harder part is having to stop and think about the customer’s perspective.
If they use the small letter, and you think “no big deal,” you have the wrong perspective. It is a big deal to them. That’s why they do it. Most importantly, my customers noticed it and told me “I appreciate you taking the time to use the small b. It’s important to our brand.” I like people to address with the name my parents gave me, Marc, vs. Mark. Ask Bobbi, Jon, Sean, Sandie or others with a varied spelling about their perspective when people spell their name wrong. Especially when it’s in the email that you just sent to them.
Value what they value
What is “touching base?” I hear reps calls customers all the time to “touch base” or “check in,” or “follow-up.” These things are a waste of the customer’s time and communicate that you are just hoping the customer will buy, vs. realize they have 100 other things on this list. When you follow-up, bring something of value and interest to them, instead of just what’s of interest to you. “I was calling to see where you were with the decision.” If this is truly your question the customer can answer “no decision yet – still working on it.” Now you are stuck. There is not a reason to talk any longer since that was the objective of your call. Instead, bring something better to the conversation. Let them know of an event they might be interested in that your organization will be attending. Share a recent article that addresses something you discussed (not marketing stuff from your company, but something else).
I was on a prospect’s low priority list last year. I made it a point to read their quarterly financials when they came out. I sent him a note of congratulations on his division being highlighted in the article. He responded with, “Thanks, glad you reached out – let’s talk next week.” Now, his company is a client.
Take a hint
You are the Sales Rep. They are the customers. Communicate in their preferred style, not yours. Do you leave a voicemail and your customer replies with email? The customer probably prefers email. When you have a call scheduled, does the customer ask for an agenda? It would be a good idea to include one on future calls.
Do you text something other than a yes/no question and not get a response? Maybe texting is not their thing. Be aware of your customers’ preferences. When people try to sell to me and miss the mark in these areas, it tells me they are not Other-Centered.
Start by asking about their perspective. When you enter a sales conversation, you have your own perspective about your solution and what would be best for the customer. If that customer shares your same perspective, the conversation will be quick, and the sale will be easy. For the other 99 percent of the time, the customer will likely have a different, and sometimes 180 degrees opposite, view of your perspective.
If you push your point of view on them, they probably won’t be open to it. Just like when someone tells me, “You have to go to this new Mexican restaurant,” but since I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, I’m not really listening. First, you need to get their perspective –see things from their point of view. Take-the-Trip. Just ask, “What is your perspective on …” What do they think about your company? What’s their perspective on your industry in general? Get them to share. Abandon your viewpoint and go to see theirs.
When customers say “soon,” clarify what they mean. Is that days, weeks, months? When they are vague and say, “We tried it before, but it didn’t go so well,” ask, “What happened?” Don’t worry about your sale or your next question. Just focus on being able to really see their perspective. Clarifying questions that use their answer in your next question will help keep it conversational instead of an interrogation with a bunch of fancy sales questions.
Let them know you have Taken-the-Trip by confirming what you heard. “Let me see if I understand.” Then summarize what they told you. It will tell them you are listening, and you get it, and they’ll be more open to listen to you when you share a different perspective. When I hear the customer respond with “Exactly,” I know that they know I see where they are coming from. Now, they are much more open to hearing my viewpoint. Based on the Polar Principle, Taking-the-Trip is the best way to get the customer to be open your perspective.
Your perspective isn’t likely to cause an airport landing go-around. But having an Other-Centered perspective will help you be a more effective and fulfilled seller. Why not try being Other-Centered at home? Re-read the tips above and replace “customer” with “spouse” or “child” or “friend.” Then try it. You’ll be amazed at the change in communication.
As for pilots, I trust the computer systems to make their perspectives less important. We landed safely in Atlanta and Providence but if you are a technical geek like me, you can review the recording here and find out which pilot was “right.” http://www.liveatc.net/
The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.