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15th June
2011
written by LS Girl

Embrace differences and lack of experience or product knowledge; use ignorance to your advantage. 

Most of the books I’ve read over the years on customer relationships, winning, selling, getting ahead, being better than the competition… etc., recommend connecting with your customer.

“Look around their office and find something you CONNECT on, and talk about that”.

“So… I take it you’re a vegan.”


As a loner, and a universally agreed upon weirdo, voted “most unique” out of a class of over 600 students… with no kids… no pets… no official hobbies; this “common bond” technique seemed daunting.

Nonetheless, I tried it. Over and over I attempted to connect; I was mediocre, at best. Eventually, I gave up and decided to just be myself (within reason).

Here is what I discovered: having nothing in common, no formal training, no expertise in my field, and no previous knowledge of my client was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Customers spent time with me. They told me everything… I was a PhD of T.M.I.

One customer had a hysterectomy. Another was going to adopt a baby, but changed his mind. A very stern, abrupt manager’s dog died and she couldn’t work for a week. She told corporate she had the flu. The guy in the corner office just had a vasectomy. The girl in charge… her son is in jail. Again.

People not only talked about their lives and their issues (their REAL issues, not the issues you throw money at to make them go away), they trusted me.

As an employee of a company, I meet with my boss a couple of times a month to discuss projects, forecasts, issues, etc. During these meetings I refer to this obliviousness as “the special sauce”. He asked me, “can you teach others to do what you do?”

Do what I do? You mean, nothing?

Can I teach someone how to show up at a client’s location and do almost nothing? This got me thinking… I never really questioned why, after 5 or 6 years, a customer would ask about me, or ask how I was doing, or send a “tell her I said hello!” message my way.

I knew nothing, I said nothing, I added very little to the conversation. I couldn’t relate to most of it, personally. The only thing I could do was be interested in learning, and sit back and listen.

Unbeknownst to me, I had luckily turned my biggest weakness into a strength. BUT… because I am oblivious, I did not realize I’d done this, until someone forced me to figure it out.

If I had to outline the steps, it would look something like this:

Show up (on time).
Smile (sincerely).
Introduce yourself (slowly and clearly).
Sit down (after they do).
Then ask… “how are you doing?” Mean it. Shut up. Listen.

Also… never bring stuff to your first meeting with a client, aside from the things you committed to (a quote, a brochure, a product list, a table saw, whatever). Don’t bring a bunch of crap with you. Don’t do it.

After listening, you will know what may be of interest to this person. Tell them you’ll get the information to them, and tell them WHEN they’ll have it. Send it, or deliver it (just drop it off) by the date you committed to. This reassures a person you heard them, and you are capable of delivering.

Unfortunately, this simple act will put you leaps and bounds ahead of most.


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