Successful business people remember that customers are the essence of their job -- not an interruption, according to a recent Kiplinger audio conference.
Connecting with anyone is the basis of building rapport, according to Satisfying Even the Most Difficult Customer hosted by Kaylyn Leighmann, a consultant for Sterling Consulting group. And the majority of that connection begins with body language.
When dealing with customers, Leighmann said to keep in mind that body language accounts for 55 percent of perceived communication and 38 percent is in the tone of voice, while only seven percent is of the spoken word.
"A good rule of thumb is, in a face-to-face conversation, to give someone as much eye contact as they are giving you -- that will create comfort, it will create trust," Leighmann said.
Mirroring the customer's overall communication style including body language and verbiage can create comfortable conversation, she explained. "Give them what they are giving you."
"Pacing" is a technique that Leighmann recommends using to create this mirror when dealing with customers and co-workers alike.
"Pacing is the skill of being able to expand your awareness and flexibility, take the attention off yourself and step into the other person's shoes," she explained.
Once a comfort level is established by pacing the person, there is a certain amount of trust established and this is when a salesperson might then lead the conversation.
If they do not follow, she says, go back and pace again.
Another technique Leighmann discusses is the "Say no with service." Giving options to the customer before following a set policy helps ease the letdown.
For example, if the company sells a newsletter that offers an introductory price for the first year, and the customer's year is up and requests the same introductory price for continuation, she said to keep in line with the policy, politely tell them, "I cannot give you the same price again, but what I can do for you is give you an extra issue for free."
"Negative filters" are another aspect of customer service that affects business relationships.
"Negative filters alter or distort what a person is saying and we hear only that which reinforces the opinion we have already formed," Leighmann explained. "If we focus on these negative opinions of the customer's behavior, we cannot address their needs."
The negative filter needs to be switched to a "service filter," Leighmann said.
Focusing on a service filter can help salespeople focus on the sales solution, she added. When a salesperson realizes they are thinking through a negative filter they need to stop, re-focus and ask themselves, "What does this person need and how can I provide it?"