Think about when you go into a dentist for the first time or a lawyer’s office. You probably don’t feel comfortable. What about when you go to a party and don’t know anyone? It’s human nature to feel more comfortable with the familiar.
A customer in your store or on your website is a lot like taking someone into your home. First, you have to make them comfortable, introduce them to the surroundings, and handle their fears. Unless this person has previous experience with you or your company, they won’t be in their comfort zone. People are “guarded” when they meet new people or are placed in new situations and environments.
And when a person is guarded it’s difficult to get on common ground. You have to assure your customer, address their fears and beliefs, and put them at ease. Remember that you are not in the product business; you are in the people business. A “guarded” customer to me indicates a good thing -- not a bad thing -- because the more guarded customer shows they are likely a buyer.
Before I talk about building common ground, I’d like to discuss what comes before it: Your greeting. The first step to making people comfortable is the greeting. It sounds simple, but go out today and keep track of how many people say hello to you when you walk into their business. It’s a game changer if you do it right.
Customers will often say something like, “I’m not buying anything today,” or “I’m just looking,” when greeted by you. Don’t take it personally. Be positive when you hear these things. Acknowledge them and move on. Continue to show interest regardless of what you hear. You have to learn to handle these complaints, which are born out of the buyer’s beliefs and complicated by their fears -- do not handle them like objections.
Buyers have certain pre-built convictions about salespeople that have nothing to do with you. Often, a customer’s thinking goes, “I can’t trust him,” or, “He won’t tell me the truth,” but if you are telling the truth and they don’t believe you, it’s about the receiver not the giver. However, even though you’re not responsible for their beliefs, you need to have control over the process and solve this problem of distrust.
On top of these beliefs is fear. The customer is thinking, “If I show interest she will pressure me to buy,” so they are protecting themselves. They are thinking, “it will take too long,” and that they don’t want to be stuck for two hours there in the store or on the phone. They think, “I will feel obligated,” if they spend two hours with you looking at a product that they will have to do something with you. Until you handle these fears you won’t be able to handle your customers.
Understand that buyers fear making a decision -- often more so than spending the money itself. Buyers fear getting ripped off, making a bad decision, and feeling like a fool later. Your buyers fear financial insecurity. Your buyers fear pressure, and they don’t want to be pressured. Buyers fear it will take too long. Buyers fear they will be obligated to reciprocate. Buyers fear they can’t say no.
The only way to put people at ease is to know what is going on with them. Your responsibility on a first call or meeting is to make people comfortable, introduce them, and handle their fears.
Here are four simple steps to keep in mind as you greet each new customer:
- Put your buyer at ease by introducing them to their surroundings.
- Understand what’s behind complaints such as, “I’m not buying today.”
- Acknowledge their fears.
- Create responses to each complaint.
Now you’re ready to find common ground and start building trust. The dictionary defines common ground as “the basis of mutual interests or agreement.” The key word is “agreement.” You can’t get on common ground if you disagree with people. Forget this idea that opposites attract. In selling, opposites never attract. It’s vital to gaining trust and control that you take the time to get on common ground.
However, you must not waste the customer’s time. Most salespeople go out of their way hunting for common ground. “Where do you live?”, “Where do you work?”, “Nice kids you got there” -- these are not reasons people came to your shop or agreed to take a call with you. People don’t come in to talk about their kids or where they live, not to mention that these conversation starters are not authentic on your part. And you must always be authentic and genuine.
Think about what you have in common with everyone. Remember those fears we talked about earlier? You can probably relate to those.
Here are five areas of common ground that every salesperson and buyer can agree on:
- Information: They want it, you have it.
- Getting in and out: You want that too.
- Making a good decision: You also want to be sure they don’t make a bad decision.
- Not being pressured: You don’t want to pressure them either.
- Don’t want to waste time: You don’t want to waste yours either.
Start your conversation with one of these points of common ground, and you’ll forge trust instantaneously.
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Editor's note: This post originally appeared on grantcardonetv.com and is republished here with permission.