Each of us automatically approaches every situation with attitudes, perceptions and focus colored by our personality and life experiences. Without any conscious effort to change the paradigm, this is simply human nature. Put three people in a room and start a conversation – everyone brings a unique perspective to the table. So, what does this have to do with business or sales or technology?
When we talk to a client or business partner, the most important thing whether we’re in sales or customer service or technical support is to first understand them: their perspective, their focus and their problems. If we focus our energy on communicating our position first and don’t attempt to find common ground, the chances for success are diminished and the potential for everyone to leave dissatisfied is increased. How can we change our thinking to begin to see things through the other person’s eyes – especially if we’re not sure how they see things?
I’m not trained as a sales expert or a psychologist, but for me, the trick has been to try to consciously put myself in the other person’s shoes. Not his shoes as I might imagine them, but to try and truly understand not only the business issue, but more fundamentally, the person as a whole. Some of the things I look at to try to understand this person:
How are they dressed? Are they very formal or more casual?
What does their office look like – is it organized or a chaotic mess?
Where are they in their life? Are they raising a family or are they empty-nesters?
Is their style quick and decisive or are they more slow and deliberate?
Do they absorb information from a lively back-and-forth discussion or do I need to present all of the information and then let them respond?
What is the biggest business problem they have and how can I help them with what they think they want (Not, what I think they need)?
Obviously, it’s much easier to figure out what someone is about when meeting face-to-face. With so many interactions being virtual these days, there are still ways to understand a bit about someone. I’ve found that the time at the start of a conference call while waiting for everyone to gather is a good time to engage in some friendly small talk and at least get a sense of what someone is about. The other method that works great is to “listen more than you talk”. This is easy to say and difficult to do but is the key to understanding who someone is and what they are about.
The answers to these questions can open the door to a collaborative and productive discussion in any area of business, as well as in any area of life. Understanding others is the key to finding common ground and solving common problems. Too often it seems, people start with what they want the other person to know and understand rather than spending their time and energy to figure out what the other person really believes they want or need. Yes, we have important experience that we’ve gained from our prior interactions with other clients that we bring to bear in each and every future engagement, but in the eyes of the client, his situation is unique. Focus on that and a real connection has a chance to be made.