This is the first in a series of occasional posts containing tips on how to build rapport with your customers.
Tip #1 for building better rapport with your customers: Be friendly. “Hey, Glenn, that’s obvious,” you say. Well, if you’re thinking about the retail or hospitality professions, you’re right. But then, how many sales people and servers are genuinely friendly?
Being friendly is also important when you’re in the Business-to-Business environment. Ask yourself this: when you answer your office or cell phone do you sound warm and friendly or do you sound like James Earl Jones’ voice over on CNN (“THIS IS CNN!”)
I fall victim to this myself. Phone calls are usually disruptions and we’re so concerned about being professional that we’ve developed this ingrained habit closer to James Earl Jones that to warm and friendly. We automatically respond professionally and politely, but are we friendly?
Try this, if you have an office phone, put a post-it note on the handset that says, “Smile.” Sales trainers will tell you that you can “hear” a smile over the telephone. The next time your telephone rings, put a smile on your face as you pick up the receiver. Even if you’re in a bad mood on a tight deadline, you might be surprised at how much easier it is to establish rapport with someone. Your smile may be what the customer remembers even after he calls four more of your competitors. It may be the one thing that brings him back to you.
Meanwhile, back in the retail/hospitality sectors, keep in mind one of Dale Carnegie’s human relations principles: “Become genuinely interested in the other person.” I’m not suggesting a waitress should ask for a diner’s biography, but she can smile, make eye contact, and block out everything else as she focuses solely on the customers at her table. Without being asked, she can add friendly little touches such as bringing extra napkins to a table with young children. Or extra limes to me when I ask for water with lime.
I must give a tip o’ the hat to Thom Singer at Some Assembly Required. He’s currently working his way through 66 Tips For Better Networking (25 and counting). I’m not sure whether or not he influenced my decision to use this format, but his success has given me the confidence to proceed in this manner.