How often do you introduce yourself to a prospective client and two minutes later you realize you don’t remember their name? How about when you are pulling up a car for a client and you cannot remember if they said they had a trade in or not? I don’t know about you, but this was the usual when I was working with customers. I was so focused on getting what I had to say out and going through my process, I rarely listened to my customers at all.
How are we supposed to get to know our customers when we don’t even remember their name?
When we barely scratch a surface-level relationship with our customers, we cannot expect long term relationships, or even referrals. At that point all we are is a transaction, no different than when our customer purchases groceries or a meal to go. The problem is we are so used to this transactional, get-as-many-opportunities-as-possible model that we don’t stop to think if there is a better way.
The truth is people desire relationships; however, we must expand where we think they can be formed. Relationships are not limited to people we meet at events or friends and family we already have; we can create meaningful relationships at work. In our line of work, it is crucial that we build these relationships or else we will constantly be relying on new business to succeed.
Those who are the “best” must still practice their craft; natural talent is often wasted. The same goes for those that want to do their best, but it takes them more effort. I often had the best intentions with my customers, but that did not translate into amazing listening skills or great relationship building. I found myself not truly knowing who my customer was past what car they wanted and how they were going to pay for it.
What we need to do is practice active listening skills, because if we ask the right questions and then actively listen, we can learn all we need to know and more. Learning about the customer can of course help us sell the car, but it can also help us build real relationships that lead to lifetime value customers. When our clients know we understand them and their needs, they will be much more likely purchase a car from us. When we have a relationship with our clients that is valuable to them, they will be much less likely to buy a car from anyone else.
Actively listening can involve many different methods and they will differentiate depending on whether you are on the phone or in person. In person, we can take notes or focus on making eye contact. Do you have trouble remembering names or why they want to look at a specific vehicle? Methods like note taking and a verbal recap will help you confirm what was said to memory and shows the customer you really listened to them.
When we are on the phone, taking notes is again our best friend. I cannot tell you how many times I took a phone call with a prospective client, didn’t take notes, and the only thing I remembered was what car they wanted to look at.
There is a better way. Next time you are with a new client, think to yourself: Am I actively listening to this customer or am I focusing on accomplishing my own goals? What would I rather experience if I were the customer?