How to Engage Your Customer

In my last post I wrote about how if you wish to be successful in sales and service you need to trigger ‘relief’ in your customer within the early stages of a customer interaction. In other words, you need to be perceived as “One of the Good Ones”.

In this post I reveal a practical method in how to actually do that, using an example of an inbound sales call. This method can be tweaked slightly to also suit any inbound customer service enquiry as well.

To know if you have successfully engaged your customer in the early stages of an interaction (i.e. the first 20-30 seconds) you must have achieved the following:

  • Demonstrated an interest and commitment to helping them
  • Treated them as an individual
  • Built their trust and confidence in you

Achieving each of these 3 outcomes before moving on to the main part of the interaction is the building blocks for sales success. Failure to achieve any of the above will make it that much harder for them to buy into your approach and your recommendations.

Done well, they trigger a positive emotional response that sets the scene for the needs discovery you need to undertake as the next step in the process. So how do you do it?

Below is a repeatable, proven set of basic techniques that will drive engagement with your customers quickly. Each of the techniques has some examples that you can use and adapt to suit your own communication style and whether the interaction is face-to-face or over the phone.

What the examples obviously don’t reveal is the critical importance of how they are delivered in terms of tone & inflection (phone & face-to-face) and body language (face-to-face) which are key to bringing these to life and making them ‘sing’. But regardless, most staff I deal with crave the knowledge of WHAT to say. So here goes:

1) Deliver a strong greeting which reveals who you are and invites the customer to reveal the purpose of their call or visit:

Welcome to Company X, my names Simon. What can I help you with today?

Good afternoon, my name is Simon. How can I assist you?

Morning, my name is Simon. How can I help you?

 2) When the customer explains their enquiry, immediately respond with a strong, proactive statement of intent and ownership:

Terrific, I can certainly help you with that

Brilliant, it would be my pleasure to help find you the best solution

I can definitely give you what youre looking for

 3) Instantly personalise the interaction by asking for and using the customer’s name:

Before we get into the details, can I just ask your name?”…”Great, thanks Peter

Do you mind if I ask who I am speaking with?”… Hi Michelle, how are you today?

Whats your name, if you dont mind me asking?”… “Great, thanks Stephanie

4) Manage the customer’s expectations of what they can expect from you and your sales process (what’s in it for them?):

Peter, what Ill do is ask you a few questions to find out more about your situation and preferences, then together we can determine the best solution for you

Michelle, If its alright with you, well have a bit of a chat around what youre looking to do, then Ill be able to give you the information thats most relevant to make it really easy for you

Stephanie, as we have a number of options available, do you mind if ask you a few quick questions about whats most important to you and what you’re hoping to achieve?

 If you follow the techniques above, you can use them in response to any customer sales enquiry, about absolutely anything.

Below is a fully transcribed scenario showing how the techniques revealed work together in a simulated customer interaction to drive customer engagement and put you as the salesperson in control of the conversation and the process.

‘Company X’ is a pretend Global Corporation that sells everything to everyone, and I am the sales representative who takes this customer’s call. This example comes from an actual demonstration of the techniques I recently did in a sales training session, where I randomly picked a staff member to role-play the customer using whatever enquiry they came up with in the moment:

Simon: “Welcome to Company X, my name is Simon. How can I assist you today?”

Customer: “Hi there. I’m interested in getting a speedboat.”

Simon: “A Speedboat. How exciting. I’ll definitely be able to help you with that as we have quite a good range of speedboats currently available”

Customer: “Excellent”

Simon: “Before we get into the details, can I just ask who I’m speaking with?”

Customer: “Yeah, it’s Phil.”

Simon: “Thanks Phil, how are you today?”

Customer: “Not bad thanks.”

Simon: “Terrific. Phil if it’s ok with you, do you mind if we have a bit of a chat around your interest in a speedboat and your particular preferences? Would that be Ok? ”

Customer: “Absolutely. That would be great”

Can you spot each of the 4 techniques above?

It starts with a strong, proactive greeting, followed by a clear statement of intent in response to the customer enquiry. The customer’s name is then proactively sought and used immediately. The finish of customer engagement is achieved by strong, clear management of the customer’s expectations.

The management of expectations is critical to transition the customer into a needs discovery process that will initially focus on asking open questions to drive conversation around what the customer wants to achieve. It includes seeking their permission to participate in the sales process I have just advised them I will use. That is the key. Transparency and openness around the very process I will be using to make it easy for them to buy. Nothing to hide. Full disclosure.

This hand-off or ‘bridge’ from the initial customer engagement to the next stage of the sales process (i.e. discovery) is what builds trust and confidence as it makes the customer a part of the process. It’s about them, not your need to get the sale. The beauty of this approach is you get more sales.

The point of this is that the actual enquiry is irrelevant. You can substitute their interest in ‘speedboats’ with anything, and only slight adaptation is required to achieve the same outcome. Try this with your friends, family, boss and colleagues to get them to help you out in practicing and refining the technique to realise it’s universally applicable and adaptable. Substitute ‘speedboats’ for ‘apples’ or ‘clouds’ or ‘dustbins’. It doesn’t matter what the subject is.

What matters is that the techniques enable you to better manage conversations. That is the great skill that far too many staff at the frontline fail to have a handle on and what is often neglected in training, coaching and support with its emphasis on technical skills relating to systems, knowledge & process.

By being able to consistently engage your customers and manage the start of a conversation about anything, you will immediately understand the power you now have to set-up amazing conversations that drive desired sales and service outcomes that you can use time and time again.

Let me know what you think and I would love to hear other methods or variations on the above that you have tried or seen done for great impact in sales or customer service.