The first step in achieving successful interpersonal relationships is to build rapport. Sometimes this is a “non-event”, when people just seem to hit it off and instantly become best friends. Other relationships can require more effort toward finding common ground and productive patterns of communication. And then there are those unfortunate engagements where people clash at hello.
A common social error that often results in one party feeling utterly disrespected and the offending party having little to no chance at recovering from the faux pas is the failure to know one’s audience.
I’ll never forget attending my oldest child’s “Meet the Teacher” night during his second grade year. My husband’s complexion is very dark. My complexion is very fair. Our oldest has a blended complexion that favors his dad’s side. As my son and I began chatting with his new teacher, I asked about tutoring opportunities that might be available to him during the school year. She invited me to have my son’s “mother” call her for a personal phone consultation to discuss it further. Open mouth, insert foot. She didn’t know her audience.
In sales, failing to recognize the customer almost assuredly becomes the kiss of death. If you’ve ever received a “switch to XYZ Cable Company” after being with XYZ Cable Company for 10 years, you know the feeling… While database and administrative errors are irritating, they are also more forgivable. Interpersonal errors are far less easy to dismiss.
I was recently introduced to a B2B sales rep for a well-known cutlery company who gave a very persuasive presentation for using her products as closing gifts. She took my business card, and followed up like a pro. She had my interest, and I indicated I wanted to do business with her. She immediately threw up a wall stating she would need to meet with my “supervisor” to go any further. If she had done even the slightest bit of research prior to calling me (e.g., reading my business card) she would have recognized that she already had the decision maker in front of her. She didn’t know her audience.
In the corporate world, enterprise-level B2B sales teams spend months preparing for their pitches. They thoroughly research the key players in their audience, and come to the table with a presentation that proposes a solution to an existing problem they know their prospects have. They know their prospects’ names, their backgrounds, personal details and preferences, and don’t leave the door open to embarrassing blunders that would prevent a business affinity from forming. This is the making of million dollar deals.
Life is sales. Communication is a sales process.
Sales Champions know that it can’t be about themselves. It cannot be about their awards, their trophies, the money they make, the cars they drive, or their egos. Everyone we come into contact with is a potential ‘customer’ of our services — whether it is an exchange of friendship or a business transaction. If you are looking for a way to impress others around you, sharpen up your detective skills and start learning about your audience. Who are they? What makes them tick? What problems do they need help solving? Know your audience, and watch rapport grow favorably between you.
To your success!