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You’re Doing it Wrong: Dale Carnegie Coach Offers Quick Tips for Customer Retention

Building loyal customer relationships takes time, skills and a personal touch, all of which many businesses forego in favor of the quick sale. But following some basic best practices can pay dividends in the long run, according to Lizz Glenn, a certified performance coach at Dale Carnegie Training of Southeast Michigan. Recently Glenn sat down with the eDetroiter to discuss her expertise on building win-win relationships through networking.

What is a common mistake most people make when approaching a potential customer?

They say “I” too much. I think we put too much focus on ourselves … we are all in sales. If you are not in a specific sales position, you are selling your ideas. When you are trying to communicate the benefit that someone is going to receive from your product or service you need to tell them, “You are going to benefit from this in such and such way. This is going to help you do this.” Instead of, “I do this, and my company is this.” No one cares. You need to put the focus on the customer. I think that’s the common mistake that a lot of people make. When we really focus on seeing things from our customer’s point of view, and put ourselves in his or her shoes, that makes a difference.

How do you determine what a customer’s wants and needs are?

Great question. I believe we determine that by asking questions. A lot of times in business, people go in and they talk a lot. I feel like we’re not uncovering our customers’ needs, because all we’re doing is talking about ourselves. I believe when you ask the right questions, and when you ask about a customer’s current situation, that’s really important, depending again on what product or service you sell.

In my instance, I always ask our customers, “What is the culture like in your organization? What are some challenges that you are facing in the workplace?”

You really have to focus on their pain points and get to their root cause of some issues.  When you ask the right questions, and when you’re proactively listening, you are able to ask more effective questions. A lot of times we listen but we’re not really listening. We’re listening to reply, and not necessarily listening to the person.

What is the No. 1 key to maintaining a long-term positive relationship with customers?

I think it’s just always touching your customer, even if you’re sending them an email to a value-added article. If you’re inviting them to an event … I don’t think each conversation we have with our customers should be to make a sale.

How do you make a professional connection more personal?

I think when you show your customer that, “Hey, I value you. Thank you for your business. I’m honored to serve you and your organization.” Show them that through contact. If you are sending articles, if you are sending happy birthday messages on LinkedIn, congratulations on the work anniversary … holiday parties … just making sure that you’re always touching them. When you do that, they remember you.

What are some more interesting networking topics when making small talk?

There is only so much someone can say about the weather. Small talk is so tough. In our classes, we literally teach an entire conversation stack. We teach this entire process on how to have effective conversations. It starts with asking someone about their name. Then maybe asking them different questions about their name before transitioning into, “Are you from Michigan originally?” “Do you have family here?” “Do you have pets?” That’s kind of the approach we take with getting to know people. I’ve read in a study, it is very common for Americans to —when we’re networking and meeting people—we always ask them what they do right off the bat. In other cultures, they don’t do that.

Could you share any personal experiences of bad small talk?

I asked, “What do you do?” once at a networking event and I totally shouldn’t have done it. The person was, I think, of Hispanic descent and it was offensive to him. He mentioned to me, “No. You should ask me about my family and things like that.” It’s important when you small talk to get to know the person. Be natural. A good question to start off with is, “What brings you to this event?” I find the more you talk with someone, the more you find commonalities.

They also say a first impression is a lasting impression. With your coaching expertise, what do you say to that?

I definitely think the first impression is a lasting one. Absolutely. I think the way you present yourself, meaning the way you dress, the way you act, the way you speak, people are judging that. They’re judging us by the way we look and what we say and how we say it. We need to be accountable for those things. You can always recover. You can always strengthen the relationship in ways where you can recover from that first impression. If we really strive to, when we’re meeting people, looking our best, being mindful of what we say, going into events prepared, it makes a huge difference.

What do you hope people will gain and take away from your session?

I want people to walk away with more tools in their toolbox. I want people to walk away remembering that the human connection is the most important connection. You live in such a wired world with social media and different things, and we’re communicating via email all the time.

When you focus on your people skills and your communication skills and build good relationships with people, it’ll take you very far, regardless of what industry you are in. One of my favorite quotes by Dale Carnegie is, “When it comes to one’s financial success, 15 percent of it is technical knowledge, and then 85 percent of it is human engineering,” which is the ability to understand and treat people.