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How to Connect and Stay Connected ± Lesson One

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

In both sales and service, client engagement is often the difference between a successful call and an unsuccessful call ± from the client­s perspective.  This series of lessons will focus on client engagement from a selling perspective.

What does it mean to engage the client?  It means to come together, to join up, to lock in as a single unit.  An engaged client is one who is listening.  Engaged clients are much more likely to share pertinent details that will make our sales efforts more fruitful (and more client-friendly).

In this series, I will walk you through five pillars of client engagement, five ways to make sure your client is on the phone, focused and participating.  Our five fundamentals of Client Engagement are listed below.  This will also be the order of our series.

  1. Client-Engagement through Relational Skills (Being Likeable)
  2. Client-Engagement by Asking the Right Questions
  3. Client-Engagement through Great Conversational Skills
  4. Client-Focused Recommendations

Client-Engagement through Relational Skills (Being Likeable)

Our first method of engaging clients can be the easiest – or the hardest, depending on the agent.  Relational skills are those that help us sound likeable.  Being likeable is one of the best ways to keep a client listening and engaged.

Let­s look at the typical phone call.  These days, unfortunately, most clients are expecting a pretty low-energy agent to greet them in a scripted way.  Some clients are already setting up for battle if they are upset by some aspect of the product.  No one wants a poor call, but most clients have come to expect one, at least on an unconscious level.  When they hear the mechanical greeting, they are not surprised.  My guess is that the most common, immediate thought by clients is,  Here we go again.  At that point, clients will usually go into control mode and try to steer the call, usually making things worse for everyone involved.

Here is the silver lining.  Agents who start calls with a friendly, light approach, can instantly disarm their attackers.  Clients will very often calm down, take a breath, relax, all because the agent sounds friendly and, therefore, competent. Yes, I said,  competent.  The characteristic of  friendly spills over in good ways to other characteristics.   This agent cares.   This agent must have my best interests at heart.   This agent must be good (competent) at what he/she does.

Start your calls with a light, friendly approach.  Careful not to overdo it.  Being too friendly will sound creepy.  Clients will assume you have had extensive training on trying to be friendly, rather than being happy that you are friendly.

If the client is confused, by all means apologize for the confusion and stress you are going to help clear things up, but then get back to friendly, cheerful.

If the client is upset, absolutely go into Empathy mode, apologizing and stressing that you will take care of them as quickly and effectively as possible.  As soon as you hear the client start to calm down, get back to mildly cheerful.  After another minute, if the client is fully calm, get back to friendly.

Likeability and Engagement

Client Engagement is the goal.  How does being likeable contribute to client engagement?  When clients like the agent they are speaking with, they listen more closely and stay involved.  They also open up more.  If they are shopping for a product, they are much more likely to share feelings and emotions to the friendly agent they would not offer to others.   Well, honestly, I know I want this product.  I­m just not convinced my husband is going to appreciate my buying it without his being involved.  Wow.  That was a golden nugget.  The client told the agent exactly what is at stake if the purchase is made.  This statement gave the agent the direct route to the client­s mindset.  Most effective agents can easily handle this concern before it becomes a true customer objection later on the call.

Clients who are engaged are more forgiving.  If clients like the agent and continue to feel appreciated by the friendly communication, they will not sound so upset when a product or a size is out of stock.  Even if they are disappointed, they will continue to treat the agent respectfully because they like the agent.   Wow, that is a disappointment.  I really wanted that size table cloth, and it was such a good price.  Okay, well, you know what, let­s do this instead–.  Clients remain human – and humane – all because the agent worked hard to engage them with a friendly approach.

Client Engagement is easy when agents and supervisors maintain it as a goal, as a top priority.  Starting and remaining likeable and easy to talk with is one of the simplest ways to achieve strong Client Engagement.  It may not always net you a sale, but if a sale is possible, you have a much better chance of making it if you capture the client­s heart along the way.