I learned a powerful lesson about selling from a 15 year old. My wife and I had just picked up a dog from the humane society. On the way home, we stopped at a pet store to pick up some dog food, a dish, and a leash. I’m figuring this stop will take eight minutes. That was before we met the store’s teenaged employee, “Tina.”
“Anything in particular you’re looking for?” Tina asked. My wife replied that we’d just picked up a dog from the SPCA and needed a few supplies. The teenager’s response: “Really? You adopted! That is so sweet. You know, I’m working here because this is more than just a job to me. I’m doing this because I love animals. So, no matter where you buy your pet supplies from, I want to make sure that we get all of your questions answered, so that your little dog gets the best possible care.”
I glanced over at my wife and notice that she’s looking at Tina with the kind of expression that says, “You are a child of God who this world needs more of and of course we’re going to buy all of our pet supplies here and let’s not even dicuss anything as petty as price.”
Fifty-eight minutes later, I’m pushing a cart out the door with over two hundred dollars worth of pet supplies. The dog was only seventy five.
We get it!
That part-time teenaged employee had done something refreshingly unique and convincing. She expressed what I call a “Grand Intention.” She shared that she was there not simply to make a commission or sell dog food but to help people take better care of animals. By expressing her Grand Intention, Tina demonstrated that she cared about our big picture. In other words she proved to her customers that she gets it. The good news is that you can have the same impact when you bring this approach to your company.
Crafting your own “Grand Intention”
I’m sure that you care about your customers. I hope your employees do as well. The problem is, do you consistently tell your customers that you care? That’s why one of the goals of our Influence with Ease training sessions is to help employees to clarify their “Grand Intention.” Usually, it involves expressing to customers that you understand not only their immediate needs but also their larger desires. An insurance adjuster, for example, might acknowledge the pain and hassle the customer is going through to get a claim settled. So, the adjustor might start the conversation with something like, “First of all, I want you to know that I understand what a hassle and inconvenience it is to be involved in accident. One of my goals is to make this part of the process as easy as possible for you and to ensure that you get every penny of coverage that you are entitled to.”
The Grand Intention can be used in other non-sales-type scenarios. An attendee of one of my training sessions, a manager of collections for a utility power company, said that he would urge his employees to use the Grand Intention for collections. So, rather than starting a conversation with a late-paying customer with a negative like, “We need to do something about your outstanding bill,” instead, using the Grand Intention, they would begin with, “Our goal is to help you to reestablish your good credit.”
Grand Intentions also work well for enhancing trust and cooperation with internal customers. Picture being in the Information Technology Department and receiving a call from a stressed co-worker who’s having computer problems. Early in the conversation, you say something like, “I understand how frustrating it is when you are in the middle of dealing with a customer and the darned computer crashes. I want to get you back up and running as fast as possible so that you can get back to those customers that pay all of our wages.” Again the Grand Intention proves to the customer—in this case internal customer—that you get it.
Disarming the cynical customer
You’ve probably noticed that today’s consumer is better educated, streetwise, and, frankly, more cynical about other people’s motives than ever before. Consumers seem to be taking the advice that parents give their children: “Come straight home, and don’t talk to strangers!” Beyond telling employees to be friendly with customers, managers need to equip their staff with tools for establishing trust. Expressing your Grand Intention is an easy way to break through the barriers. Not a bad lesson from a 15 year old.
Customer service strategist and professional speaker, Jeff Mowatt is an authority on The Art of Client Service . . . Influence with Ease. For Jeff’s other tips, self-study resources, and training services on establishing trust, click Greeting Customers and Establishing Rapport. Visit www.jeffmowatt.com or call 1.800.JMowatt