If you read the first of my blogs you learned that almost everything of any value comes from and depends on connection. You may also have realized when the connection is broken, all can be lost. I hate to be melodramatic, but I really do mean ALL.
In the second blog I wrote about some of the rules that govern our attempt to reconnect. Understanding these rules helps us understand why reconnection is so difficult. Disconnection in relationships is common and in many cases, permanent. Remember the salesman who became disconnected from his customer and eventually lost that account? In this blog I want to address the need for connection in our personal life and the tragedy of disconnect.
You may be familiar with the term “bar bet.” It is the bet we make with a friend or even a stranger in a social environment. It’s usually on some trivial fact. Maybe it’s who won the 1945 World Series or the first Super Bowl or which team will win the game being shown on the bar television. Many times the person who initiates the bet already knows the outcome, so I guess you could say it’s really a trick. Not very serious, just for fun and maybe a beer.
So, I’ll make you a bet just for fun. I’ll bet I can sit at a table in a restaurant and after 10 minutes tell you which couples are connected and the ones that aren’t. Here’s how I’ll do it. First, look at their eyes. The eyes are windows to the soul and surely to the heart. People that are connected make eye contact with the person or people they are with.
People that sit together, but are disconnected, tend to look around the room often past the other person. They may even continuously look at their smart phone or watch. They know if they make eye contact it may elicit an emotion or even a confrontation. That confrontation might bring up their disconnect and the struggle that would be necessary to reconnect is too much, just too much. So as my Grandfather used to say “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
Next, I look at their hands. If you lay your hand on the table at dinner with your hand open, palm up, you are asking to connect. Palm down means you are less sure that the feeling will be returned, so a palm down has less emotional risk if it gets rejected. But hands closed mean I am not willing to connect and I will not respond in a positive manner if you reach out to me. I am closed.
Next, look at their faces. Partners that are connected practice active listening. When one person is talking, the other is not only hearing the words but also feeling the emotion behind the words. That’s a form of active listening. I’m into your story, sad or happy. I want to experience it too, even if it’s after the fact. People who are not connected tend to show no facial emotion other than boredom.
Next, look at the other body language. Arms crossed often indicates disapproval but also possibly disconnect. Sitting forward in your chair signals a desire to connect while sitting back may signal lack of interest.
The ultimate goal of many relationships is happiness. When people are happy they often smile. So look at the faces at the tables and measure the smiles.
Now, think about the couples you have known over the last 10 years. First, consider those whose marriage ended in divorce. Think about the signs of the growing disconnect before they finally gave up. But what about the friends you have that are still together. Are there signs of disconnection? All you have to do is listen and watch. You’ll recognize the disease. The disconnect between people we love and care about is tragic. Our disconnect and our inability to repair the damage turns friends and lovers into strangers. Strangers in our own house and even in our own bed.
So when does this start? Disconnection at a personal level starts when we find ourselves thinking more about ourselves then we do about others.The selfish person lives a life of loneliness because true connection is nearly impossible. Today more than ever in our history, we live in a disconnected society of lonely people and misplaced trust. Look around you for those that are connected, but don’t be surprised what you find.
Next week’s blog defines the level of the disconnect and what can lead to a turn around and a reconnect. Don’t watch your relationship dissolve before your eyes. Don’t wait until the damage is permanent. Be proactive.
My daughter sat down with me several years ago and wanted to talk about the future. “What should I be when I grow up?”
I said, “You can be whatever you want to be. You could be a doctor, lawyer or even an Indian Chief.
She laughed and said “Dad, I’m serious.”
“Sweetheart, all I want is for you to be happy.”
“I want to be happy,too, but my friend Susan wants to be a dentist. She has her career path all planned out.”
So I asked my daughter to describe her ideal job.
“Something where I work with people. A job where I can make a difference. Something where I can be happy, but still make a lot of money”.
I said, “What about sales?”
“Dad, I don’t want to sell things. Sales doesn’t seem like a very noble profession to me. Talking people into buying things that they may not even need, seems a little shady.”
I thought for a moment and replied, “What if I told you that every profession and every job has one thing in common? Every job is a sales job, and I can prove it.”A great example is teaching, perhaps the most noble profession of all. The future of our country and the world are in the hands of our children and our children are in the hands of our teachers. Often times in this economy both parents must work full time to make ends meet. This results in our children spending more time with their teachers than their parents. Because of this, it is our teachers who shape the way our children see the world.
I was a teacher once and it was the best job I ever had. I taught 9th grade Science to kids who were not interested in facts as mundane as the age of the Grand Canyon. Although my lesson plans were fact filled, the students found them to be stale and boring. In my second year I came to a great realization, I had to sell Science to them. I needed to make it interesting and exciting because I was in competition for their attention. I became a seller of knowledge. Once I realized that, my classes became fun for the students and for me as well. The key was selling, selling them the magic of Science.
We come in contact with “salesmen” every day. Your doctor sells you on the belief medication he prescribes will cure your ills. Your mechanic sells you a tune up that will save you money on fuel. Your dentist sells you teeth whitening that will improve your smile. The teller at the bank sells you their credit card, proclaiming it is better than the card offered by the bank next door. And so on and so on. I can’t think of a profession that doesn’t at some level involve the presenting of an idea. That is sales. Sales is when you convince someone, including yourself, to do something. So don’t fool yourself. Everybody is selling something!Opportunities to sell happen every day. I remember an interesting opportunity shortly after getting married. Debby worked for a very prestigious Dallas real estate firm. The female agents never went anywhere without their clothes perfect, their nails painted, and their hair combed just so. They were the epitome of sophistication and grace.Then came the softball tournament. A variety of companies organized teams to raise money for a local charity. Debby talked the realtors into signing up to represent their company and their profession. It was a typical summer day in Dallas, Texas. As my grandfather used to say “100 degrees in the shade.” The ladies looked great. Outfits were color coordinated and varied from walking shorts to Capri pants, worn over panty hose of course.After two innings I could see their makeup beginning to melt and mascara ring their eyes. Then, in the third inning, it happened. A line drive straight at my third baseman. There was no time to react. The ball hit her just below the right eye where the skin is the thinnest and the check bone creates a hard under surface. She put her hands up to her face and bowed her head. When she looked up, there was blood everywhere. I called time out and rushed to the field. Both teams were speechless as they watched me help her back to the dugout. My pitcher broke the silence, “Coach, you didn’t tell us we could get hurt!” It was true, I had never mentioned the risk.
Finally, the game ended and the ladies headed toward their cars, hot, sweaty, and dirtier than they’d ever been. I stopped them, “Ladies, great game. You won!”
My team captain grinned, “Yay! Now it’s time to go soak in a hot bath.”
I smiled and said, “That sounds great, but since we won, you have another game in one hour.” They were in shock. I guess I hadn’t explained what single elimination meant. You play till you lose.
It was a day I will always remember. We won the next game and the one after that. Midway through the championship game I could see they were totally exhausted, but somehow they played even harder than before. As I walked through the dugout offering water, my shortstop said, “I don’t need a drink. Just pour it on my head!” So I did as asked. SPLASH.I wish I could tell you we won the tournament, but I can’t. We lost by one lousy run. I coached sports for many years after that, but have never been as proud of my team as I was that day. That team was a perfect example of courage and grace under fire.
Long story, I know, but the point is that day I was not just a coach, I was a salesman. I sold them the idea they could play through the heat, the pain, and sometimes the fear. I painted the dream and made them want it as much as I did. If that’s not sales, I don’t know what is.
Now that you realize all jobs are really sales jobs, it is time to improve your selling skills so you can be successful at any job. There is only one logical place to start. Connection.
My next blog will show you that the same skills necessary to connect in business relationships are just as important to have a personal relationships. Want to know why your relationship isn’t working? I’m willing to bet it’s because you are not connected.
After reading the previous blog you can now see that trust is a necessary part of building a successful relationship. Let’s explore that a little further, from a business standpoint.
One way to look at the sales situation is a simple analysis of price versus cost. Let’s define price as the dollar amount required to purchase a product or service, and cost as the price per unit of value. But remember, the customer is the one who defines value, not you or the company you represent. You might think that trust is only important when you’re selling a value proposition. This is not true. Even if you’re selling a product or service on price, the prospect must believe you can provide it at that low price and on time. That takes some level of trust. Selling on value is almost all trust driven. The customer must believe that the benefits your product or service delivers will provide them enough believable value to make choosing your company the smart choice.
This means whether you are selling on price or value it requires trust. Sounds simple, but where does trust come from? Trust is the product of connection. Continued trust deepens that connection. Let’s circle back to out subject. How can we connect with our prospects and customers, making the sale possible? As you may have guessed, most successful transactions can be traced back to successful relationships. The formula that works best is:
Build the relationship🔗Develop the connection🔗Deepen the trust🔗Make the commitment🔗Ask for the business
Oversimplifying the process? Yes, but I believe it is accurate. President Theodore Roosevelt once said “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” To build a relationship you must show the prospect that you care about them as a person and not just as a decision maker.
A good friend of mine always says, “First make a friend and then make a sale.” This approach has always made sense to me. If I think of selling as just making new friends then the whole process seems a lot less stressful. In fact, it’s kind of amazing that a company would pay you just to go out and make new friends! That’s not my whole job description but it is certainly the most critical part.
Before you can build a relationship with a prospect you have to get in front of the decision maker . Can you build that relationship over the phone or with email or even Twitter? I must admit, I am old school when it comes to relationship development. I might build some sort of relationship over these media avenues but it’s hard for me to believe it would be much more than superficial.A big part of building a relationship comes from face to face contact, body language, voice inflection, eye contact and so on. I don’t believe you can get that on social media. However, social media can play an important role and we can discus that later.Let’s assume you have gotten past all the gatekeepers that guard the decision maker’s time and here you are, face to face. I believe you should first thank them for the opportunity to meet with them. Second, show them that you know their time is important. Let them know you recognize the time you have in this first call is limited.
In a new call you probably don’t have a relationship established and therefore there is no trust established. Assure them you will be brief and to the point. You don’t build a relationship by starting a sales call talking about your products. Starting out by proclaiming the benefits of your product will probably fall on deaf ears. A good way to begin is by asking how long the decision maker has worked for the company and what they did before. Next, you can ask what areas fall under his supervision. This is a good opportunity to compliment the decision maker.
Now, find something you have in common. Share stories about your experiences. Practice active listening by paying close attention to the things the customer talks about and make comments that show you are really listening. Now you can briefly describe your company, your products or services, and the benefits they bring to the decision maker’s company.
⚪ Thank you for meeting with me.
⚪ I know, in your position, the demands on your times are huge. That’s why I will only take a few minutes. If I am here longer, it’s because you have an interest and maybe some questions.
⚪ That’s a lot of responsibility. How do you manage it?
⚪ If you don’t mind me asking,what’s the most important thing in management that has made you successful?
⚪ I appreciate you telling me that. Maybe we can talk more about that next time I’m here, if that’s okay.
⚪ Did you catch that fish in the picture? I’ve never caught one that big. How did you do it?
⚪ I promised I would not take too much of your time so let me tell you why I’m here.
⚪ I’m glad you’re interested. To be sure this is a perfect fit with your needs, I’ll need to find out more about your process.
⚪ I’d like to meet the person in your group that can show me around and answer a few questions. Then I will get back with you and we can see if you want to go further. If not, then I still feel like I made a new friend and you could do me a great favor. In my next visit let’s talk some more about your management style and how it has made this company so successful.
⚪ I really think I could learn some valuable things from your experiences.
Make a friend and build a connection. It’s an old school formula but it still works. TRUST ME.
I think you will find the next blog challenging as well as interesting. I will explain how all jobs and professions have one thing in common. They are all sales jobs, every one of them!
The last blog talked about a key ingredient that all successful professionals share. The ability to sell. The focus was on successful careers. What about selling within a personal relationship? A boyfriend and girlfriend or maybe a husband and wife. What about parents and children or between friends? I believe that selling is not only present in those relationships, but critical. Successful selling is made up of certain skills that are paramount in building relationships between individuals.
The first of those skills or abilities is listening. I usually talk about the difference between active and passive listening. But there is another type of listening, according to my wife. That’s selective listening. I used to think that selective listening was a term that was only used by marriage counselors to explain why I didn’t help with the dishes when asked. Here’s the deal. I had been watching the game when she asked me to help. It was 3rd and goal with only 60 seconds left. If I had taken time to explain why I couldn’t help right then, the play would have been over and the outcome of the game decided while I was in the kitchen. I was listening. Sort of.
However, as I reflect on my own experiences in personal and business situations, the term selective listening makes sense. Passive listening and selective listening can easily be confused. To me, passive listening is listening without hearing. Selective listening is hearing only what you choose to hear. So, of these categories of listening, there is only one that builds a relationship…active listening. Active listening means paying attention to the details of the story and asking for clarification at times. It means making remarks that show understanding and interest. Let’s circle back to the title of this blog, Selling in a Personal Relationship. Here’s an important rule in business and personal connection development. There is no real communication without active listening and without communication there is no selling, therefore no connection. So, active listening is a critical building block in any relationship.
There are, of course, other selling skills that transcend business into our personal lives. One might be needs satisfaction. When I’m selling a product or service I must uncover the needs of my prospect before I can show that my proposal will satisfy those needs. It’s also impossible to build a meaningful personal relationship without understanding the needs of your friend or partner. How can I do what makes you happy if I don’t know what makes you happy? Uncover their needs.
To uncover their needs, you must ask good questions. Asking good questions makes me a better father, husband, and friend. Questioning skills are the backbone of discovering the need you want to fulfill. Questioning isn’t necessarily an easy skill to learn and when undertaken clumsily can often do more damage than good. An example might be,”So, what did you get accomplished today?” This question seems to have a hidden meaning, making the other person feel defensive. Maybe it’s better to say “Tell me about your day.”
What if you ask your child, “Did you have a good day at school?” The answer you will get is probably “Yes.” With that brief answer you still don’t know more than you did before you asked it. Instead, you could ask, “What did you do at school that was really fun?” You just might get an answer that opens up the conversation to more specifics. Ask good questions.
In sales, we build a relationship by showing an interest in the hobbies and experiences of the prospect or customer. It’s the same when building a personal relationship. People love to talk about themselves, so encourage that discussion. Listen actively by asking good questions . Make comments that show you have genuine interest.
Another powerful tactic to build any relationship is by asking the person to help you learn something or teach you something that you struggle with. “I would really appreciate some suggestions that might improve my golf game. Maybe you can give me some tips to improve my score.” Or, “It’s obvious you are very successful at managing people. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned that helps you manage successfully?” Or, “It’s always a struggle for me to know what to wear to these business parties, but you always seem to choose the right look. How do you do it?”
Or, “Wow! You put that Lego tower together so fast. It looks great. What’s your secret?” People will almost always try to help you, once you recognize their ability and honestly ask for help. Be humble. Ask for help. “I had a great time tonight. How about you continue helping me locate the rest of the planets over dinner next Friday?” Or, “Do you think we could build more things with your Legos after you get home from school? You’re so good at it.” “Thanks Mom. I’d love to show you what else we can build.” Or, “You’re such a good friend and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with me. I think it will help me understand my boss better. I hope we can finish our conversation very soon. How about coffee at my house Saturday morning?”
The last selling skill I want to mention is the icing on the cake. The skill that completes the journey is closing the sale. In personal relationships, just like in sales, we never get what we desire unless we ask. Don’t be afraid. Get the idea? Ask for the order.
The skills we use in building a personal relationship have a lot in common with the skills we use when selling a new account.
📌 LISTEN ACTIVELY
📌 ASK GOOD QUESTIONS
📌 UNCOVER THEIR NEEDS
📌 ASK FOR THEIR HELP
📌 ASK FOR THE ORDER
In my next blog you will learn to Recognize the Personal Disconnect and possibly save your failing relationship.