The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee. And I will pay more for that ability, than for any other under the sun.
Resolving Beliefs and Values Conflicts
The ability to communicate is one of the most important skills in business. It is also the factor that determines your self-confidence and allows you to “deal” even with the most challenging people.
This article addresses effective communication with clients in a service industry. For the sake of demonstration, we have imagined a client who is in the process of buying a new home and needs a loan to complete the transaction. This client comes to you to obtain your service.
Any service industry, including a loan industry is a people business. When we interact with clients we must be able to establish rapport, which is critical to establishing trust.
To create rapport, we must be able to match the client’s communication style, and to “read” the client. Understanding the client’s beliefs and values is the key to establishing rapport and being able to influence the client’s decision-making process. When we take the time to discuss our client’s values and beliefs, the client will not only give us the information we need to close our transaction, but also feel grateful to us for taking the time to ask important questions.
The first step in influencing client’s decision-making processes is value elicitation, asking questions to ascertain their concerns and their goals. Ask your clients questions like the following questions.
1. What’s important to you about getting this product, service?
2. What are your goals and aspirations for this transaction, and why achieving these goals is important to you?
3. Which goal is most important to you?
4. Is goal “A” more important than goal “B”?
5. How do you rank all of these goals in order of importance?
6. If you can’t have goal “C” in today’s market, but can have goal “D”, would that be OK?
Listen carefully to the clients. Ask follow up questions to find the meaning of the client’s answers.
7. What does that goal mean to you?
8. How will you know when you have reached that goal?
9. Why you feel so strongly about…?
When you ask sincere questions, your clients will tell you what they really want and how the service or product will help them get what they really care about.
Sometimes client’s values are in conflict. For some individuals money and freedom are actually in conflict because the client equates money with obligations and responsibilities. Clients’ statements may indicate value and belief system conflicts that you should try to understand through questions. When clients’ make statements like the following statements there is likely a value and belief system conflict.
1. “…Hmm, I don’t know what prevents me.
2. “This just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
3. “This just isn’t like me.”
4. “I don’t understand this, but…”
5. “I don’t believe this, but…”
6. “Logically I know this isn’t true, but…”
Exposing and understanding a value conflict will help your clients resolve the conflicts and make the choices needed to complete the transaction.
You will help your clients to keep on track, understanding what they really want and why the service or product will help them. In the end, your clients will be grateful to you feeling listened to, cared about, and that they received the best service possible from you. You can look forward to repeat business from these satisfied clients.
Eliciting values and beliefs is one of the most powerful techniques in rapport building, something we will discuss in later chapters and also in a book I am planning called Rapport Mastery.
Your Client’s Beliefs
Beliefs are statements about how we see the world that underlie all our actions and control our behavior. Every aspect of communication is processed through the filter or our beliefs. Our beliefs allow us to do certain things and prevent us from doing others. Beliefs are linked to values. In an effective communication process, you will work within your client’s belief structure. To effectively communicate with your clients, you must enter and communicate from the client’ belief system, not yours. Discard your beliefs for just a moment and pay full attention to what your client is telling you. You must be able to see the world through your client’s eyes.
Improving Your Persuasion Skills
Your ability to influence and persuade clients is one of the most important skills in the service industry.
There are two things to keep in mind when you want to persuade a client to take an action. First, be laser clear about what you want, or at least the range of outcomes that you want.
Second, remember that people do things for their own reasons, not yours. An effective persuader presents strategies and outcomes that are aligned with the client’s values and goals. An idea will be persuasive if its benefits for the client outweigh its disadvantages.
It is often useful to take a few minutes to use a method used by Benjamin Franklin when he was confronted with difficult choices. Write a statement of the proposed course of action at the top of a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of a sheet. Write the heading “Pro” on one side and “Con” on the other side. Then on the Pro side list all of the reasons you can think of for the client to go ahead with a particular course of action. Under Con, list all the reasons for not going ahead. Then consider whether the advantages or the disadvantages will have the most weight in terms of the Client’s values and objectives. This will be effective if you can do this from the client’s perspective, from the client’s model of the world.
Once you have done the analysis and are convinced that you have a good idea from your client’s point of view, your next step is to find the best way to present your idea so that your client will accept it. Your presentation of the idea must be consistent with the client’s decision making processes, so that the client will find it irresistible.
The Client’s Decision Strategies
Typically, clients go through the following steps in making and implementing decisions.
- Problem/situation analysis
- Generate alternative solutions
- Choose the best alternative
- Implement the chosen alternative
- Monitor the results of the alternative
In the service business, you must be able to quickly determine the decision-making strategies employed by your client, the process your client goes through in making decisions. Decision making involves three distinct phases:
- Motivation – Here the client is interested in considering making a decision. The client is “deciding to decide”.
- Decision – Here the motivated client makes a decision.
- Verification – Here the client verifies that his or her decision was a good one.
With regard to the Motivation phase, some clients will be motivated by short-term gains or necessity. Other clients are motivated by long-range considerations. A few people are impulse-motivated. The want it now.
With regard to the decision phase, some clients examine every conceivable alternative, others need two or three alternatives to choose from, and some don’t need any alternatives. Some clients require third party opinions and must “talk it over” with someone; others prefer to make decisions by themselves. Certain clients need to see every piece of documentation and research they can find, while others are happy with a recommendation from a source they find trustworthy. Some clients make decisions very quickly while others require days, weeks and even months. Some clients are concerned about how a particular course of action will look in the eyes of others or how others will be affected by the decision; for other clients this will not be an issue.
At the point of verification, the client will find all possible reasons to justify the decision. People want to remain congruent and want to avoid any sense of dissonance. However, some clients will experience buyer’s remorse.
In order to identify your clients’ decision strategy, you need information about how that person has made similar decisions in the past. Look for the patterns in his or her past decisions use these patterns in designing your communication strategy.
To identify the client’s decision strategy, consider asking the following or similar questions. Let’s imagine for now we are dealing with a client who is applying for a loan to purchase a how,
What has prompted you to consider buying a new home?
How have you decided what you need?
What’s most important to you about…….?
What’s next most important to you about…..?
What factors were most important in your decision to purchase your last home?
What factors went into your decision to (buy in this price range) or ……..?
When you took the last loan, what where the deciding factors in your mind?
How did you reach the decision to (take the last loan)?
How did you feel after you decided to……?
You must pay very close attention to the answers as those will provide you with the keys into your client’s mind and help you close the transaction quickly and elegantly. Information gathering is perhaps the most important component in your relationship with the client. You must allot an appropriate amount of time to this component, consistent with the client’s needs. Not only does information gathering allow you to build rapport with your client but it empowers you in the persuasion process.
Now that you have identified your client’s decision strategy for securing a loan, you have the tools to use when persuading the client. Your job is to use the client’s decision strategy patterns to develop your communication approach. Generally, the development of your communication plan is a translation of the client’s decision strategy, and looks like this:
|Decision Strategy||Presentation Goal|
When your client is motivated to make a decision, you will know how to support this motivation, communicate your recommendations and convince him or her to accept your ideas. You will know the steps that the client will want to follow in making the decision, and when the client verifies the decision, you will know how to reassure him or her that the decision was the right one.
When you are identifying your client’s strategies, you need to consider the following:
Amount of time needed to reach a decision – If a client typically takes a long time to reach decisions, you cannot expect him or her to feel comfortable in acting quickly on your proposal. If fast action is required, do all you can to help the person gather as much information as he or she may want. When you have a client who requires a lot of time to make a decision, establish a deadline in his or her mind. You may say, “I know it is important to take the time to make a decision as important as this, and by January 29, I am sure we will have all the facts to complete the deal. January 29 is the date then”.
Amount of information needed to reach a decision – Some clients require huge amounts if information; others require very little. Once you recognize the client needs a lot of information, give it to him or her. Support your presentation with sentences such as “the data shows”, “it has been demonstrated”, “statistics show that”, “the market trends have been…” If the client has a clear vision of desired outcome and can be convinced by strong logic, present your ideas in ways that dovetail with his or her vision or help support it. Present your ideas to support or enhance the client’s vision.
Number of alternatives – Some clients will need to consider every possible alternative; others need only one or a few. If your client requires many alternatives, be prepared and offer those alternatives. While doing so gently lead the client to the alternative you think is the best. You may say, “Once you decided to choose the second alternative, you will soon find out that this is the one you are looking for”.
Third part endorsements – Some people will decide only if credible third party or parties recommend a particular course of action. In this case, you may want to include a significant third party in the discussions and get them on your side.
Dominant perceptual mode – This aspect of communication will be extensively discussed in Rapport Mastery. Generally, people receive and process information in three different ways: kinesthetic (how they feel about something, how comfortable they are with the idea), visual (how it looks) or auditory (what they hear or what others will say). To communicate effectively, you must be able to recognize your client’s dominant perceptual mode and adjust your language accordingly. Pay attention to the language. When your clients uses words such as “see”, “observe”, “notice”, ”recognize”, “appears”, “watch”, this client uses a predominantly visual mode. When you hear your clients say words such as “hear”, “resonates”, “sounds”, “told”, the client uses an auditory mode. When you hear words such as “feels like”, “I sense that”, “gut feeling”, “not sure”, you may be dealing with a predominantly kinesthetic person. Match your language to the language your clients uses. Always match your clients’ language and pace your speech to match that of your client. When you do that, your client will soon feel in rapport with you, making your jib a lot easier.
When I started in personal development inductry I discovered a very powerful technique developed by one of my mentors, Richard Bandler, the co-founder of Neurolinguistic Programming. The method is called Future Pacing. Pacing is something you do in the present moment to get into alignment with another person. Future-Pacing enables you to exercise control over something that might happen in the future. Future-Pacing refers to anticipating problems that may arise or objections that your clients may raise, and providing for their solutions in advance.
For example, you have a client named Jeffrey who you think might later regret his decision: “Jeffrey, in my experience, some clients have questions that arise naturally later on. If any questions arise for you, what I would like you to do is reach for the phone (here simulate reaching for a phone) and give me a call. I will be glad to do whatever needs to be done”. By saying this you have future-paced your client. If Jeffrey feels any kind of “buyer’s remorse” he is more likely to call you for reassurance than to cancel the deal.