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Are You Listening to Your Customers?

In today’s barrage of advertising, in what seems to be every medium possible, it’s easy to get lost in all the noise and commotion out there.  Today consumers are getting propositioned every time they turn on the TV, the radio, the computer, open a social networking website, visit a store, or even open a magazine.  Heck even friends and family are trying to convince you to make a purchase on something they just bought or saw somewhere. The point here is that consumers are overwhelmed as others tell them what to buy and what they need.

Ever stop to think if your customers were confused by the mixed messages and clutter in the marketplace that you are representing?  If you haven’t, you’re missing something.  Your customers just don’t want to be told what to do or what to buy. They are looking something much deeper than just the latest gadget, consumable good or traditional sales pitch. They are looking for someone to listen to them. Through listening to your customers, mixed with a few carefully crafted questions, you are able to uncover their true needs. Once you have identified what your customers true needs are you can then, and only then, confidently offer a product and or service.  If you take a second to think about it, how do we really know what would work best for a customer unless we’ve taken the time to ask questions, listen to, and understand their responses?

A listening first approach is critical to becoming more successful in sales. I prefer this approach any day to the typical approach on just selling your customers the “flavor of the day”; never once taking the time to ask questions uncovering what’s really important to them.  Once you have listened to your customers, and uncovered their needs you can then position a product or service that they not only like and will use, but one that also adds value to their life. It is this “value” piece of the equation that will reduce product returns and more importantly increase customer loyalty.

I really like the saying, “we were all born with two ears and one mouth and should be using those in that same proportion”, especially in sales. In addition to more success in the sales arena, this approach truly would be helpful in a marriage or any relationship for that matter.  I too am guilty for not listening enough at times in my marriage.  Had I followed my own advice all the time I could have avoided some unpleasant conversations (ok they were arguments) with my spouse, which for the record I did not win *laughs and shakes head*. We all have areas of opportunity we would like to improve, right?

Anyways… As I mentioned before, there is a lot of noise in the marketplace right now in just about every industry. Do everything you can to help your customers make the best choice; start by listening to them.


Building Relationships Via Twitter

I have had some time over the last few days to really think about why I am present on Twitter, and what I truly enjoy most about that arena.  To be honest I could quite possibly open it up to the entire social media landscape as I am passionate about building relationships regardless of what form they might take in person or online.  For me Twitter seems to have a significant draw.  Mostly because it seems to house a significant number of local professionals, that are for the most part *bites tongue*, trying to add value to the online community in some way. More over these people actually care about others and are working to build relationships with people, in turn enhancing their personal and business lives.

Clearly there are the ever present distractions on Twitter i.e. Tweens discussing @JustinBieber or obsessing over the #Twilight movies at all hours.  Let’s not forget the constant noise of those individuals claiming to be “social media experts”, “gurus” or my favorite “ninja’s”; that won’t let you forget how awesome they are.  Meanwhile your Twitter stream seems to be overrun by these individuals selling their snake oil.  For the record, I am not impressed by your 38,000 followers, and 1,356,900 tweets.  When was the last time you actually “connected” with someone in a way that actually makes that other person feel valued?  It is clear to me that many on Twitter just don’t get it.  These “experts” cloud the internet with noise and distraction.

For me it’s different.  I’m not a social media expert by any means, nor will I ever claim to be.  How can one claim to be an expert in an arena that changes every month, every week, or every day for that matter?  For me social media is about learning.  Continuous learning.  Learning about how to better connect with people, both personally and professionally.  For me Twitter is about building trust, credibility, and relationships with real individuals.  It is these relationships that can ultimately lead to customer retention, customer loyalty, new business, or even a new friendship.

I can’t tell you enough how amazing it feels to have searched Twitter for a dissatisfied customer, a customer that has a problem or simply needs a question answered, and then been able to deliver for that customer in a way that turns around their perception of the products and or services you are selling or support.  To me this is the ultimate use and reason Twitter even exists.  Your customers need a sounding board.  A way to give you feedback, ask questions, or just plain vent.  The occasional positive praise doesn’t hurt either. There is one important lesson to take away here.  Listen to your customers.  They are taking the time to talk about and give feedback about you, your products, and services.  Use this information to make changes for the better, and build positive relationships with others in the process.

My goal is to serve as a resource in my field.  Someone others can trust and are excited about working with.  If I can help someone in some way, no matter how small, then I have added value to their life.  The ability to add value when possible is what keeps me using Twitter as a means of communication.  For me it’s all about building relationships and connecting with people.  Social media (Twitter included) is just another vehicle to get to that special place with your customers.


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