In between the regular interview episodes we’ll continue to release sample stories from the book like this one. You can either listen to the episode and hear Dayna read her story, or read the full text below.
My Dad was Right!
By: Dayna Leaman
When you drive up to your home, do you get excited (or not excited) to see the car of a friend, loved one, or spouse? I know—a strange question as to how this would relate to sales, but it does. It is a real raw, heartfelt emotion about the way we FEEL instantly; the way we react to what we know to be TRUE inside of ourselves. This raw emotion is exactly how our customers feel about doing business with us. It’s true and it’s powerful!
Dianna Maul and Janelle Barlow talk about this idea extensively in their book, Emotional Value: Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers. In their preface, they state: “By understanding the critical role of emotions, organizations can take their customer’s offerings to new levels of refinement, compete more effectively, and most importantly, better retain both customers and staff.” This is so simple, yet many of us forget to think of sales in an emotionally intelligent manner. Think about this—when you go to a local restaurant: would you go back if the service was not good and you did not feel that you were being treated right (even if the food was amazing)? Some people do, but most people I know would not! I live in the food capital of the world, New Orleans, and I can tell you- no matter how much food matters, service matters just as much or even more. This is exactly how our customers feel and think. I have learned that understanding the connection I have with my customers is vital and the way they feel about me and vice-versa is so important in order to establish, cultivate, and expand the working relationship I hope to have for a long time.
I have been lucky enough to work with many of my customers for over 17 years. This is a true blessing and a gift; I have worked hard to cultivate these relationships with the understanding that they could leave at any time. Yes, they could leave me—customers can take your long-standing relationship for granted; this is happening in your world of fast-paced technology and offerings for the promise of more and better prices. Business is business in the end, but I do take it to another level of being personal because if I do, I will put myself on the line for my customers with my company. This can make all the difference in the way I fight for them and they know that! So, how do you cultivate this? I constantly ask myself this question: “How would they feel about their experience with my company today, and how can I help them better today?” I create plans around this philosophy and always look internally to delight and impress my customers. I have created a large sticky note in my office that states:
“How will this customer be different as a result of doing business with us?”
A long-time customer of mine at a university got the opportunity to meet the author of one of the titles I sell. He could be very abrasive and hard at times, even with me- and I know he liked me a great deal; otherwise, I would not have had the business for over 15 years. He told my author: “You know your book is OK, you are a talented writer, but the only reason we stay with your book is Dayna and once she leaves Wiley, we will be done with your book.” This shocked me and, while it made me feel good, it was a bit odd, as I did not want my author to feel hurt or embarrassed. I asked the professor why he said that him. He replied: “It is true Dayna, because in the end, that relationship we have with you is the important one—you are one that shows up; we use his book and his resources, but you are the one that supports us and our students. You are what matters most.” Now I look back and I know that if he could see me drive up to his building at school, he would be happy that I was there. That is powerful!
So how do you develop the emotional personal relationship effectively? By doing it—by listening to your customers, looking them in the eyes and using your emotional intelligence to read them and understand their inner motivation and why they want to do business with you, not just your company. This takes time to study and learn. You must do your homework on their prior experiences with companies and the people they have worked with over the past few years.
Over the years, I created a top 10 list of questions that revolve around the customers’ feelings and experiences, and I constantly ask those questions time and time again until I know them by heart, or they simply become just a natural part of the conversation. I then take the information I gather and build a customer service plan for that customer based on their critical needs in alignment with their emotional needs and their goals.
People will not partner with people they don’t understand and/or like! When you start with the heart’s purpose and understand their feelings, you can show up as your best self to your customers – they can see it and feel it. Needless to say, this intensifies your empathy and assertiveness.
My best and most loyal customers know that I have their strategic goals in mind and I know I understand the emotions behind their goals. Many of my customers in Higher Education are constantly working hard towards gaining tenure at their institutions. So, I keep that in mind. One young professor told me early on in my career: “Dayna I don’t care about this right now; I can’t; I don’t have time and I can’t do it all.” I told him: “Please, I care very much; let me care for you so you can do what you need to do to get tenure.” Getting tenure is like being a Supreme Court judge— a lifetime appointment. So, they don’t have time to plan their syllabus, pay attention to students and create their own resources—this is where I come in with my products and services. Their heart and all their emotions are all in getting tenure—it is their life! When I keep their goal of tenure in my mind and help them achieve their goals, they are very faithful to me and to Wiley. In the end, I can care for them and I am happy to because the customers will always remember this. What may be important to you may not always be the most important to them, and I remind myself of this every day.
My customers know that I will go to the ends of the earth for them. That is powerful. It has served me well for many years of constant success. It does not necessarily mean that things will always go right; I have failed and made the wrong moves, but none of them were a misstep as such for the customer. There were many times that I could not make something happen and I always apologized on behalf of my company, even if it was not my own fault. In fact, my biggest challenge was just that—having to sincerely apologize for selling a platform that simply did not work and perform as promised. I did a massive apology tour, talking to every customer and making sure they knew that we could and would be better. They all stood by me and that year I was still Rep of the Year—it was an amazing testimony to the power of solid relationships and, yes, being liked. I knew that people stood by me no matter what, and I knew what I would do to help support them and make sure this never happened again.
My father always told me these three things about building strong customer relationships:
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING
I have always held this advice close to my heart and it is so very true! I know I provide real value to my customers because I work hard, I listen, and I truly care for them as people. In this world, it is so easy to not get out of your head and listen and see your customers as real people who have feelings, emotions and challenges. I believe that when my customers see my proverbial car in their driveway, they get excited. I know that I do!
- Understand and learn emotional intelligence for yourself and your customers.
- Take time to learn your customers’ world and what truly matters to them—stop and listen carefully.
- Create a top 10 list of questions that matter to your customer to make sure you are getting to their goals.
- Your customers’ goals may not fall in line with your goals—make them align by addressing their need and care for them! They will let you!
- Challenges, missteps, and mistakes can help strengthen the bonds between you and your customers.
- Be liked, be known, and know what you are doing; in that order. My Dad was right!
- Pay attention to your emotions; they drive your customers’ goals and influence your sales.
Want more from Dayna Leaman? She was the star of episode 37: Dayna Leaman, Senior Account Manager at Wiley – Building a Sales Career Combining Passion and Talent