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Stop Trying to Sell. Just Listen.


“To sell Jane Brown what Jane Brown buys, you have to see the world through Jane Brown’s eyes.”

I remember that phrase from several years ago as one of the greatest I’ve ever heard – especially as it relates to thinking like a customer. Of course, it’s much easier said than done. In the process of selling, our own biases and beliefs about our product, service, or idea get in the way, as do our intentions and poor listening.

Persuasion vs. Understanding

Many times, our intent to sell or persuade causes us to fail because it’s focused on what we want. As a result, we don’t seek real understanding before seeing if the other person even views it the same way. The power in seeing the world through Jane Brown’s eyes is quite simple: you accomplish so much more that way. If you are in sales, you sell more. If you’re an attorney, you win more cases. If you’re a teacher, you teach better. And, you’re a better parent if you have children. So on and so forth. Why is it easier to accomplish more with this philosophy? Because there is far less trial-and-error, and less hoping you are right or guessing what the other person is thinking.

When You Lack Customer Perspective

There are plenty of ways that companies fail to think like the customer. Things as simple as the tiny, unreadable writing on hotel shampoo bottles and frustrating automated customer service operators; these completely hinder the customer experience. Even more serious issues are often neglected, like those commonly dealt with by customers with disabilities.

5 Ways to Think Like a Customer

  1. Never forget the company methods or policies that bothered you. Plenty of policies and procedures have been changed because someone like you was the catalyst. Either you created something that was more customer-focused or you gave feedback that made the company see how their policy or procedure needed to be changed.
  2. Ask great questions about how others feel. Never stop short of true understanding. Most people don’t reveal everything they are thinking, so seek that understanding, and don’t be in a hurry to push your idea or agenda.
  3. Be a great listener. As sales guru Linda Richardson says, “Listen to question, not to answer.” So often we can’t wait for the other person to stop talking so that we can say what we are thinking. Stop, wait, and listen.
  4. Ask, ask, ask. If you want to know what someone really thinks, don’t be afraid to ask. They can’t or won’t tell you if you don’t ask.
  5. Have thick skin. Lastly, if you really want to know what others think, don’t be surprised if their ideas are not in line with yours. In fact, their frankness may even hurt your feelings. If you truly want to know, ask and listen, but most importantly, be open minded. If you can’t keep that open mind, then you can never be customer-focused.

What does Jane Brown say about all this?

Find her, ask her, and listen.

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