A Norwegian psychology professor once shared a bit of wisdom that I have never forgotten. And it has become the basis for one of our most important principles for strengthening customer relationships – and even collegial relationships, for that matter.
He told me, “It is important that your customer like and respect you, but it is much more important that your customer like and respect himself when he is with you.”
The best way to strengthen a relationship, the professor added, is to ensure that the other person is glad to spend time with you. And the best way to make sure people are glad to spend time with you is to give them reason to feel good about themselves whenever they meet with you.
This may seem like obvious advice, but most sales and service professionals don’t follow it. We tend to be so focused on looking smart ourselves and being heroes in our customers’ eyes, that we completely forget about their need to feel smart in their own eyes and to look like heroes in their own organizations.
When you are with a client or customer, focus on making that customer feel good about herself and she will feel good about you and your company. If there is a problem to be solved, make sure that the customer feels that she is part of the solution, not just an admirer of your cleverness. If there is a smart recommendation to make, try to ensure that the customer plays a key role in crafting the recommendation. And, of course, listen and acknowledge with genuine interest.
And by the way, all the above applies to how we should treat family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Everyone will like you more if they like themselves when they are with you.