This may sound simplistic, but too often we think of buyers as prospects, leads, champions, future customers instead of thinking about them as people. People like you and me. It’s sometimes as if we think they are just playing a role in the theatrical play called “My Life”. When we dehumanize buyers into just their roles, we won’t connect on that emotional level that buyers need in order to feel confident.
There is lots of advice out there on how to relate to people, how to ask open ended questions, behaviors to show you are listening, how to make people feel cared about. In my opinion, most of this is garbage and useless because it's just a put on and people see right through it. There is no substitute for actually seeing other people as people and caring about them. If you do, all else will come naturally.
Part of what tempts us to dehumanize buyers is that we're intimidated by them. We know they hold the keys to something we want and this influences our thinking. Instead of feeling intimidated, place the focus of your effort on reaching them on a personal level. It doesn't have to be complicated. Even a small real connection goes a long ways. That said, you can get as involved as you want in your efforts to reach the person behind the role.
Years ago I heard Robert Harris, the founder of ChemDry, an international leader in carpet cleaning franchises, explain the principle that “people are just people” by telling how he won over some key distributors from Japan. At the time they were courting a large Japanese distributor and wanted to do a multi-million dollar deal. To ChemDry it was a big deal, but to the distributor ChemDry was still an unproven small company. The Japanese delegation had come to visit Harris in California and after a couple of days of meetings he took them to his personal mountain retreat. Harris was trying to get a verbal commitment from them, but they were balking and delaying.
Harris was an aviation enthusiast and a stunt pilot. He could see they were at an impasse, so he decided to take a break and invited them to ride with him in his private plane. He took them up and part way through the ride did a full loop. His guests all gasped, then laughed, a little nervous but clearly delighted. Harris laughed with them. Laughing he asked, “Do we have a deal?” No response. So Harris took the plane through a barrel roll. Again, more gasping and laughing. Harris laughed again and asked, “So do we have a deal now?” They laughed back, but still no response. Harris pulled the plane straight up until it stalled, the engine going silent. The plane began to streak downward. Moments later he roared the engine back to life. Laughs of relief and delight came again. “Do we have a deal yet?” Harris asked again. Finally the answer came back as the delegation leader, laughing said, “Yes, yes, just take us back down to earth!”
Now few of us could pull this kind of stunt (pun intended) to get a deal done, but Harris’ main point in telling this story was this: forget about who you are talking to, forget about how important the deal is to you, and remember that people are people. Don’t be intimidated. Treat them like a human being and make a real connection. Good things follow.