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The attention span isn’t what it used to be, ranging from 20 minutes to just two seconds – which was just enough time to read that sentence. Adding the paradox of choice, it’s no wonder there is so much indecisiveness. One of my favorite researches on the subject is this jam experiment. Shoppers were presented with a choice of 24 different types of jam, which seemed like a great way to cater for all tastes. However, when shoppers were only presented with six options, they were ten times more likely to buy jam. The abundance of options attracted attention, but made decision-making difficult.
That doesn’t mean companies should do away with choice. This can also be a problem as customers often do their research before making a decision. They know there are other options, and so removing so many options quickly can make them question your recommendations. In general, those companies whose teams play more of an advisory role in the relationship win – the relationship isn’t about driving a sale, it’s about facilitating decision-making.
As a customer, I naturally prefer to participate in conversations about my challenges and goals, but I also want someone to advise me and not sell me a product or service. Whether B2B or B2C, customers want companies to tell them what direction they are considering and how to get there. This can only happen when you have built trust based on humility, empathy and kindness. It’s about becoming a clear expert in what you do.
Of course there is a learning curve. You must first become a student of your own industry – or at least advise from an informed position. If you allow yourself to be a sponge while being confronted with all things industry related, you will be in a better position to share your informed point of view. Customers are looking for advisors, and the following can help you make better decisions:
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1. Believe you are an expert
Most people, regardless of their role, have more expertise than they give themselves credit for. Let’s say you are a project manager. This role has exposed you to various projects for different departments and stakeholders of different companies or industries. This experience offers customers a unique perspective.
If you need reassurance, write down what you’ve been working on over the years (tasks, projects, clients, etc.). Think of the hours you spent working on proposals, speaking to clients, planning executions, and managing projects. Seeing what you know increases your confidence in counseling and belief in what you have to offer. And that confidence will improve your confidence work performance in total. Actually 98% of workers Interviewed by Indeed said they performed better when they felt safe. Even if the customers have the last word, this does not diminish your professional competence. Start acknowledging – and being proud of – what you bring to the table.
2. Become a real, active listener
If you want to take on more advisory function, you need to understand the customer’s situation before making any recommendations. This requires active listening. Think of the example when I started running and went to the store to buy a pair of running shoes. The choices felt endless. The salesman could read the uncertainty on my face and approached me with a question: “New to running?” I nodded and he asked a series of additional questions – some of which I would never have thought of. He even challenged me to jog to see my foot hit the ground. All of this information helped him narrow down my choice to three running shoes.
What he did applies to interactions you may have with a customer. You not only listen to the customer’s answers, but also observe how they react to your questions. Research has revealed that communication is 55% non-verbal, 38% verbal and only 7% verbal. So, ask questionsSee the customer’s reactions, listen to their answers, and ask more questions. Then, when you make a recommendation, the customer knows it’s based on a genuine understanding of their situation.
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3. Don’t be afraid to make recommendations
Giving customers recommendations is one thing. Telling them what to do is another thing, because that can force them to make a decision. That’s not to say that your background doesn’t mean you don’t understand what best suits your needs. But as a consultant, you want your clients to call the shots. So offer multiple options to choose from. You can do this in the form of a question, e.g. B. “What about X?” or an affirmative, such as “Maybe we could try Y.”
If you’re asked for your opinion, don’t be afraid to give it. This shows how well you have established yourself as a consultant. Tell them what you would do if you were in their position. If necessary, steer them in the best direction by proposing it and giving your opinion on the value of this option. Just make sure the final decision is in their hands.
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4. Sketch a plan
While signing a contract may be the last step in the process for you, it is the first step for your client. I’m a big fan of high-level schedules as they give some form and objectivity to critical steps. But don’t make the mistake of placing a signed contract at the end of the deadline. Share some key steps that will be performed after project approval so that the client is aware that these steps cannot be performed until an agreement or proposal is approved.
A schedule like this takes the pressure off you to “close the deal” and puts more responsibility on the customer to get approval so you can move forward with the initiative and the customer can begin to see value.
Taking on an advisory role puts the customer front and center, where they should be. It is important to remember your role in the relationship. Use your background to offer options and let your recommendations guide you to make better – and faster – decisions.