How To Read A Customer’s Mind

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to read your customers’ minds? Even better, wouldn’t it be more useful to know their motivations? Most of us believe that we can “read” people – know what’s really going on in their head. Some of us are better at this than others. Is it possible to improve these skills? Definitely.

Asking the Right Questions

Let’s start with the obvious. If you want to know what’s going on in someone’s head, the easiest way to find out is to ask. (Of course, you have to trust that they’re going to tell you the truth; but that is a subject for another article.)

With all due respect to people who ask questions that garner a series of “yes” responses, as a sales technique, in order to get a “yes I want to buy” response, I would like to champion the open-ended question. Here’s the difference:

‘Yes or No’ question: Would you like to increase your orders by 10% in one month?

‘Open-ended’ question: What do you think is holding you back from increasing orders?

With the open-ended question you will get a response that describes the person’s pain in their own words. You need their words to fit the benefits that your product offers into their way of thinking. Using their words helps them to know that you’ve heard them and understand their problems.

Be Sherlock Holmes

If you are a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, you’ll know that Holmes had a gift for keen observation; so much so that people in the stories considered him to be brilliant, whereas he himself simply thought that everything was perfectly obvious. This was also the premise behind the hit comedy TV series Psych, where a private investigator convinced a police department that he had psychic powers, when in fact he was simply REALLY good at observation.

This technique works best in person, obviously, but even over the phone you can pick up things like hesitation in the person’s voice, their tone, and noises that are going on in the background. If you’re on the phone with them and you hear another phone ringing you can interrupt yourself and say, “do you need to get that?” Then, all of a sudden, you have stepped into their world and have proven that you were paying attention to them and care about their situation. Do they sound hurried? Do they sound sick? Can you hear other people in the background who you might not want to overhear the conversation you’re about to have?

Read My Face

Face reading is another skill you can learn. In fact, there are even websites and phone apps to help you practice. In face-to-face meetings, face reading is critical. The first step is to make sure that you are watching. If you asked them the name of their production floor manager and you see a slight wince across their face before they give you the person’s name, you know something is wrong there. But don’t make assumptions. You might assume that they are wincing because they do not like the person, when in fact the real reason may be that the production manager just hurt his or her back and will be out for three weeks. If the production manager is important to your sale you could ask, “is everything okay with ___(person’s name)___?”

Another educational TV show is Lie To Me, (2009 – 2011) where the main character, Dr. Cal Lightman is employed by various public authorities to investigate all sorts of interesting cases using just his face- and body language-reading skills.

How to Pay Attention

Most of these observation skills require that you pay close attention. You will need to get out of your own head and drama and focus on what is happening around you. This is also called “mindfulness”, the art of being fully present and paying attention only to what you are doing at the time. For most of us this is a skill that we need to practice, as our minds are continuously wandering, distracting us with worry, regret, and a myriad of other emotions.

What Can I Do To Reduce Distraction?

To help yourself focus on the customer, you can do three things:

1) Prepare

Think ahead and write out your script and all possible contingencies ahead of time:

  • Run through it by yourself or with someone else.
  • Let technology help you. Let your device read the script back to you a few times and adjust it until it sounds natural and fluid.
  • Record yourself speaking and play it back to see how it sounds.

2) Take care of your body

Always go into a meeting physically prepared. Eat. Go to the bathroom. Have a beverage with you.

3) Meditate

No, not right before the meeting or a sales call, although that may help. Meditate every day, even if just for 5 minutes… you can do 5 minutes can’t you? OK, how about 3 minutes? Get a few apps and try them out to help you.

What other tips and tricks do you use to know what is going on in your customer’s mind?

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