You may be fortunate to have a few clients on your doorstep. But, as Matt Everatt warns, if you ever need to go looking for new clients, you might want to follow these crucial steps…
‘We can often fall into the habit of thinking every customer thinks or buys the same way you do…’
Back in 2010, my fiancé and I were invited to attend a marriage prep course. The course was heavily based on human psychology and touched on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This is an introspective self-report questionnaire indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. This part of the course was a total ‘light bulb moment’ for me as it was an incredible learning experience from a business perspective.
It made me realise, not only am I different to my wife in many ways, but we are also very different buyers. It got me thinking that if my wife and I are different buyers, what are my current and future customers like, and how can I serve them better?
Let’s look at the word ‘sales’. It is often thought of as a dirty word and is said to originate from an old Norse word meaning to ‘serve’. If we think of sales as to serve our customers, we lose some of the stigma attached to it. You need to think about your customers, their personality types and what might influence their buying habits.
Rapport starts with questions
We have to start with rapport. If we can begin to understand the type of people our customers are, we can begin to build a rapport with them. One common saying in buying psychology is, ‘people buy from people they like’.
They are more likely to like you if you have things in common, or at least show some interest in them and their lives. By asking some questions – or even doing a bit of research in advance – you can begin to build rapport with your new customers.
I’ll give you a couple of examples, starting with a bad example one.
You make an appointment to see a new owner of a practice you’ve been serving for some years. You get to the practice car park, and you can’t help but notice there are a couple of bicycles. They look like expensive ones, locked up where the old principal’s Porsche 911 used to be.
On the journey to your meeting, you got cut up by a cyclist, which is a regular occurrence on your journeys around town. Seeing the bikes in the car park, you think it’s a good conversation starter and immediately walk into the practice having a bit of a moan to the receptionist about your journey and how much cyclists annoy you.
The new owner is also behind reception – it turns out she and her husband, who is also joint owner, are keen cyclists and the bikes outside are theirs. She makes a comment to you about how much she loves cycling, she is due to compete and is currently in training. She is cycling to work everyday as part of that training.
You’ve immediately started off on the wrong foot. Backtracking, you try to rescue the first meeting. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. At least you don’t drive around in one of those flash cars like the old principal did.’ It turns out, the husband (new co-owner) is a petrol head and had bought the 911 from the old principal.
Zero rapport, you have alienated the new owners, and it is highly unlikely they’d want to continue using your lab. If they did, it is likely the relationship would break down quickly if there was ever a problem.
We can use the same situation as before. This time you try to build some rapport by learning a little about who you may be meeting. You see the same nurse at reception and a new face in the background. ‘I’ve just noticed a nice couples of bikes outside where Dr Smith’s old Porsche used to be. Have you taken up cycling?’
The lady in the background comes forward: ‘They are mine and my husbands – we are the new practice owners.’
You: ‘I don’t know much about cycling. They do look great though – are you keen cyclists?’
New owner: ‘Yes, I’m in training for a competition, so I’m using my journey from home to get some miles in.’
You: ‘Wow – which competition and where is it you’re commuting from?’
New owner: ‘We live near Grindleford, and the competition is London to Brighton.’
You: ‘That’s a nice place to live and the journey must be good for the training, lots of hills and miles to cover. London to Brighton competition sounds a tough one too – I’ve only ever driven it. The old principal liked his cars, what about you?’
New owner: ‘My husband is the car fan. He bought the old principal’s 911.’
Showing genuine interest
Just one minute before, you had no idea what sort of things they liked or where they lived. Asking questions shows genuine interest and gives you an insight into who they are as a person.
They might also be impressed that you started the meeting by showing interest in them and their hobbies and interests. It took less than 60 seconds, and you are already building that rapport.
So often in business, our own limiting beliefs, interests, and thoughts steer the way we communicate with others. This is not to say our interests don’t matter – of course they do and, in time, your clients will get to know. But in the first instance, make sure you’re the one asking questions.
The more questions you ask, the more answers you’ll receive, and the more you’ll inevitably begin to understand about their buying persona too.
Why, why, why
The final thing I would add is start with ‘why’. This is a very powerful three letter word – it can shift your perspective, create opportunities, and take people and businesses to another level. Try to find out why they might need your services. Don’t go blazing in with a load of techy talk – they might not need that.
Are they looking for some higher quality work? Why can’t they get that type of work from their current lab? Why should they choose your lab? And why are you the best at what you do?
Remember, we are all very different and we must remember this when it comes to selling or serving our customers. It is likely our buyer personas are very different to those we are selling to.
There are many theories on this, but too many of them focus purely on demographics, such as age, ethnicity, or family status. We are a lot more complex these days, so start with rapport and start with why.
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