Today’s post was written by Brett Slater, Chief Social Media Officer at The Latimer Group.
In addition to my work with The Latimer Group, I also work in the tap room of a local craft brewery in the tourist town of Boothbay, Maine. On any given summer Saturday, I interact with literally hundreds of people of all places and ages, pour and discuss craft beer with them, make them feel welcome, and in the process, get them to buy as much beer as I can before moving on to the next guest. It’s essentially the “speed dating” version of persuasion.
It’s certainly not the traditional “business communication” you’ll see in a typical Latimer Group workshop, but at some point during my busy summer, I noticed that I was still using some of the same persuasion themes The Latimer Group teaches their clients. And something else I noticed… The better I did these things, the longer people stayed, and the more beer they bought.
Get better with names.
I ask every customer their name when they come to the brewery. The practical reason is so that I can name them in my POS software. But there’s an added benefit: People love when you remember their names. My tips noticeably increased when I made some sort of personal interaction with customers, versus a simple money-for-beer transaction.
Many people simply declare that they’re “not good with names,” and that’s that. But I’m telling you, practice. Yeah, you’ll get names wrong from time to time, but that’s totally okay. If you sincerely apologize for the mistake, most people are forgiving, and appreciative that you made the effort. Plus, the more you practice, the less that will happen, and the deeper a connection you’ll make with your colleagues, customers, and/or audience.
Find a connection.
I try to assess as quickly as I can as much about a customer as possible, to try to find some way to connect. I always start with the classic, “Where are you from?” which invariably leads to a more meaningful conversation: “Oh, I went to high school in New Jersey!” or “North Carolina? Did you get hit with the flooding?” or “Johnstown, Pennsylvania? Isn’t that where Slap Shot was filmed?”
When you can find common ground with your audience, they relax, open up, and trust more. It brings you closer to them. And the closer you can get to your audience, the more easily you’ll be able to persuade them. (Of course, in my case, it also helps that they’re drinking beer…)
I’m the only bartender most days, and during the “high season” the brewery can get really busy. We don’t have wait staff, and very often the line for beer stretches out the door. The result is that I can’t always give everyone the attention I know they need, so whenever possible, I‘m completely up front about it: “Folks, I’m slammed. Bear with me, and I’ll be with you as quick as I can…” In some cases, I’ve even gone so far as, “Folks, I’m running these drinks, bussing that table, and then you’re next…” Every time, the response is something along the lines of, “No problem! Take your time!” People appreciate the acknowledgement, even if I can’t take care of them right away…
Managing your customers’ expectations builds your credibility with them. When you consistently deliver on what you say you’ll do, and communicate and be proactive when you can’t, that credibility carries weight with your audience. And as any Latimer team member will tell you, credibility is one of the biggest keys to successful persuasion.
Consider your personal brand.
This one made its biggest impact on me when my name was mentioned for the first time in an online review for the brewery. It was a positive review, but it occurred to me that it’s not just the brewery or the beer they’re reviewing, it’s ME — How I acted, how I spoke to them, how they heard me speak to others… I literally thought, “Wow, The gravity of that fact now makes me think about every single interaction I have with people… How do I want to be known? What impression do I want to leave them with?” And a good question for you to think about: Would your communication change if your audience was able review it online?
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if your “business communication” is delivering a multi-slide Powerpoint presentation to the CFO on next year’s budget, or simply providing a tourist the best possible beer to have after golf. There’s always an opportunity to persuade, and things like connection, credibility, and attention to your personal brand are some of the tools that can get you there, at whatever level.
At The Latimer Group, we believe that great communication skills can change the world. We transform people and organizations with simple, repeatable techniques and mindsets. We teach persuasive communication skills through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and eLearning. To learn more about how we can transform your organization, e-mail us at info@TheLatimerGroup.com