Fable Friday: Get that lady a dictionary!

Back in the 80’s I worked for a market research firm in Wellesley, MA and one day I had to write an invitation letter to eligible participants we had screened for a focus group.  I wrote, “There will be a stipend of $50 for your participation in this group.”  To our surprise, one lady showed up at the event with a check made payable to us in the amount of $50.

So other than the fact that I had worded the letter poorly, why do you think she was willing to pay us $50 to participate?  Let me ask this in a different way. How do you feel when someone says to you, “Hey, I’d like your opinion about something?”

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedMost people like to be asked their opinions about things.  It’s flattering to think that others are interested in your ideas isn’t it?

“I’m planning on visiting New Mexico next month, and I know you used to live there. I’d be interested in your ideas on places I should visit, or any other advice you can give me.”  If you were asked this question, wouldn’t you be thrilled to respond?

And that’s why the stipend lady showed up with a check. She was willing to pay us for the opportunity to express her opinions.

I have a couple of clients who are nationally-known in the quick service restaurant space (QSR). One sells doughnuts and coffee and the other sells sandwiches.  These businesses are always looking for fast but effective ways to engage their customers, in order to enhance the customer experience, sell more product per visit and generate repeat business.

The more astute companies have gone beyond the ‘greet and smile’ approach.  They train their employees to ask a quick but innocuous question in order to engage the customer.  What is quick and innocuous?

For one thing, you don’t want to ask a question that is in-depth or invasive, that either generates a long-winded answer or causes offense. So it’s quick and easy to answer, and it’s innocuous in that it doesn’t offend.

“Do you want fries with that?” is not one of these questions. It’s purely a sales question and does not engage in a positive way.

Recently I helped one of my clients design a sales meeting for helping line employees develop a few of these questions they can use at any time.  They are all open probes, allowing the customer to chat briefly, but they’re also totally harmless and non-intrusive:

“So how are you enjoying this gorgeous weekend?”

“How is your Wednesday going so far?”

(On seeing the customer wearing some sports team apparel, such as a baseball cap) “How do you think the Bears will do this season?”

The results have been very positive as you can now hear constant chatter along the service line between the workers and the customers. An added benefit is that these brief conversations also give the staff small insights about the customers they serve. Who enjoys talking to them?  What do they learn from the customer that they can use the next time?

This simple idea will work in your personal life as well. Tonight at dinner, ask each of your family members a simple, open question like those above and see how immediately engaged and pleased they are to respond.  A simple “Tell me about your day today,” is far more effective than “Are you going to pass that salt shaker or not?” and it’s a good way to practice how to…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

One Response to Fable Friday: Get that lady a dictionary!

  1. ann cain says:

    I hope you took her money and donated it, rather than “enmiring” her in embarrassment :). Love your stuff, Gregory.

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