As I write this, Tom and I are on our way home from a quick but marvelous NYC getaway where we celebrated our second-year wedding anniversary. In three days, we took in Central Park and an outdoor lunch at Tavern on the Green, a rainy afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum trying our best to absorb the beauty and wonder on display there and, the following day, had a thoughtful visit at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Our evenings were spent eating hot dogs at Yankee Stadium one night and prime steak at Del Frisco’s the next night just prior to enjoying Sara Barielles on Broadway, starring in Waitress. All-in-all, a fantastic way to celebrate our second year of marriage and seventh year of relationship. Life is certainly richer when you build and enjoy long-term relationships with people you love.
Business is also richer when you know how to create and sustain professional relationships. At LionSpeak we are dedicated to helping professionals communicate more effectively in an authentic and unscripted way. We focus on coaching three main types of communication interactions: 1) Client / Patient Communications (such as telephone skills and financial conversations), 2) Team Communications (such as team culture and agreements, meetings, leadership, and accountability), and 3) Audience Communications (such as executive speakers coaching and adult learning / training methods).
In the client communications arena, we train frontline service professionals to handle incoming and outgoing telephone calls effectively and with a high-level of consistency without a script. In addition, we offer a mystery shopper call service as an extension of our coaching to offer real-life feedback and opportunities for growth. We do this very, very differently than our competition. We train first and test second. We never record anyone without their permission, and we involve our students in the development of their training, working hard to help them truly “shine” on their mystery shopper call reports. We want them to see these calls as a way to advance their skills and careers, not as threat of being fired.
Because we take such an intentional and thoughtful approach to these calls, they’ve become extremely popular and we’ve been doing A LOT of them lately. We’ve noticed some consistent trends and mistakes that are so common that we’ve decided to dedicate the next few Monday Morning Stretches to what we’ve learned and how you can elevate your results very, very quickly.
The LionSpeak Telephone Skills System for converting new client calls is really very simple. We’ve broken it down into four easy steps: Relationship, Discovery, Solutions, and Details. In this week’s Stretch, let’s start with Step #1: Relationship
This is one of the easiest and most crucial steps in the process, but it’s also one of the most overlooked in our mystery shopper call reports. There are two ways to quickly build relationship with a potential client or patient: One is connection and the other is empathy. What distinguishes them is the client’s level of urgency. If the patient does not appear to be in pain or have other urgent concerns, the best way to build connection immediately is to get their name and begin to use it right away. Another way is to listen for any opening to connect with them on a personal level such as details about where they live, where they work, or their relationship with who referred them. For example, if someone says they just moved to your area, ask them what brought them here or how they like it so far, etc. If they mention a co-worker referred them, ask how long they have worked at the business and how closely they work with their friend, etc. This communicates to the potential client that you listened to and heard them and that you actually care about them as a human being … not simply a dollar bill or an appointment.
Another way to connect with a caller is to officially welcome them to your practice or business. Statements like, “Let me be the first to welcome you, Mr. Douglas,” or “I’m so glad you called us, Sara… welcome to our practice!” work really well. It’s a bit of an assumptive statement but one which we’ve found works exceptionally well to paint the picture of a future, long-term relationship.
If the client’s urgency level is high, the second way to build relationship is using empathy. It only makes sense that a client who is in pain, highly agitated, or has a high degree of anxiety will not want to spend time connecting with you on a personal level. They do however appreciate someone who seems to hear and understand their problem and appears committed to relieving it as soon as possible. To communicate empathy, you simply need to acknowledge that you understand the problem and appreciate the client’s level of concern or worry. Here’s an example: “I’m so sorry to hear that your tooth has been so painful, James. That sounds like it’s really been hard for you. Let’s see what we can do to get you feeling better quickly…” Statements like this express empathy, make a human connection, and begin the process of building relationship and trust.
More often than not, in an effort to be efficient, we hear frontline professionals moving quickly into gathering contact, financial, or insurance information before taking a second to connect with the caller first as a human being. This doesn’t have to be (and really shouldn’t be) a very long part of the conversation. It takes just a few seconds to connect on a personal level.
People engage, refer, and purchase at a higher level with people they know, like, and trust. If you feel you know, like, and trust someone … you are in relationship and the process of building that relationship should start from the very beginning of your phone call. Make sure you don’t skip this part and that you do it with a measured pace, upbeat tone, and beaming smile.
Next week, we’ll look at step #2 in our process, Discovery. Until then, have fun practicing connection and strengthening relationships.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”
~~Paul J. Meyer