For twenty years my mom and I would meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. My dad joined us for several of those years. Occasionally my boys would get up early, too, especially since they loved the French Toast and pancakes at the restaurant where we ate.
For my mom it was a chance to tell me all the things going on in her life. She’d share all her stories from the past week, usually referencing previous stories, too. Some people believe that an event didn’t happen until you share it with someone else. It certainly wasn’t memorable until you shared it. In fact, the act of sharing your stories is what makes them more memorable.
The stories also make you more personable and human.
When you are a faceless sales clerk, customers feel they have the right to treat you like a subhuman person. When you become more human, the relationship changes.
One way you become more human is by sharing your stories. Another way is by listening to the stories of your customers.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie
The way we get to those stories is through a Point of Connection. Find one thing about a new customer through which you can connect. Find something you have in common, something you can comment on, something about which you can ask a question.
“I love your shoes! I used to have a pair just like them. Where did you find them?”
I did an exercise with my staff where I posted a series of pictures of different people and asked them to find a Point of Connection. If it was a parent with a child, the child is an easy connection. The two things we love to talk about the most are ourselves and our children.
“Oh what a cutie-pie. He reminds me of my son at that age. How old is he?”
If it is a person who has some shopping bags from another store, you can ask about her previous trip.
“I see you’ve been to Toy House. I love that store. What did you find?”
If it is someone wearing the colors of their college, you can use that as an opening.
“A Michigan fan. Go Blue! My son goes there now. Are you going to the game this weekend?”
There are several ways to find that Point of Connection and it is an easy staff training to do. In fact, you can start each meeting with a quick Point of Connection quiz by popping up some photos on the screen and having your staff blurt out the Point they see. Within a few meetings they will be doing this automatically.
Now let’s break down the actual phrases used above to see how they incorporate storytelling.
First, each greeting starts with the point of connection. I love your shoes. Oh what a cutie-pie. A Michigan fan.
Second, each greeting has a (very) short story from you. I used to have a pair just like them. He reminds me of my son at that age. I love that store. My son goes there now. Yes, those all qualify as stories.
Third, it asks a question to get to her story. What did you find? How old is he? Are you going to the game?
Those three elements in that order change your relationship from customer/clerk to customer/human.
The first part makes the connection and gives you the opening. The second part, sharing your short story, makes you human. The third part, by asking her about her story, makes her more interested in you. The more of her story she shares, the more you will remember her, which makes her next visit even better. The more of her story she shares, the more you will know what she is trying to accomplish. The more of her story she shares, the more likely you will find the best solution for her.
Once you get her sharing, keep it going. Keep asking open-ended questions. You can share your own (very short) stories along the way as long as you end with a question about her.
By the way, this isn’t a gimmick or trick. Dale Carnegie taught us this technique decades ago. Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is a way to create relationships and friendships. (If you have children going off to college who struggle to make new friends, teach them this simple technique. It will change their world.)
When you get your customers to tell you their stories, the connection becomes real. The event happened. (And it is going to happen again and again and again.) That’s how you connect through stories.
I’ll leave you with one last quote from American Author Alfred A. Montapert … “All lasting business is built on friendship.”
Go make some friends today.
PS Do you know people who seem to make friends easily? Watch them. They employ this technique effortlessly, subconsciously, likely without any understanding of it and why it works so well. I am one who has to work very hard on this technique because I know I have a tendency to dominate conversations. Because of this character flaw, however, I can testify how well this technique works.
PPS The more you get your customer to talk about something not business-related, the more likely she’ll tell you her business-related problem she came in to solve, without you ever having to ask those deal-killing questions like, “Can I help you?” You’ll learn this technique plus a whole lot more in The Ultimate Selling Workshop. Sign up by the end of the month for the best price on this intensive, power-packed, hands-on presentation. It will be the most profitable three hours you spend with your team.