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Part II: What the FBI Can Teach Us About Customer Engagement

In Part I of this post, we introduced to you some of the techniques for building rapport found in a piece about Robin Dreeke's book It's Not All About Me. Dreeke is the head of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis program. We also offered a definition of customer engagement: ". . . ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer."

Next we suggested connecting the dots between Dreeke's observations about human behavior and your sales readiness efforts as a means of building bridges with customers. While engagement goes by many names, it's pretty clear that all the various techniques rest on building rapport. That's why these guidelines, rooted in psychology, may have strong implications for sales and marketing.

1. Listen and affirm. Aggressive (active) When you affirm and reflect on what you're being told, you move closer to understanding what customers value. You won't get there, though, if you fall into the trap of thinking the salesperson's job is to talk first and listen later.

"True validation coupled with ego suspension means that you have no story to offer, that you are there simply to hear theirs." No story to tell, that is, until you know what your story should be—shaped and refined as it should be by what you hear about customers' wants and needs.

2. Ask why, how and when. Put your follow-up questions into a format that probes the why, how and when of the customers' world. What better way to engage people than to demonstrate interest in what they've said by asking more about it? This is especially valuable if it's deftly steered by comments like "Help me understand why that's important to you."

"Once the individual being targeted in the conversation supplies more words and thoughts, a real conversationalist will utilize the content given and continue to ask open-ended questions about the same content. The entire time, the individual being targeted is the one supplying the content of the conversation."

3. Tell them something useful. If the customer is reluctant to even begin a conversation, you may have to open the exchange by providing facts about you as well as the company and products you represent. But choose your words carefully, making them relevant to the customer. If possible, share your information through the experience of other customers for whom you've solved problems.

"In my experiences, there are really only two types of situation where I have utilized quid pro quo. The first and more common of the instances is when you attempt to converse with someone who is either very introverted, guarded or both. The second instance is when the person you are conversing with suddenly becomes very aware about how much they have been speaking, and they suddenly feel awkward. In both instances, giving a little information about you will help alleviate some of the issues."

4. Give a gift. Make a lasting connection. "According to Dreeke, gift giving is one of the cornerstones of building rapport with people. Remember that, when building rapport, the vast majority of gifts that you give will be non-material. It's easy to give customers gifts, particularly in this day when the gift of information can be so valuable to a customer and so easy to deliver.

"'Great rapport builders and conversationalists use this desire proactively during every conversation. This technique, coupled with ego suspension, are the cornerstones for building great relationships. This is also the easiest technique to utilize, because gifts come in many forms, from non-material compliments, to tangible material gifts.'

"The number of gifts that sales and marketing can offer a customer is truly astounding. Some of these gifts take traditional forms like pricing discounts, but increasingly these gifts are taking the form of information that helps customers."

5. Manage customers' expectations proactively. ". . . Dreeke recommends this as an effective rapport-building technique. But for Dreeke, it's not just about managing . . . expectations of what the product or service will do; it's about managing the expectations for the conversation itself."

These suggestions hint at both the complexity and subtlety of communication, engagement and rapport. The more we understand how all humans are driven by tendencies toward unconscious behaviors, the better the customer experience for the person on the other side of the desk.

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