“Speak” is one of those odd commands that humans like to teach dogs – mostly for their own entertainment. It’s silly because dogs speak all the time; it’s just that most people don’t understand what we’re saying. Or, maybe they’re not really listening. We tell you when we need to go out, when we want to be fed, and when we’re hankering for a belly rub. A wagging tail conveys happiness, leaning against you is our way of saying we love and trust you, and of course, barking is a protective warning.
Personally, I think “listening” is a more important skill, especially when it comes to customers. Stop talking about how great your company is and try paying attention to what your customers want: What type of information will make their lives easier? What data do they need to make a purchase decision? These days, prospects aren’t being won by “push” marketing, but through numerous interactions throughout the buying process. The more personalized and relevant those exchanges are, the more engaged your prospects become. Of course, creating meaningful content begins with active listening.
Dogs are great listeners, because we’re patient and quiet (well, except for some annoying little dogs that bark incessantly). When we tilt our head to comprehend your often strange ramblings, we’re acknowledging our interest. In addition, our sense of hearing is superior (have you seen the size of my ears?). Good listeners maintain eye contact, eliminate distractions, such as smart phones and squeaky toys, ask pertinent questions, and summarize what was said to ensure understanding. Also, try not to interrupt or jump in with solutions, which I know can be challenging because jumping of any kind is hard to resist.
Once you’ve become a better listener, take the next step and make sure you’re speaking the same language as your customers. I don’t mean English vs. French, or human vs. canine, but their unique language. Let me explain:
Learn the lingo. Every industry has its own terminology, and to communicate effectively, you need to understand what those terms mean and how they’re used. (Hey, it took me a long time to learn what “drop it” meant, but I think I finally got it!) Take the time to comprehend how customers describe their products and services, and what keywords are used by their customers. This is critical because if you label a product one thing, such as “dog bones,” while people are searching for that product under “rawhide chews,” you won’t get the results you’re looking for.
Know your audience. I don’t really get the whole digital thing – I mean, what could be better than tail-wagging, face-licking,… I mean, face-to-face interaction? But, lots of people like to communicate through instant messaging or SMS, email or social channels. It’s important to determine how and on what platforms your customers – and their customers – prefer to engage. Style is important, too. Do your customers respond better to a casual tone, or something more polished and professional? Tailor your communications to the preferences of your customers, not your own company’s.
Trust me, if you listen to your customers (and your dogs), they will teach you their language, and then you’ll be able to communicate effectively, which helps build and strengthen relationships. And, who doesn’t want that?
Okay, I’m off to teach my humans how I say “Please give me a treat.” Don’t worry, they’re fast learners!