All customers want the same thing: to do business with people who confirm their importance. The customer's importance is demonstrated by:
The acronym K U H L (pronounced "cool") tells your customers how important they are by Knowing, Understanding, Helping, and Leading them.
Knowing can be as simple as knowing your customer's name or remembering your last transaction with them. If you don't know a new customer's name when they come into your business, make sure you ask and memorize it for the next time. They will repay your effort by coming back to buy from you again and again.
Customers love to walk into a restaurant, bank, clothing store, automobile dealership, or any business and be called by name. When you demonstrate that you know someone, you are demonstrating that they are important to you. The more you know about them, the more important they will feel. In later chapters we will discuss knowing your customer in more depth.
All customers want to be understood. They want to be understood so that you can lead, help, and serve them. Customers want to be thought of as important enough to have their wants and needs understood and taken care of.
A customer will not accept your leadership unless they believe you understand them, which is why understanding is the mutual starting point in making purchasing decisions. If you understand what the customer is trying to accomplish, you can lead them. You cannot help your customer plan their wedding, choose a computer, outfit a kitchen, buy a sports jacket, or make any other purchasing decision until you understand them and what they want.
When companies track the activities of their professional sales team, they find most often that a sale is made only after the prospect has been called on five or more times. This is a testimonial to the importance of understanding the customer. Customers are reassured that you really understand them only after you have taken the time to visit with them and learn about their issues and concerns.
Customers want your assistance and they want you to make their lives easier. They want you to share your knowledge as you help them make buying decisions.
Customers react favorably when they see that you are providing alternatives and aids in helping them. Through your help and leadership, your customers will know you sincerely like them.
You help your customers when you offer to see your own products and services through the customer's eyes. Your explanation of products, applications, uses, benefits, and other relevant information are a demonstration of help.
People will welcome your leadership when they trust that you know and understand them. Customers recognize that you know your products and their applications. Everyone would like to know an expert in every product category that could guide and lead them to the best products and best buys. The position of expert is available to you if you know and understand your customer. If you don't demonstrate that you understand their wants and needs, you are just another seller trying to get the customer to part with his money.
Knowing, Understanding, Helping, and Leading (KUHL) can only be accomplished by people doing business with people. People want to be heard first and then understood. A customer's desire for you to be KUHL is satisfied by one set of ears listening to that one customer's wants, problems, challenges, and triumphs.
When you are KUHL, you are serving your customers. People are naturally skeptical of being sold, but this skepticism vanishes when your customers believe you are serving them.
In the words of Stephen R. Covey, from his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "There is an intrinsic security that comes from service, from helping other people in a meaningful way. One important source is your work, when you see yourself in a contributive and creative mode, really making a difference. Another source is anonymous service—no one knows it and no one necessarily ever will. And that's not the concern; the concern is blessing the lives of other people. Influence, not recognition, becomes the motive."
When we are KUHL, we are serving other people. Specifically, we are serving our customers.
Listening is our pathway to being KUHL. Listening, as with speaking, is an interpersonal skill that needs to be practiced and developed. Most businesspeople have perfected their speaking skills—they know how to talk. Typically, these same businesspeople are deaf when it comes to listening skills. The purpose of listening is learning. Listening to the customer will reveal what the customer's frame of reference is, what is really important to them, what kind of goods and services they need, and how they want them delivered.
Unfortunately, most of us use the time a customer is speaking to develop the next thing we are going to say, so we are not really listening to the customer at all. We are more interested in saying something the customer will understand than understanding the customer through what they are talking about. Our listening skills are the most important tool we have in developing a loyalty relationship with our customers.
A few years ago my wife and I walked into an automobile dealership. We were greeted with, "Hello. Welcome to Beck Toyota. My name is George. How can I help you?" George spoke in a quiet staccato and held out his hand as he waited for us to tell him our names.
We introduced ourselves and told George we were interested in buying a Toyota Camry, a Mazda 626, or a Honda Accord. George asked, "Are you familiar with the Camry?" We said we had seen them but had never owned one. "Can I show you the features of the Camry?" he asked.
George walked us around the car on the showroom floor for the next 10 minutes. He was eager to answer our questions. He pointed out every feature on the Camry. He told us the number of coats of paint, how the inertia bumper worked, and the size of the tires. He would follow up each statement with the question, "Is this important to you?" He was the most thorough and patient car salesman we had ever met.
We spent 10 minutes inspecting the outside of the Camry before George suggested we sit inside the car. He conducted the interior inspection with the same thoroughness he had demonstrated with the exterior of the car.
George mentioned that if we were comparing three automobiles it was important that we understand the features of each. He did not mention anything about the other cars we were comparing to the Camry. He also did not ask us how soon we would be making our decision. He viewed his job as understanding our needs and providing leadership in helping us make our decision.
After our test drive, with George in the backseat offering instruction regarding the operation of the car, we returned to the dealership. George asked us for some information and we left.
When we got home an hour or so later we found George's message in our voice mail. "Hello, this is George of Beck Toyota. I am calling to tell you that your credit is approved to lease a Camry. You may reach me…."
George had mastered Know me, Understand me, Help me, and Lead me through his careful listening skills. He presented information and then listened intently so he could understand our evaluation of that information. We bought a Camry from George, but we moved from the area and didn't become loyal customers by buying another Toyota from him. Instead, we became loyal customers by referring people we know who still live in that area to George.
Many salespeople do not invest the time to thoroughly listen and understand their customers. George has mastered his listening skills and consistently sells more cars to loyal customers than others in his field. George is KUHL.
Know me, Understand me, Help me, and Lead me starts, continues, and ends by asking questions and then listening with all your heart and soul. People do business with people, and people want to continue to do business with people who care enough about them to understand them. The only way you can truly understand your customer is to continually ask them questions softly and then listen to them full blast. Customers are eager to answer questions that are asked with sincerity.