Carew sales training program graduates will recall that LAER: The Bonding Process® is a key sales and communication strategy for handling objections, defusing anger, and building relationships. The process starts with empathic, attentive, and active listening. Sales professionals must listen to understand, not merely to kill time until it is their turn to respond.
The next step in LAER: The Bonding Process® is acknowledge. Once hearing what your customer has to say, an appropriate acknowledgment affirms the customer and lets them know that what they said is important. Sales professionals have great hearts and genuinely want to help customers, and because of this human nature, there is a tendency to solve a customer's problem too quickly. The result of responding to a concern or problem prematurely is we sometimes jump into solutions without fully understanding the customer’s unique concern or situation.
The acknowledgement is often the most skipped step in LAER: The Bonding Process®. We think, “I’ve seen this before,” and move straight to all the products, services, and solutions that can fix the issue we are hearing. But, to build an emotional connection with the customer, we need to take the time and effort to tell them that we heard their problem. Effectively acknowledging a customer’s concern makes them feel affirmed and is a sign of care and support.
What not to say:
- "I understand!" This is a dangerous acknowledgment. Even if you think you understand or have had similar experiences, until you ask what is going on, you don’t really understand. Not to mention, everyone says this, and you won't stand apart from your competitors.
- "I hear that a lot," or "I hear you.” You just made your customer feel like they are the same as every other person you deal with. They are special; their problem is unique. You have to let them know you care about what they just said.
- Shake your head up and down, or say only "Right," or "Awesome." Those acknowledgments can make customers feel like you are saying, "stop talking."
- "Thanks for sharing." Perhaps a controversial opinion, but this is often overdone, so you don't sound any different than anyone else your customer deals with.
What to say:
First, be genuine and say things that sound like you.
Let the customer know you heard them, that what they said is significant, and that their concern deserves attention and discussion. Take the time to understand the issue from their perspective.
- "X is certainly important," or "It is important you are comfortable with X."
- "I’d like to understand more about X," "Let's talk about X,” or “Ok, could you tell me more about X?" These acknowledgment statements and questions lead nicely into the third step of LAER: The Bonding Process®, which is to explore or dig deeper.
- "Wow, I can't believe you are going to have to X."
- "That must have been frustrating."
Regardless of the words you choose, be genuine and don’t follow a script. When a customer presents you with a problem, you have been given an opportunity to build a bond with them – hence the name LAER: The Bonding Process®. Slow down, listen, and acknowledge their concerns.
While it’s not necessary to acknowledge every time a customer speaks, acknowledgments are best used during conflict, to handle objections, resistance, and anger, or when you are building a new relationship or working on maintaining the relationship. (Pro tip: this works in our personal lives as well.)
During your next sales meeting, look for times when you can acknowledge a customer differently. Give various acknowledgments a try, and watch your relationship grow!