Simple Encounters

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An Actionable Idea Marketing Blog for Banks & Credit Unions by Sharon Klocek-Ibbotson

Simple EncountersSorry, the title “Simple Encounters” just makes me smile with a mischievous grin, so I am going to keep it. I guess I got tired of using the word ENGAGEMENT when talking about our customers. It sounds like so much WORK. When I think about putting myself in the shoes of anyone whose job it is to start conversations and interact with customers or potential customers, I want it to be, well, fun! Fun is much much more motivating, right?

So, let’s muse on how can we build fun, simple encounters—because we could all use a little help sometimes thinking about what to say to the next person you meet on the street, in the field, branch, floor or store.

Consider these ideas:

Keep in mind that the key here is to be true to your personalityquirky, sporty, proper, funny, laid back… all works as long as it is true to you, and fits the standards of your organization’s brand. My personality is a bit quirky and that is reflected in the examples below. 

Self Check:

It’s pretty simple, just check-in with yourself. How do you feel? Happy, hungry, ready to crash? Are you bursting with energy, ready for a night on the town or to curl up with a good book? Once you know, say it out loud to the next person near you. “I’m so hungry I could eat my elbow…” or “a whole brown cow” or “an entire cabbage patch.” Just keep it real to you. If they respond you have successfully started a conversation. If not, it is time to turn it around with a “How about you, are you hungry?”

Of course if you are doing a demo, or imparting key information, it helps if you have a way to incentivize (is that a real word? ugh; sounds like marketing speak)… strike that, let’s say motivate the customer to take that next step. Giveaways like candy, granola bars, a tasty drink, or even yes—a chip clip can be enough to motivate someone to listen to a demo if it is short, painless and made fun.

Observations:

A little bit harder, depending on: your personality, how much you practice, or have done people watching. Observing is just like it sounds. You observe the person you wish to speak to next, and look or listen for something you have an interest in. That could be something they are wearing, something they are saying or something that happens to them. Then you speak up. “Wow, I love your socks, my sister Xena would so love those—where did you get them?” or “Did you say you like fish tacos? I love fish tacos”, or possibly “Did that purple butterfly just land on your nose?”

Transitioning to your demo, deal or dogma can be as simple as inviting a reverse observation. “So, now it’s your turn; look at me—anything stand out? Have any questions about XYZ topic?”

Shared Experience:

Back to super easy… building an encounter through shared experiences is just talking about what happens to both of you. Get caught in the rain, experience a never-ending line or the shortest line ever?  Talk about it. You can even talk about a lack of weather while handing out sunglasses. “We may not need these sunglasses in here but I KNOW it is sunny outside. Please tell me it is still sunny outside.”

When it is time for your work talk, laugh it up and do your best to keep if fun. “OK, so I am betting you might need these sunglasses to share with your dog, or you, or your Aunt Edna. All I need to do is show you this one cool [insert product or service here] and we can rest assured your dog’s eyes will be safe from the sun or superhero lightning bolts for the ride home.”

Shared Concerns:

Now I want to be careful here. Far too often everything from shoes to breath mints are sold on identifying and playing on customer fears. Even our news has been polluted with this style of communication. DON’T DO THAT! What I am suggesting is identifying a shared concern not related to your product or service to start a conversation vs. using fear to create worry. For example: “I don’t know about you but I am worried that I am going to have blisters on my feet by the end of this festival. Would you like some band-aids too?”  or “I don’t know about you but I am worried these short lines mean I don’t have enough time to tell customers about my crazy [xyz] hobby”.

Continue to keep fear-based selling out of your offer by asking not telling, if you might share any concerns. For example, “Now that I have shared my crazy concern, do you have any [business related] concerns I might share and can help you with on behalf of [XYZ organization]?” If they don’t have any concerns, you can ask them if they wish to take a ten-question quiz that can help identify common concerns for which you have quick helpful answers for.

Curiosity:

Yes, curiosity killed the cat but I assure you that will NOT happen here – LOL! This is just a wonderful, genuine way to open a conversation. How? Just be curious, about anything—why they came today, what is their favorite food, if they like the new color uniforms for the local baseball team. Just wonder and ask. You don’t have anything to lose. Try something crazy or silly like “I wonder if you drove here today in a blue car, with more than four lollipops tucked between the seats?”  A great guess if they look like a parent or a sugar-loving millennial.

Take the conversation further by asking them to be curious about you or any of the service or products they might guess you offer. You can even offer examples.

So, that’s it. Try self-check, observations, shared experience, shared concerns, and curiosity to make connections with others. Remember to keep it fun, keep it real and keep it true to you. If people don’t engage, do your best to let it roll off you. It is not a reflection on you, and no one knows what life challenges may have caused those blank expressions in the unresponsive. Just smile, wish them well and look for your next person to connect with. Enjoy getting simple encounters done with a smile – even a mischievous one.

Can’t wait to see you out there.

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