Last week I began reading the much-lauded ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie. Having sold more than 15 million copies globally since its original release in 1936, I was intrigued to see how Carnegie’s tips on human interaction might apply to winning and keeping customers 78 years on.
Here are a few things I picked out for your consideration, though I would recommend the book in full.
Connecting with Customer wants
Put simply, we are all interested in what we want. It affects our decision-making more than we realise. Henry Ford stated that the key to success was “the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle.” A Customer, for example, may not want to be sold something, but if a salesperson can show how their goods or services can solve a customer’s problems they will want to buy it.
Carnegie illustrates this idea through his love of fishing. Although he is personally fond of strawberries and cream, when choosing bait he defers to the fish’s preference for worms and grasshoppers. The same common sense applies to fishing for customers or business opportunities, and yet how often do we see businesses adapting in this way?
Building trusted relationships with Customers
Here’s Carnegie’s essence of a trusted relationship. These brief hints are covered in greater detail in the book:
- Be positive and friendly. Smile. Never criticise or complain. Avoid arguments, show respect, and never tell a Customer they are wrong.
- Be appreciative. It may sound like old news, but expressing sincere appreciation strengthens relations and taps into the human need to feel wanted and important. Carnegie describes this as the secret to success.
- Be Customer centred. Show a genuine interest in the Customer and talk in terms of their interests. Try to understand their point of view and sympathise with their challenges.
- Be transparent. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. People want to feel important, so are more likely to take a magnanimous view of your mistakes if you are open and contrite. This is particularly sound advice if the alternative is to be rebuked by the Customer.
Passing the test of time
In the quest to win customers and influence people I would recommend the study and application of these principles. Ours are unprecedented times, with business relationships (both internal and external) coming under increasing pressure. Inevitably new business models and methods will emerge, but in the field of human relationships, the value of understanding ‘How to win friends and influence people’ will surely outlive this crisis and many more.