by Steve Adubato, PhD

Last week I argued that selling IS about communication. As I wrote, the best communicators sell from considering the customer's point of view. For those who think this stuff doesn't pertain to you, forget it! We're ALL in sales of some kind or another.

One way to be really good when dealing with customers is to ask yourself what you like when in a position to buy something. Then treat people the way you want to be treated.

As for me, I like salespeople who explain things in a way that I can understand. I like people who listen to my questions and give me direct answers. I don't like when they use technical jargon and a lot more information than I need or can handle.

A while back, a salesman tried to sell me a car by talking about the power of the car's engine as if I was a driver in the Indy 500. I don't even know how to change the oil in my car. Then he explains to me that the high-tech $1000 car phone can store 200 numbers. I was going to have to take a half-day seminar to learn how to program the darn thing. I was turned off. I didn't buy the car.

As I said, I like people who pay attention when I ask for something. I hate tomatoes and onions. (I think it goes back to my childhood) So why is it that three out of four times, after I tell the waiter that I don't want tomatoes or onions on my salad, I get them anyway? I tend to go to restaurants where the staff gives me what I ask for. Listening remains one of the most important communication skills.

I like friendly, upbeat people. Every morning I go to Starbucks not just because I'm addicted to the coffee, but because the people there know my name, my drink, and make me feel welcome. They smile no matter how many people are on line. They stay upbeat. I hear Starbucks provides new employees with extensive interpersonal training. In most cases, it shows.

So much of this is about ATTITUDE. I don't like people who complain about their job and trash their employer. Once I had to call Sears to fix my dryer. The service guy arrives with a big-time attitude as if he's paying me to be there. When it came time to pay the bill, his credit-card gadget refused to function. He blurts out; "I hate this stupid thing! I don't know why Sears uses it. It never works." Then he adds; "I've been on this stinking job for 20 years. I hate it! In nine months I'm going to retire and go fishing." Nice first impression!

There are two TCBY's in our area. One is run by Brian, a guy who always has a smile on his face and has a "how can I help" attitude. The other is run by "Jim," a grouch whose body language screams, "I hate the world." Jim's store is closer to my house. I go out of my way to the other one.

I like service people who can look me in the eye without staring like some kind of nut. I don't like people who are uncomfortable with themselves or make me uncomfortable. I also don't like people who are sweaty and look really nervous. Am I alone? Body language speaks volumes. I don't like businesses that treat me like I'm just a number. The message is, "If you don't like it, go somewhere else." Conversely, I like companies that make me feel special. The staff at Magicolor, a local photo store, always asks me if I want double prints for an extra buck and if I'd like them "rushed" in the next hour. That's GOOD COMMUNICATION. That's SERVICE.

I love that the staff at the First Care Medi-Center calls a few days after I visit the doctor to see how I'm feeling. They communicate that they care. It makes me feel special.

Bottom line? It's all about communication. Selling, negotiating, resolving conflict or customer relations. What do you like or dislike in people who are trying to sell you something? Provide an example or two of quality customer relations or service. The communication coach needs some feedback.