Archive for July, 2009

Easy conversations with strangers at 39,000 feet…yet we cannot talk to our customers?

July 20, 2009

On a recent flight back to Vancouver, it occurred to me how quickly I bonded with my neighbour in seat 18 J. We talked for three hours non-stop as soon as the plane took off. As the flight was over 14 hours direct from Australia, the conversation had to be good. As we chatted, I began thinking about how often this kind of encounter happens in the air, yet it rarely occurs on the ground. We engage in dialogue with people we have never met, sometimes sharing intimate details of our lives that we dare not share with anyone else! Of course, some of us have wished that we could switch seats because the person next to us is drunk, boring, or so obnoxious we contemplate faking an emergency in order to escape! Sometimes we can request to switch seats.  On the odd, rare occasion, romance blossoms. The truth is that we are often comfortable telling someone we have never met our innermost secrets, probably because we feel secure knowing we will never see that person again. Perhaps a true, lasting friendship will form…a rather unique and unexpected outcome. Isn’t it strange that we can form a close bond with a person in the next seat, yet we cannot talk to our own customers with the same level of ease? Unfortunately, time has become an even more precious commodity. We become aware of the passage of time on a long flight, but back on earth we often feel that there is never enough time!  It seems to me that the ability to patiently cultivate a meaningful connection with customers is a low priority. Our organizations tell us that “time is money”. We feel pressure to close a deal or make a sale. Or, we prefer sending an email offering of our latest promotion as a way to stay in touch. If we don’t like our customers, or we are uncomfortable with a concern they may have, we often choose the easy way out by not returning their messages. The best client relationships are those where we value time as a priceless commodity. We nurture these relationships for the long-term. In fact, it is with these customers that we rarely talk about business. When there is mutual trust and understanding, friendship forms, conversation is effortless and selling is secondary.