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Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

Making Money from Small Talk – the Grocer Part 2

Posted by Marjorie Signer on March 30, 2009

Our friend the grocer discovered why his customer’s buying habits were changing and was able to change how he communicated with them to specifically address the things they felt most strongly about. In doing so, he not only reconnected with his current customers and helped them feel fabulous about the money they spent in his store, he was able to project the lesson out to his prospects and actually draw in new customers who he didn’t connect with when he was focusing his message on the health benefits of his products.


But how did the grocer make this discovery and what steps did he take to leverage the new information?


When our grocer’s sales started to dip he could have wrung his hands and hoped real hard that his sales started to rise again, but instead, he used some of the extra time he now had to reach out and TALK to his past and current customers.


When customers came into his shop he made a point of asking about how their job, their family and their friends were doing. He asked them directly about their feelings on recent news items and how they felt it might affect the entire community. Now if you’re thinking that conversations like that happen everyday as we make small talk, you’re exactly RIGHT! And that’s the point, when you talk to people with purpose and genuine interest, no matter where you’re having the conversation or what your relationship is with the person, it feels comfortable. The best part is, when you really listen you can find all kinds of clues about what their values and why they make certain buying decisions. 


Our grocer also talked to his past customers who hadn’t visited his store recently. Using email, snail mail and the phone, he contacted people and let them know that they were important to him; that he noticed that they hadn’t visited lately and that he was interested in how they were doing.  He also shared some of the stories that his customers had told him, explained that he was trying to find ways he could help support the community and asked for their ideas and suggestions.   


The key to the grocer’s success in reaching out to people wasn’t just that he asked for their input, it was that he made it easy and comfortable for them to share their thoughts and gave them a psychological boost by first telling them what other people had shared with him.


See there are two things going on here that contributed to the grocer’s success. First of all, most people want to help, especially if it is easy to do so. Helping other people makes us feel good about ourselves and our brains are actually wired to do things that produce that feeling. (Don’t believe me? How many times have you eaten a piece of chocolate that intellectually you know you shouldn’t have just because it makes you feel good?)


Secondly, the grocer shared the information he had already received from past conversations. Using the words of others who his current contact could relate to leads to a phenomenon called “social proof.” It’s scientifically proven that people are much more likely to engage in a particular behavior if they know that other people, like them, have already done so.  


Getting his present and past customers to talk to him (eventually talking to him and one another through an Internet forum) strengthened their feeling of commitment to shopping at the store because: a) the grocer reached out to them made them feel important; b) the grocer cared about the same things they did and was taking action which satisfied their fundamental desire to support people who shared and supported their values and c) they were involved and participating in the grocer’s business and that gave them a feeling of ownership and responsibility to the store and the other people with whom they communicated.  


  • What are some of the clues your customers and contacts are giving you?
  •  If you asked different questions could the answers have a positive impact on your business?
  • Are you connecting with your customer’s value systems and taking the time to give back and support the things you hold dear?
  • Are your customers a part of your business or just a dollar sign? How can you get your customers more involved and make them feel good about your business?

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