Winning new customers and keeping current ones happy isn’t helped by trying to work too fast. Customers are rarely as impressed by sheer speed as they are by clear evidence that you are trying to understand their real needs and make sure you can deal with them fully.

The easiest way to make anyone feel special is to give them your time and undivided attention. By slowing down, giving each customer more attention, and taking the time you and they need to work out what they truly want, you’ll get better results than the people who try to rush through their time with any one customer to hurry on to the next.

The Power of Attention

When someone gives you their full attention, you naturally feel valued and important. It’s an automatic human response. In contrast, if you get the feeling that the other person is paying you scant attention, it passes a clear message that something or someone else is more important than you are.

It’s fatally easy when you feel harassed and under pressure to deal with other people, even customers, with the greater part of your attention elsewhere. If that is what happens, you will be sending that customer a silent message that, whatever words come out of your mouth, you are actually less interested in them and their needs that you are in something else.

It is a myth that pressure concentrates or focuses the mind. The reverse is true. Under pressure, human minds do not work so well. Anxious brains are far less effective than calm ones. Look at the problems many people experience with examination nerves, or how they become flustered and anxious when they must give an important presentation. No one can think as clearly in a rush as they can when they feel calm and relaxed.

Slowing Down Helps Focus

The best way to restore full focus on the task in hand, or the customer in front of you, is to slow down. Which is better: to rush from client to client, never quite giving any of them your full attention (and so gaining little or no business as they respond to the sense they are of little value), or to deal with fewer clients in a day and give each your full attention? If you take the second course, you can be nearly certain you’ll win more business overall.

Customers prefer to deal with people and organizations that treat them well and make them feel important. They judge value by how well their needs are met and any problems they have are solved, fully and permanently. They aren’t interested in your sales quota or the pressures you face to make your budget. As far as each customer is concerned, they are the only one, and that’s how they expect, deep down, to be treated.

Quick Fixes Won’t Help

Imagine yourself as a customer with a problem or a concern. Which of these experiences will make you feel better?

  • Before you have even fully explained you problem, the sales person jumps in with a solution. You aren’t convinced he or she even listened to you properly. Besides, their suggestion sounds like an off-the-shelf answer. It works, sort of‚ but it doesn’t quite solve your problem to the full. You suspect you’ve been given the quick fix.
  • The sales person listens carefully, asks questions and seems to have all the time in the world to deal with you and your concerns. When you finish, the sales person asks for a little time to think carefully about what you said to be able to come up with a good solution. A day or so later, the sales person contacts you with a response that exactly fits your problem and leaves you confident it has been solved and you will face no further hassle.

Most sales people know the second approach is right. What prevents them from following it is unreasonable pressure from their own management, who often equate more business with more busyness.

Time is a Precious Gift

Organizations that drive sales and customer service staff so hard that they cannot spend the necessary time with customers are shooting themselves in both feet. In their mad urge to maximize short-term results, they end by alienating their long-term customer base and driving them to competitors. Winning a new customer is extremely expensive; keeping an existing one saves costs and provides stable and predictable sales—the holy grail of most organizations.

Few gifts are as precious as your time. When you deal with people calmly and without haste, you increase their feelings of our value and their sense of confidence in what you have to offer. The harassed doctor giving each patient five minutes and a prescription will handle scores of people in a day, yet send each one away uncertain about their treatment and worried about the diagnosis. The school teacher facing too many pupils cannot spend enough time with any of them to make a difference to their learning. The overworked sales or customer service professional trying to deal as quickly as possible with current clients to free time to prospect for more, is forced into actions that are very likely to lose business instead of win it. The employer who forces this on them to supposedly save costs is acting in the most shortsighted way imaginable.

Slowing down seems counterintuitive when you are feeling under pressure, but it is nearly always the best way forward. Try it.

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P.S. You may already be aware of ChangeThis: It’s a site that publishes 15-20 page PDF “manifestos” on topics of interest to people who think about their world. To be able to publish a manifesto on ChangeThis, you must first submit a proposal. Visitors to the site then have the opportunity to vote on the manifestos they would most like to see written. Those with the highest number of votes are the ones chosen for publication.

Slow Leadership has submitted a proposal to publish a manifesto. You can find it here. Please go to the site and vote for us! That’s the only way to make sure the manifesto is published. Thanks. We need your help on this one.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman and a retired business executive. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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