A Friendly Note on Taking Notes
A friend of mine is a talented salesperson (especially repeat sales). In fact, he often has other sales people shadow him in order to improve their own sales skills. Some of the things these observers commonly notice are how well organized he is, as well as how friendly, at ease, and knowledgeable he comes across. But each person also walks away with a few unique takeaways.
When a recent visitor who was watching my friend call clients was asked what he noticed, he said, “Every person who answered knew who he was, and every conversation picked up where it had left off…from years before, in some cases!”
What would it do for your business if you could pick up every conversation where it left off no matter how long it’s been since you last spoke? It’s a surprisingly easy thing to do when you have a good system, and it makes an incredibly positive impression on the person with whom you’re communicating.
My friend uses a web-based CRM (it just happens to be our CRM, because he’s got great taste…winky face) and he keeps detailed notes on each client and the conversations they’ve shared. He reviews someone's page in his CRM before or during any conversation, and updates it with any new data gleaned from that most recent interaction.
First and foremost, the notes you want to record should include biographical details such as the name of a client’s spouse and/or children, his or her occupation, hobbies, pets, wedding anniversary, birthday, and other significant milestone dates, etc. And don’t forget contact information, including phone numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses.
Once those are locked down, you should keep a running record of conversational notes, such as what products or services your client has previously expressed an interest in, questions they posed concerning those products or services, selling points that made an impact on them, wish lists, scheduling notes, etc. Even small, personal details – a shared love of a particular brand of beer, a favorite movie or tv show, a mutual friend or acquaintance - that crop up naturally in a friendly conversation are worth noting. Many a relationship has been built upon the most random of connections.
On a related topic, where are you keeping your notes so they are easily accessible? You can keep the best notes in the world, but if you can’t refer to them when you need them most, they really don’t do you much good, do they?
It’s okay to ask a person to repeat themselves if, in the course of conversation, you’re momentarily distracted or don’t hear clearly a piece of critical information. In fact, if you don’t understand what the other person just said, it’s more polite to apologize and ask them to say it again than it is to move on without a clear understanding just to avoid the potential embarrassment or awkwardness of asking them to repeat themselves.
However, if you did hear and understand them the first time but just as quickly forgot what they said and, worse, failed to note it down in the moment, then it can quickly become frustrating for the other person who has to keep repeating themself for your benefit. People tend to infer disrespect for themselves or their time if asked to constantly repeat themselves.
So, an easy fix is to have a place/system where you store notes on each prospect or client. Then review those notes before beginning the next conversation. It’s also fine to query the other person based on your previous notes, such as, “Is it still true that ____?” or “Last time we talked you said ______. Is that still the case?” More often than not, the other person will appreciate that you were listening to them the first time and cared enough to verify the information they originally shared.
You shouldn’t limit your note-taking to just listing the other person’s preferences. Sometimes knowing what your client or prospect doesn’t like is just as important as knowing what they do. As noted above, people want to be heard and understood. If a client tells you they don’t like something or have no interest in a particular offer, make a note of it so you don’t keep offering what they already informed you they really aren’t interested in.
Again, showing that you respect the other person enough to remember both their likes and dislikes will inspire confidence in your authenticity and interest.
Keeping and maintaining detailed notes on your prospects and clients is a time-tested practice that can and will pay huge dividends in your business and personal life. None of us are infallible, and with the overwhelming amount of information we’re bombarded with every day, it’s a wonder we can remember our own name, much less the ever-evolving details of another person’s life. So, it’s imperative to create or acquire a note-tracking system that will allow you to do just that without having to depend on your less-than-perfect memory.
But don’t put the horse before the cart. The point of maintaining notes is to help you recall details in service to the relationship you’re building with your prospects and clients. Don’t get so caught up in jotting down every bit of trivia that you forget that there’s an actual person on the other end of the conversation. Take notes as necessary, but remember that it’s not an interrogation; it’s a conversation. Stay in the moment, listen attentively, and after your conversation is finished and your memory of it is still fresh, go back and record whatever details you hadn’t yet documented.
Now that’s some noteworthy advice.
Written by Amiee Mueller and Kinn Melby Jr.
Photo by Adrew Neel