Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles will be dedicated to the wisdom of Jeb Blount, author of People Buy You (2010, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), which is available wherever books or e-books are sold. I would recommend it highly.
–Paul Teie, MS
Myth: People Buy from People They Like – Truth: People Don’t Buy from People They Don’t Like.
Jeb Blount is a well-known writer, lecturer and consultant to business. Probably his best-known book is People Buy You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Business. I understand that some in our profession balk at anything that smacks of commerce. But it is all about persuasion. After all, a large part of counseling is persuasion.
At a recent AAA convention, I was able, between hours of foot-killing toil on the convention floor, to attend three very interesting talks. One was by a marketing consultant, one was regarding education, and the third was about patient counseling, led by audiology’s counseling guru, Kris English. The common thread of the three presentations was the importance of persuading our patients to obtain the hearing help we and their families know they need, but to which they have yet to awaken. We are not offering Caribbean cruises, after all.
I have noticed, over the years, a bit of resistance in some patients to the idea of getting help for their hearing. Go figure! If I do not do something to actively persuade my patients to get that help, I am not doing my job. The insights and techniques of people like Mr. Blount can be very helpful and are readily adaptable to what we do.
In this first principle, Mr. Blount turns an old bromide of persuasion on its head. He is saying that, as important as it is to be likeable and to make a connection with your patients, that, by itself, is not enough.
First, the “myth” part. It is undeniably important that we be likeable and make a connection with our patients. In our profession, we have a much greater opportunity to do so than do many health professionals. This is due to the amount of time and the kinds of conversations we have with our patients. This connection builds trust, making it easier for patients to follow our recommendations. But this connection is insufficient if we do not offer our patients solutions to their very personal and very specific hearing difficulties.
By hearing difficulties, I do not mean that they have 50 dB thresholds at 2k and 4k Hz. (I truly believe that very few people obtain hearing aids because of the audiogram.) I suggest, rather, that they are unable to engage in activities they used to enjoy (for each it will be different, from coffee after Sunday worship to weekly bridge club, or from Monday morning breakfast with buddies to live theater). Or that they have been embarrassed, frustrated, saddened, irritated, or otherwise not happy in some situation or another due to their hearing loss.
Our ability to offer solutions to these very specific, and very personal situations is what our patients are looking to us to provide. If we can’t come through, we are less likely to persuade our patient to proceed with hearing aids, no matter how likeable we may be.
Now to the “truth” part. While it is not enough simply to be likeable, being unlikeable may well turn a patient off to the point that nothing can be done to save the purchase. Again, I am not talking about being mean, nasty, rude or offensive. Although these are unpleasant attributes, I really don’t believe we have many people with those characteristics among our ranks. But unlikability can arise from more subtle behaviors that can take a good deal of self-awareness to identify and address.
Is Self-Examination in Order?
Have you developed any verbal tics that may be off-putting? Can your manner of speech be seen by others as condescending? Is your sense of humor appropriate for the situation? Is your attire professional? Do you fall into use of jargon too readily? Do your body language and facial expressions contradict your intended message?
We could all use a little self-examination in this regard on occasion to be assured that we are not getting in our own way. Sometimes, self-examination is not enough. Maybe we need a coach.
As much as I have come to dislike sports analogies, I really can’t avoid this one. Top performers in sports (Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, LeBron James, for example), despite being among the best in the world at what they do, still rely on coaches to keep their edge and to improve their performance. This is also true of professional musicians, actors, dancers, and even titans of industry. They understand that there is always room for improvement.
I have been in this industry for nearly 30 years, and if I rely on just myself to judge my performance, I am not seeing everything. First of all, my ego gets in the way, not allowing me to understand that I could be anything but perfect. My body language is all but invisible to me. And I sometimes fall into verbal tics of which I am not aware. (Do you think that people who rely on the word “like” for a large part of their verbal output are even aware of it? Probably not.)
Obtaining an outside opinion can be extremely useful. Someone who you trust to tell you the truth, without you becoming defensive.
If you are lucky enough to have a trusted colleague with whom you work, ask them to observe you and give their opinion. In fairness, you may want to make a reciprocal offer to observe them.
Bottom line – while being unlikable is apt to be a hindrance no matter the quality of the rest of your presentation, being likable will only get you as far as the problems you are able to solve for your patients.
Paul U. Teie, MS, has been an audiologist since 1991. He has spent much of his career in direct clinical care but has filled other roles in the hearing care industry as sales representative of a special instrument dealer and a hearing instrument manufacturer. Since 2007 he has provided sales and clinical training for large hearing care networks and currently trains for HearUSA/HearCanada.