Whether you have just met a client for the first time or this is their last scheduled session, all 5 of these techniques are important to use to maintain a lasting relationship between trainer and dog owner.
This requires exceptional communication and a great imagination. Express understanding of what the client is feeling. Employ active listening skills and clarify the situation they are experiencing. All of these are learned, no one is born with this ability. Take the time to memorize some open-ended and non-judgmental questions to use when clarifying what a client is saying. Keep the questions on an index card somewhere you will see them just before a client session. ‘When you said….what did that mean?’ Or simply paraphrase what they said and ask if that is correct. Don’t be critical of the client, their methods or equipment.
2. Use Their Name
Remember their name (not just the dog’s). We can tell you a dog’s name from 8 and a half years ago without blinking. Find a way to remember the human’s name as well! Use their name to address them when first greeting, instructing and leaving. Think about how great it feels when you hear your own name through a warm smile as you enter a room.
3. Use Humor
Comedians don’t come up with everything on stage right there on the spot. They plan ahead for those moments. Practice getting laughter out of people. Think of slightly awkward situations dog owners get into and make light of it, by telling a story of yourself going through the same embarrassment. We have all been there!
4. Show Appreciation
Say ‘thank you’ & make eye contact, not just ‘um, thanks’. Handwritten notes, however small can go a long way. Send a personalized note with a picture of their dog as a follow-up. Ask if you may share a picture of their dog on your business Facebook page to show how proud you are of their progress. When you are thinking of someone – let them know by texting, calling or emailing. ‘I was at this cute little boutique downtown and they had a Newfoundland hand towel – it made me think of Nora & you!’
5. Under Promise & Over Deliver
Getting a thoughtful gift is over delivering. Anticipate their needs with a Kong or other toy (braided old t-shirt) for their first puppy ever. Be careful about what you promise. Specifying that they will be called at a certain time may be setting them up for disappointment if something unexpected pops up.
“Promise your commitment, but never a specific outcome” – Dee Hoult Applause Your Paws Inc.
Sometimes you won’t see the immediate effects of employing these 5 ways to win over clients, but they will always remember what made them feel appreciated! Years later a dog owner may run into you on the street and express how wonderful a trainer you were for them and their pet, even if they clearly weren’t doing their homework some weeks.
Which of these have you already been using and which will you add to your repertoire? What others would you add to this list?
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