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Common Interests

by Kelly Kramer

Back in early December 2011, I traveled to do a training class for Ted Gregerson. Ted is the owner of both an Abbey Carpet and Floors To Go stores in Anniston, Ala.

First let me mention these two stores and Ted’s organization/staff were one class act. From having a personal limo driver (a first for me) to get me to and from the airport, to the intense desire from his sales staff to learn, I was reminded that professionalism and first appearances do go a long way. In fact, if I ever move to Alabama, this is the company I hope would hire me.

Training moment. Early on in the class I started to explain the importance of finding common grounds with your audience/buyers. The point being, before you ever take one step to present a product, you make friends and find common points of interest.

But, before I went into this particular topic I gave an example of that point. Prior to any class I lead or talk I give, I always learn a little bit about the geographic area so I can have something to discuss that is of interest to my audience. Well, it just happens the Alabama Crimson Tide college football program had just made it into the national championship against LSU. So in the class I asked, “How many of you think the Tide will win the national championship? Raise your hand.”

Including my raised hand, all but two hands went up. Now that’s finding true common ground. Then I asked a question that I had researched just days earlier. I said, “OK, so most of you are big Alabama fans. But can anyone tell me where the nickname Crimson Tide came from?” Out of 20 some students only one hand was raised. So I said, “Come on, you call yourself Tide fans.”

Then the person who raised his hand gave me the correct answer. To paraphrase, he said it was sometime in the early 1900s when a reporter described what he had seen at an Alabama game in a rain storm where the red clay-based field was now mud. He said the entire seen looked like a “crimson tide” and that comment struck a nerve and stuck.

My student and I had told the rest of the class something of interest they all enjoyed learning. Then a funny thing happened. One of the two people that did not raise their hand to the question about Alabama winning the title game asked, “So where did the word ‘Auburn’ come from?”

In one of my quicker thinking moments, and knowing the majority of the class was Alabama fans and Auburn is a fierce rival of Alabama—and not knowing the real answer—I jokingly said with conviction, “It goes back many years before that and means land of perpetual losers. The class roared as the two Auburn fans scowled at me. Then I said, “Don’t get mad at me it’s an old Indian word.”

That was fun and my new friends and I enjoyed the day a little more after that.

Learn to relax

Finding common ground not only relaxes your buyer it relaxes you. Your new customers are very seldom comfortable with the buying process, so it is important to warm them up.

This can be as simple as complimenting them on their vintage sports car or jokingly saying, “Here comes trouble,” to a couple that comes in with three young boys. Then, if you have kids, you tell about some mischief your own kids have gotten into. Simply put, finding common ground is your best start to a great finish.

Again thanks to Ted and his crew for a fun and memorable experience. And thanks for reading.