Customers don’t stop buying

As a sales professional, part of your job is to take an active role in customer service.

Why?

When you manage your customer’s expectations up front, you empower your organization to fulfill those expectations throughout.

When you take an active role in maintaining the satisfaction and the loyalty of your customers, you can make it so they don’t even think of going anywhere else.

Because customers don’t stop buying, do they?

They just stop buying from you.

Photo: Hamed Parham via Creative Commons 2.0

Want to grow your sales? Look beyond the commission

We’ve discussed why it’s better to be in a relationship with your clients. To get there, the first thing you have to do is get in the mood.

What do I mean by that? You must develop a relationship mindset. And that means you must have a long-term focus. You can’t be just about the transaction; you can’t be just about the commission check.

It’s about valuing the relationship, and part of that is believing that you are someone with whom other people would want to have a relationship. Because you have:
•    Experience
•    Training
•    Skills
•    Ability
•    Knowledge

Maybe you have all five. These are attributes that your client will value when it comes time to purchase your product. Because they don’t want your product, they want what your product will do for them. You also must learn to think as much you can from your client’s point of view, and that goes to the heart of empathy. We are truly empathetic when we understand where our customers are coming from.

Here’s how to achieve that. Define the top 20% of your customers over the last year. It’s up to you whether it’s by revenue, profitability, number of purchases or whatever metric you want to use.

Once you know who they are, immediately increase your face time with them. And bring value to the table. Get in front of them and offer one idea, or one project to each one of them. Help them get a new piece of business. Ask for their opinions. Ask them questions. Listen to their answers.

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Your six best friends in the sales process

Here’s an important question: When your customers call in with a problem, who handles that?

Actually, let’s expand that to:
•    Who
•    What
•    Why
•    When
•    Where
•    How

Take an inquisitive perspective for a moment,  and you can begin to see what your sales and customer service functions look and feel like from the point of view of the client. This is a very valuable exercise because it can yield action items that will improve your sales process.

First let’s look at “who,” beginning with who is your customer.
•    Who is their main point of contact, who do they go to when they have to solve a problem?
•    Who do they deal with if you’re not available?
•    Who the most important person for them to be dealing with on a regular basis, who is inside of your organization

OK, let’s consider the “when”: Read more

Why the buying process is just as important as the product

Are your customers satisfied (really) with the buying process?

Customer service levels are constantly changing.

If yours are, find out if something happened, either on your end or your customers’ to change their expectations and perceptions.

If satisfaction is rising, find out what you’re doing right so you can keep doing it.

If it’s slithering downward, figure out how to reverse the situation before it falls off the charts.

That’s once they’re a customer. But remember, we’re talking about managing those expectations in advance.

You’ve got to think about two things: products and process. Now we go out and we sell the products. We go out and sell the widget. We go out and sell the transactions.

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Convert your customers into clients. Here’s why.

The smartest sales people manage a little basket called their clientele.

The customer buys from us once or once in a while. A client buys from us all the time. A customer is a transaction. A client is a relationship. A customer is focused on what they pay. A client is focused on what they get for what they pay. Because with the customer it’s about cost and price. With the client, it’s about value and return on the investment they made.

Let’s put it this way: The customer is a one night stand, and the client is a marriage.

Think about all the work you go through to land a customer. All that prospecting. You identify all the suspects, and narrow it down to the prospects through profiling.

You say to yourself, “This is going to be an ideal prospect for me.”

Then you go to personal branding campaign. Because we hear it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Here’s what it really is: It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. So we brand ourselves in a certain way and we market ourselves out there.

We present our brand to the marketplace in the interest of getting an appointment with our prospect. We get an appointment, then we go out and engage in the short course on selling. We ask questions and listen. We open our customers and engage with them. We get involved in a discovery process of finding out who they are and what’s important to them.

Because the product doesn’t sell, the problem sells. So we look for the:
•    Pain
•    Fear
•    Challenge
•    Issue

We’re looking for what we can potentially create a solution for. So we respond accordingly and put our presentation together. After we deliver our presentation, of course the customer has questions or concerns. Or what you might call objections. We learn to address those objections. We build an objection guide so that we can overcome the most common objections. We do this so we can smoothly transition into that closing section of the sales presentation where we ask for the business.

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Customer expectations: the nitty-gritty for sales professionals

You can get whatever deal you want by lying to the customer.

You can read them a fax sheet or tell them a fairy tale. It’s the difference between looking for a transaction and looking for a relationship.

What approach are you taking? Are you looking for the first buy today, then crossing your fingers and hoping that everything goes absolutely perfect, so they can hopefully realize 80 percent of the expectation? Or are you looking for a lifetime relationship with this person so that you can “wow” them on the first few transactions?

Three things can happen when you deliver customer service:

You can create moments of mediocrity. You know, “I went in and I wanted this I ordered this, they delivered this, I ate this and I went home.”

You can create moments of misery, and these are becoming more rampant every day. We call in to get some answers about our credit card and we’re told to push this button, push this button, push this button, and all these automated attendants are driving us out the door. Or we’re picking up the phone when we have a service issue and speaking to someone in a foreign land, who we can barely understand.

You can create moments of magic. I’m not the first person to talk about how we really differentiate is by going over the top with our services. That’s the role that we play as sales professionals in the customer service arena.

Here’s how we do it: By asking ourselves three questions up front that are going to enable us to manage expectations: Read more

How to keep your customers from leaving

For years I’ve been working with companies on how to acquire new business. I help them develop their prospecting plans, marketing plans and pipeline management plans. Just as importantly, I help them figure out how to keep their customers from leaving.

Because things have changed. Customers today buy differently than they did a few years ago – and it’s all about expectations. You are getting Googled before you walk in the door. Meanwhile, your competition is knocking at the door, saying, “We can do it better we can do it faster we can do it cheaper.”

There are a few things at work here: Customers have access to more information. They know that they have more options. Therefore their expectations might be a little bit higher.

The expectations of the customer are truly a major component to their satisfaction, so you want to manage them as well as you can. It’s been said that there two components to customer satisfaction:
•    Your product or service performance
•    And the customer’s expectation

You can have the best-quality product in the world, but if it doesn’t live up to the customer’s expectations, they’re not satisfied.

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This Week, Listen UP!

Here is a quick checklist to evaluate your own listening habits.  I got this list from a recent article that I read by Rick Phillips.  Try to be brutally honest with yourself and see how you do.

Do you ever catch yourself looking at your watch while you are listening?

Do you ever finish other people’s sentences?

Do your ever find yourself patiently waiting for your turn to talk?

Is it hard for you to maintain eye contact with people who are talking to you?

Do you really give the other person a chance to talk?

Do you ever interrupt while someone is trying to make a point?

Do you ever think to yourself, “I’ve heard this all before?”

Do you sometimes anticipate what the other person is going to say?

Do you find yourself occasionally distracted while the other person is speaking?

Do you ever find yourself wondering what the other person has just said?

Do you ever mentally begin structuring your remarks while they are still talking?

Could you encourage the other person to continue their remarks more often?

If you have answered yes to more than half of the above questions, don’t fret, you are normal.  In both sales and leadership, listening is one of the greatest tools that one can possess.  Below are a few quotes pertaining to listening:

 “It is the province of knowledge to speak. And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes 

“There’s a big difference between showing interest and really taking interest.”  Michael Nichols–The Lost Art of Listening

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  Winston Churchill

“The reward for always listening when you’d rather be talking is wisdom.”  Anonymous

 “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.”  Wilson Mizner

 “You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen—not just money, but respect.”  Harvey Mackay

“The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys.”  Sam Walton

 “I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen.  Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many  people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”  Lee Iacocca

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Steven Covey

 “Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable—and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities.”  Peter Nulty

 How do you rank in your listening skills?  How would you customers rank you?  How about your employees?  The Good Lord gave us two eyes and two ears with only one mouth.  There HAS TO BE a good reason for that. 

 The art of solid, empathetic communication is founded in the ability to effectively respond to the other person.  Some of the people who you have met in your life that you found to be the most interesting have also been the ones that have been the most interested.  They asked questions and listened to your response.  They cared and they showed it. 

I’ll close with a challenge to you.  This week, no matter what it is that you currently do as a leader, a sales manager, or a salesperson, I want you to ask a minimum of 10 questions to everyone with whom you engage in a conversation.  Make note of what it is that they tell you and make it a point to bring that up the next time you speak.  You will be amazed at the response that you will get in return for your attentive listening.

Never Quote Price Until You Establish Value

You know, I have been quoting that little gem (Never quote price until you establish value!) for years and, until recently I was always under the assumption that most salespeople had to first establish value for their product or service before actually stating a price.  For most sellers, this comes down to giving a solid presentation of the FAB points (features, advantages, and benefits) of their product or service.  This, of course, is typically on top of all of the history and background on the company. The assumption here is that the prospect or customer will find something in that presentation that turns them on and that they will find valuable to meet their needs.

The true meaning of this quote is somewhat different:  You should never quote price until you establish what they value! You see, the value that you put on your products or services is not as important as what the prospect or customer values at that time.  If your products (and the presentation of those products) do not connect with their MWO (most wanted outcome) then your products do not matter and they certainly hold little value to the customer.  We need to first establish a connection with the customer by understanding and relating to their needs.  Do your homework, prepare your questions, choreograph the dance, and design the dialogue. 

The key word in relationship is RELATE.  Do your best to relate their needs to your product by understanding what those needs are before you do your presentation or quote your price.  A VALUE PROPOSITION is a statement (or series of statements) that follows a diagnosis of the customer’s issues.  You can only propose VALUE if you know what it is that they VALUE!  So the age old quote goes “If you ask enough of the right questions, and really listen to the answers, your customer will explain your business to you!”