Posts Tagged ‘sale’

Run FORREST (Customer) RUN!

Loving customers sounds great when we’re reading it in a business book. But in the real world, the way we interact with customers can be anything but loving.  Here are some of the bad behaviors that I’ve seen over the years as a business banker and how to fix them.

1. Pushy Salesperson Attitude.

The days of the pushy salesperson are long gone. And if you’re still measuring sales performance on quantity (revenue) instead of quality (profit), then you are bound to get reluctant customers who cost money to integrate into your system and are often lost before they become truly profitable.

Find your ideal customer.

Start by identifying your favorite customers, the ones you get along with, who seem effortless and even a pleasure to work with. They are often a pleasure to work with because their requirements match what your business system delivers. For example, if you consistently deliver within 48 hours and your customers need product in 48 hours, they will be delighted. But if you bring on customers who need 24-hour delivery, you will consistently disappoint. When you’ve identified your ideal customers, dig into the specifics of what it is about your business that works for them.

2. Overpromise and under-deliver. (elementary?)

Studies show that expectations drive satisfaction results. So if you set your customers’ expectations higher than you are able to deliver, they will be MORE dissatisfied than if their expectations were closer to the true experience.


For what’s really important to your soon-to-be-customer. Ask them what they expect from your company and then speak to each expectation and detail what a real experience is like. Then ask them how that sounds to them and if that meets their expectations.

3. Tell them what they’d like to hear.

This is another expectation issue. Customers want to know what to expect: when will their product be delivered, when will the service guy show up, etc. People are planning their busy lives around your answer, and when you just tell them what they want to hear but deliver something altogether different, this absolutely sends people through the roof.

Tell the conservative truth.

If you have only been able to deliver overnight 1 percent of the time, don’t say that you can always do it. If you’re not as good at providing a typical service because you just don’t like it, then refer them to the person who is better. This will actually work in your favor.

4. Ignore them after the sale.

Bringing on new customers is important, but loyal customers who refer people to your business do so because of their experience AFTER the sale.

Create a process.

Customers get ignored because there’s not a process to service them after the sale.

Love your customers.

I mean this in the most serious way. Look for ways to offer them special deals and introduce them to new products and services. Have special events just for them where they can learn new things about your product or service. One client I have sent their customer a truckload of balloons, hamburgers, hot dogs, a grill and all the fixings for a picnic to celebrate their anniversary of being a customer for 25 years.

5. Keep the owner (President/CEO) behind the scenes.

Loyal customers feel like they have a relationship with the company. When customers have the feeling that they can reach out and talk to the owner whenever they want to (even though they rarely do it), it gives them a sense of closeness and loyalty.

Interact with customers.

Find opportunities to put yourself in front of your customers.  If you own a retail operation,  be there and answer questions. If you are a manufacturer, take customer service calls now and then. You might think you have more pressing things to do, but they will not yield the powerful customer loyalty that a personal connection does.

6. Make them feel stupid.

Rude and condescending tones can creep out in your communication— especially if you’re stressed. Your customers probably aren’t as smart as you about the product or service that you sell—that’s why they buy from you!

7. Voicemail, and no other way to find you.

It’s getting more difficult to find people at their desk.  And today’s communication tools have increased expectations that when a customer calls, they expect a call back or a response ASAP. Voicemail will NOT cut it anymore.

Leave a cell phone number.

Be sure to include your cell phone number in your voicemail recording so that people can get in touch with you.

8. Not understanding what’s important in their application.

There’s nothing more frustrating to customers than feeling like they are talking into a black hole when they explain how they use your product and service in their application.

Observe your customers in action.

Take the time to actually spend time with your customers watching how they use your product. You might even discover a new product or service in the process.

9. Putting your policies over their satisfaction.

Have you ever created a policy about customer satisfaction? The customer isn’t always right, but is following your rules worth the loss of a customer?

Plan to break the policy.

This might sound odd, but think about when it makes sense to break the policy. Think about when breaking your rules is worth it. This makes it easy to deal with situations quickly and easily without taking too much time to have the customer wallowing in discontent.


The Sales Cycle! What You Need to Know!

Many non-sales people don’t really understand that great sales people have the process of selling down to a half science / half art form. Good sales people don’t even really sell, they simply help a customer resolve a problem they may have. The other thing people working in a small business don’t understand is that nearly every customer facing employee needs to know the science part of sales. A long time ago I was taught that there were five steps of a sale. With any client you need to know exactly where you are in the cycle, so you can use probing questions to find out what needs to be known to get to the next stage.

Stages in the five step sales cycle are progressive and you can’t move to the next step until you are sure your customer is ready.

Step 1: Attention. Before you can start getting into the detail of what your customer needs or wants, you need to get their attention. Attention simply means that the prosopect (or suspect) is willing to listen to you and go through as many of the steps to qualify or disqualify them.

Step 2: Interest. After you have gotten their attention and they are listening they must be interested in two way dialogue that will help you identify what is most important to them. Many sales people loose their prospects at this step because the sales person hasn’t been able to keep a prospect engaged long enough to determine their needs. An example of a customer that is interested is after talking about your product or service and the ways it may benefit them, they give you indications they are still interested you know you are at this stage.

Step 3: Conviction. Although all steps of the sale are important, conviction may be the most important and hardest to overcome part. Conviction has two parts: First the customer must know they have a problem, and second they must believe you, your company, and its product or service is the solution that is going to help them solve their problem. Here is a good example. Let’s say you are a consultant selling a service to help business owners understand better how to measure their business performance. You may easily see the company is having serious problems and you may know exactly how to help them fix them, but until the business owner really believes he has a problem you won’t get past part one of the conviction step. This is the step where ideally you the sales person do more listening than talking and you ask probing questions that will help you understand how the customer perceives their situation. You then use anecdotal stories and examples that will allow the owner to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

If you are able to check off the first part of the conviction stage, your client must believe you are the one to help them solve their problem. Both parts are equally important. I like to think that once a prospect has passed the conviction stage, the rest is the fun part of sales.

Step 4: Desire. This is the stage of the sale when the prospect / customer emotionally buys into your company’s solution as theirs. It is the stage of the sale where the customer has mentally checked off the box for resolving their problem. It’s important that even when a customer is in the desire stage, they may not “buy” for a number of reasons. Affordability may be a reason, timing of other projects that are consuming the buyer’s time and a host of other reasons may require you to put the sale on the back burner until they customer believes they are ready to move to the final stage.

Step 5: Action. The action stage is where the customer places an order, pays for your services or signs a contract that may allow you to move forward.

Don’t assume that a customer won’t move backward in the process once or twice while moving through the stages of the sale. It happens. For that reason it is important to evaluate which stage you are at every time you plan to move to the next stage.

It is easy using the methods I have described above to set up a customer relationship management system (CRM) to show the stages of the sale and put % of estimated success on each stage. It’s also easy to teach this method to those in your company that are customer facing since they also play a continuing role in keeping a customer happy.