attract convert retain customers

3 Quick Tips On Building Long Term Client Relationships

April 2, 2015

Customer retentionWhenever we discuss salespeople’s skill-sets and the development of such, we always get round to the power of building relationships and the long-term benefits of maintaining and sustaining the connections with clients.

The value of doing so has been covered many times, and it is always advantageous to revisit the reasons why these long-term networks can improve profitability and productivity alike.

While we know it’s important to keep these relationships going, how do we start them in the first place? What can we do to preserve the relationship and build trust so that the sales just keep on coming?

Here are three of the best tips for this:

Identify what you customer wants from you that will support their long-term goals

Very often, we concentrate on how we can sell more to customers through improved quality of products or offering discounts for multiple sales and the like. However, it might be that the customer needs more specific areas of support in maintaining their business interests with their customers.

Here, you would be better off looking at how you can support their efforts and long-term goals by identifying the level of service they require from you to accommodate the increase in performance they are requiring. So ask questions like, “What can I do for you that will improve your productivity with your customers? How can we support your marketing or sales efforts so that it is easier for you to break into new markets?”

The more assistance you give to clients that helps them achieve their goals, the more likely it will be that their improved results will be down to you. Hence, they’ll associate you with their success in the future.

Build up a network of supporters within the customer’s business

If you are only talking to the buyer or the person responsible for making final decisions, you run the risk of being held ransom whenever there’s a need for changes. That one person may hold all the purse-strings or they may be the only decision-maker that has the power to use your services.

It’s much better to get to know others within the business, networking with them to see what other people’s goals are in working with a supplier. You are then able to spread your influence throughout the company, rather than putting all your proverbial eggs in the one basket.

Determine who would be the best contact in accounts. Identify who in production would be an ally of yours. Seek out the best person in the marketing department who will be your friend when it comes to building relationships at a sales level.

The more you spread the word around the company about your usefulness, the less likely it is for one person to make or break your relationships.

Make the customer more profitable using your company than not using you (and prove it!)

It may be beneficial for a customer to buy from you when you discount your products once. But if you want to maintain business, you need to prove how your products and services are actually affecting their results.

If you sell photocopiers, you need to prove how much extra savings your thousands of copies are actually making them over competitors’ solutions.

If you are selling consulting services, you need to prove the value of your services and build your reputation on what future opportunities might occur when using you.

Building reasons why the customer or their business is better off using you gives compelling reasons for them to use you again and again. Repetition is the key to gaining further business, so create chances to prove how your services are improving results, in whatever ways are important for the customer.

By identifying what you can do to activate the ‘repeat-business’ switch in your buyer’s mind, you are building reasons for them to stay with you and increase opportunities to maintain the account for the long-term.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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If You Don’t Invest In Yourself, Then Why Should Your Customers?

お金で叩かれる男性I was talking to a client of ours last week and he mentioned something that made me stop, think and agree with him.

He said that he is getting tired of salespeople trying to sell to him without doing the necessary research on his business to identify where potential needs may be. He’s also tired of having to cover information with salespeople that they should have known beforehand.

But his most telling statement was that he is surprised by how little progress many salespeople have made in their own development. It’s an investment that he ensures his own sales team makes, in time, effort and money. In fact, he incentivises his team to improve themselves, paying for books to update their business library and keeping up-to-date with podcasts, DVDs and business CDs.

It got me thinking about how many salespeople fail to keep themselves up-to-date with the changing world of business and sales. It’s the mark of all successful salespeople I have met that they realise learning is a never-ending journey. No matter how successful you may think yourself to be, you still must keep improving.

How would a professional sports team fare if they thought, ‘We’re the best in the league, so why should we learn anything new? Let the opposition play catch-up and then we’ll improve!’

The problem with that is they lose momentum. All sports teams will say that momentum builds confidence and confidence instils belief and competence. If you fail to plan for your development, you start to blame other things outside yourself for anything that goes wrong.

Teams are always on the lookout to ‘get the edge’ over the competition, and that’s an attitude that should drive you forward.  I’m not just referring to going on training courses; there is a plethora of other ways to keep yourself up-to-date with new developments in your field, like participating in sales blogs, linking up to appropriate groups on LinkedIn, attending events pertinent to your industry, reading business articles that build your business acumen, and identifying ideas that make customers think seriously about you.

As we have discussed many times, customers have changed the way they buy. They don’t just look for solutions to today’s problems; they want to know how they can be successful over their competition in the future. If your knowledge and expertise through your development helps them to discuss these types of subjects, customers are more likely to listen to your ideas, concepts, thoughts and recommendations. But if you don’t invest in your own knowledge, why should your customers think you have anything more to offer than your competitors?

So, keep up with the changing ideas in buyer thought processes, become the ‘go-to’ person when clients have questions and spend time investing in your future. It will serve you well. Invest in your own skills and give your customers reasons to invest in you.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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3 Ways To Become Indispensable To Your Customer

BLD037387When we ask buyers what makes them purchase from particular suppliers, the answers can range from great prices to great value to great people and many others.

But some reasons always seem to float to the top of the list, and when you see them they appear common sense. Unfortunately, the sense needed for this isn’t that common. So, here I list just three ways that would make you indispensable to your clients, meaning they really value your services and wouldn’t want to work without you.

Be Absolutely Clear On How The Customer’s Business Works

You may be thinking this is pretty obvious but most salespeople we speak to still tend to put the emphasis on the products and services they sell, rather than on how they will impact the business of the prospect they are trying to sell into. It’s almost as if they are saying ‘I have this product…now who can I sell it to?’

What differentiates great salespeople from the rest is the ability to see the client’s business through their eyes. Recognising what is important to the customer is one thing; recognising how your customer’s business can be improved by using your services is another.

So ask yourself these questions:

* What is my customer’s strategic focus?

* What does their LinkedIn company page say about what’s important to them?

*What do their financial ratios say about their focus at the moment?

* What publications are they quoted in recently?

* How does the market view them?

* What are their sales strategies?

* What do their offices and their facilities say about their values and future plans?

* How does the customer recognise buying needs?
* How do they evaluate alternative solutions to current problems?

* How is involved in decision-making?

* How do they measure their success?

* When negotiating, how do you gain a clearer understanding of their positions and why they take the specific decisions they do?

This breadth of understanding will assist you to find further sales opportunities right across the decision-making chain of the whole company.

Focus On The Results Their Business Wants To Achieve

This creates value in the buyer’s eyes. The definition of value is how much your products and services can accelerate the achievement of results that customers are looking for.  So your value proposition is how quickly those desired results are achieved.

You must be able to tell customers how your products create competitive advantage for your clients. You need to be able to uncover problems and reduce the resistance to change by showing how the payoffs outweigh the spend.

This helps the customer focus on results, not costs.

How you can do this will vary, but may centre on:

* Clarifying the business challenges faced by the customer

* Identifying the measurements of success used by the customer

* Showing how your products add value to their capabilities

* Calculating the value your products add to their portfolio

* Showing how you as an individual add value to the services you offer

* Being passionately interested in the success of their business

Creating this foundation will create awareness in the customer’s mind as to why having you as a business partner will be valuable for them now and in the future.

Get Close To Decision-Makers And Influencers Within The Customer’s Company

Building business acumen right across the company you are dealing with will help you access many departments when contacting them. This increases your knowledge of the requirements of everyone within the company and your ability to build partnerships within the company is enhanced.

The deeper the level of relationships you have within the company, the higher your chances of building value in everything you do with them. The trust is built slowly and surely as you show how valuable an asset you are to various levels within the business.

Ways to do this could include:

* Recognising the variety of functions different people employ within your customer’s business

* Building deep relationships with team members of the decision-makers

* Listening for background information as you’re discussing ideas with people

* Keeping promises and following up with enquiries when possible

* Identifying key personnel who have an influence on buying strategies

Each of these three can help you become valuable to the customer and their business. Applying all of them can make you indispensable to them as they see their results improve based purely on the relationship you build with their teams and individuals within them.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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Understanding Customers’ Perspective To Improve Client Interaction

handshake in officeUnfortunately, conflict is an unavoidable aspect of the human condition, and is likely to creep into the conversation any time expectations differ. Conflict can raise stress levels and leave long-lasting effects on employee health, decreasing job satisfaction, and increasing absenteeism and tenure rates.

It is critical that employees who interact with clients on a regular basis work to improve their conflict management skills, and specifically, their ability understand the customer perspective. Communicating appropriately and professionally can deescalate conflict and allow all parties to come to an amicable solution.

The best method for understanding the customer perspective is simply learning to lead clients through a gentle, productive discussion of their perspective. If the interaction is positive to begin with, or an upset customer is still relatively calm, the employee can use encouraging language and ask relevant questions needed to move the conversation forward.

Employees should use positive phrases that affirm they are listening, such as “I understand” or “I see”, and ask the questions that reflect the client’s language. For example, saying “Just to make sure I’ve understood your perspective, you have experienced X, which has led to you to feel Y. What solution can we implement to help resolve this issue?” can do quite a bit to prevent misunderstandings.

When a client or customer first becomes frustrated, employees can prevent further escalations by taking care to avoid anger-triggering statements and body language. The employee should not try to make excuses for why they can’t meet a customer need, state that it isn’t part of their job description, or send an angry client off on a wild goose chase of call forwards and voice mails to have them speak to a manager who isn’t immediately available. These actions can give the client the impression that their concerns are being dismissed, which is sure to turn their frustration to anger.

Once a client is genuinely angered, it becomes even more important to treat them with dignity and respect. Being told to “calm down” is likely to be perceived as patronizing and downright infuriating to most, and a customer who already feels cheated is no exception to this rule. Following this up with statements like “as you were told” or “as it says in Document X” will leave the patient feeling further disrespected and dismissed.

Instead, employees can use phrases such as “You have every right to feel upset” or “Yes, I understand that you are upset about this situation” to help the upset client to feel validated in their emotions, which can help to sooth hurt feelings. Adding in a short apology for their inconvenience is always a good move, but it must be genuine and specific to their situation. A generic “We’re sorry for any inconvenience” may negate any progress that has been made.

When an employee is able to proactively use empathy and active listening skills throughout their interactions with clients, they will find that it is much easier to understand the perspectives and emotions of the customer. Keeping the customer perspective in mind throughout discussions will allow employees to find solutions that are a win-win for everyone, leaving the customer feeling heard and tended to properly and the employee more confident and calm in their customer service role.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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4 Easy Steps To Deal With An Explosively Angry Customer

angry girl aiming a gun at youHuman beings have never and will never be predictable animals. What to one person will be a bit of a nuisance may well be tantamount to being the end of the world to another.

Certain people have standards that need to be kept, and if they’re not it can cause them to lose their temper or be aggressive. The reason is they feel reacting the way they do is the best way to get what they want or need to rectify the situation.

It might be difficult to deal with when a customer becomes angry, but it’s even harder when they become explosively so. By that, I’m referring to customers who swear, shout, offer threats or throw their weight around.

What can you do when the customer has lost their rag? You’re told to remain professional and offer great customer service, but what if the customer goes over the top?

One thing you shouldn’t do is tell the customer to calm down. 

They are acting this way because they feel they have been let down, embarrassed, or their rules or standards have not been met. Telling them that they should behave differently is like telling them they are wrong and their behaviour should change.

Remember, when a person is angry or highly-charged, they are not able to think straight. The emotional brain takes over and the rationale brain does not compute requests to think logically.

Instead, try this: Allow the customer to vent their feelings while standing tall, giving good eye contact and attempting to understand exactly what the position is from their standpoint.

It’s doubtful if the prospect will be absolutely clear on the facts if they are so angry, so make quick mental notes (or on paper, if possible) of what precisely has gone wrong but what might still need to be cleared up.

See if you can match the tempo of the person. Note it’s the tempo, not the temper that you match. By matching the speed of the customer’s approach, you appeal to their subliminal reflexes that make them feel you understand and are on their wavelength.

Get them to calm down by asking specific questions that make them use their rational-thinking brain. This will make them revert away from the emotion attached to the situation and make them start to think about specifics. You’ll notice the anger start to be put aside as they have to think about specific facts, not opinions.

After you’ve found out the facts and identified what needs ton be done, saying something like:

 “I’m really sorry this has happened. This is what we’re going to do about it…”

By making this statement: 

1) You’re apologising for the situation, not apportioning blame

2) You’re saying that action will be taken and you’ll explain what that action will be. 

This allows you to regain control and helps the customer think through a solution to the problem. Although the customer feels they are entitled to their anger, most will want an answer. If you are able to offer that control and some action, there may well be a turnaround as you see the customer’s mood change.

Although always a difficult challenge to face, by finding out what the customer really wants from the situation, your controlling action-oriented progress will help them see that the anger may be better utilised somewhere else.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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The 8 Essential Skills You Need To Become A Perfect Listener

Woman listening with ridiculously big earWe have spoken many times about the key skills required to become an expert salesperson, and we always keep coming back to the specific skill of being able to listen effectively.

Listening is a skill in that it can be learned, developed and improved. Here are some ideas that will help you keep developing this essential addition to your armoury:

- Practice listening skills: Yes, the more you practice, the better you will become. It’s not something you will ever become perfect at – your brain is set up to continually ‘self-talk’ so when you are talking to yourself, you obstruct the ability to listen effectively. Spend time listening in to conversations and practice closely listening to the meaning behind what people are saying, rather than getting ready to jump in with what you want to say.

- Keep an open, curious mind: This is a great skill to develop. It stops you being judgemental and allows you to open up the conversation because you’re more interested in what the other person is thinking and feeling rather than what you are wanting to say and do

- Link what you listen to with what you already know: This helps you build your knowledge and determine connections between what was said and what you know already. That will help you see how these connections could be built up further and also turn you into an interesting conversationalist as you share ideas that are linked up.

- Resist external distractions: Noises, other conversations and such-like are often key distractions that might interfere with your ability to pay attention to what someone is saying. You need to focus and concentrate so these extraneous distractions are placed into the background rather than brought to your conscious attention. If distractions become too much, see if you can move locations or pick up the conversation at another time.

- Ask questions to clarify understanding: People will delete and generalise information because they are reciting from their own perspective and from their own opinionated ideas. Recognise that they may not see things like you do. It doesn’t mean they are wrong; it just means they see things differently. Listen to understand before being making yourself understood.

- Summarise often: It’s good to stop off now and again in a conversation to summarise your understanding of what has been said so far. It stops you from misunderstandings and allows you to backtrack if necessary and ensure you have a complete understanding of what has been said by the client so far.

- Analyse non-verbal signals: Remember that people say more with their subconscious body language than they do with their conscious words. Watch out for mannerisms, eye-contact, specific gestures and other signals that may not be in sync with their overall message. Ask questions that determine the real meaning behind what they may be saying

- They listen to content and emotion: many people will hear the content but miss the emotions that drive the content. In conversations, the emotions may actually mean more than what is being said, so listen out to the signals that may mean the person has hidden agendas or has more concerns than they are letting on.

As you can see, listening is a skill that you will never perfect, and if you keep practicing you may find you get to know more than you had perceived before.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

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Handling Objections – Infographic

One of the biggest hurdles facing sales people is the objection raised from the prospect. Using the tactics in our infographic below, handling objections will now be a doddle!


(Image by MTD Sales Training – please attribute if republished)

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training