We often hear from salespeople that one of their biggest differentials is that of giving service. We then ask the question ‘what specific services do you offer that make you different from your competition? How are your services actually adding value to your customer?’
Unfortunately, lots of the answers we get are either pretty woolly or not real differentiators.
If you are going to offer service as a value-builder to your clients, you need to identify what is most important to your client base. Here are some options that might make a real difference to your clients:
You can become service-focused by analysing what aspects of your back-up service offers would be most beneficial to the client’s business. You can then communicate the value that these service offerings would bring to their business. And then you could accentuate the results from these extra services that would add value to the client.
So, be precise and specific with your service offerings. These are true differentiators. These build the value in the client’s eyes that make your products head and shoulders above the competition.
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The sales interaction went flawlessly and the prospect was interested and enthusiastic throughout. During the close, the prospect offered a couple of routine objections which you easily overcame, and you closed the sale. The buyer seemed happy and you made a huge commission. The next day, the buyer calls and cancels the sale! Not only does he or she stop the payment on the cheque, but the buyer does not even want to speak to you.
You may not have yet experienced a situation so extreme, but you have probably encountered those buyers who suddenly, and for no apparent reason, change their minds. Below are three of the main reasons the prospect has a sudden change of heart.
#1: Too Much Emotion, Not Enough Logic
We all know that you need a mixture of emotion and logic in the sale and that people make buying decisions based primarily on emotion. Hence, a sales interaction with too much logic and not enough emotion, produces an educated prospect who does not buy.
On the other hand, people use the logic to back up and justify their purchase. Therefore a sales interaction with too much emotion and not enough logic, produces a prospect who makes a quick emotional decision, and then cancels the order.
Often it is your great sales presentation that had the prospect on such an emotional high, that he or she would have bought anything. However, when that anaesthetic wore off, the prospect came back to reality and could not find a reason to justify their decision. The result is more than a normal “buyer’s remorse.” Feeling used and manipulated, the buyer develops resentment and often contempt for the sales person.
If this has happens, you need to tone down the emotion and infuse more logic during the close.
#2 – No Objection
Like the above reason, this too is the result of you sometimes doing your job a little too well. When you cover every potential objection the prospect could possibly raise, you leave the prospect with no other choice but to say yes. The problem is that you left the prospect no other choice but to say yes. When the prospect feels that they had no choice, no option, they feel as if they were “trapped” and forced into the purchase. The moment they can rectify the situation, they do.
You may want to leave an objection that you know you can handle, on the table for the prospect to use. Then give that objection credibility and answer it with concern.
#3 – Drop the Price to Quickly
This one also causes buyers to turn into enemies. The prospect raises a price objection and you quickly drop the price:
Prospect: “Well, I don’t know…that’s a little more than I planned…”
Sales Person: “I understand Steve. What if I got you a 20% discount, would that do it?”
Prospect: “Yeah, I think that might do it.”
Consultant: “Ok then, consider it done. Let’s do business.”
Once again, when that tranquillizer wears off, the prospect wonders what would have happened should they bought at the FIRST price? Apparently, he would have paid 20% more then he needed to pay. What if he would have held out a little longer? Would the price have gone down another 20%? What is the REAL price anyway? This creates a prospect who not only feels manipulated, but cheated.
Reducing your price is a delicate operation and should be done only in extreme cases and then with careful precision.
As you can see, the three above reasons for buyers cancelling are actually created by the sales person. As a professional sales person you are dealing with people’s emotions and money. You can inadvertently make people feel manipulated, used or hurt; so be careful.
I often compare the profession of selling to that of a physician. As such, remember the Hippocratic Oath, “First, Do No Harm.”
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To grow your business, you have to open new doors, but you also must successfully cultivate current relationships. While there are a ton of “after-the-sale-best practices”, this seldom thought about tip, may be the most essential of them all. Try this and it will help you cultivate deeper relationships and turn more one-time customers into long-time clients.
The Next Step
The normal progression of a sales process is that after you have closed the initial sale and sold the first product or service, is to begin to sell additional services and products in an attempt to broaden the customer’s portfolio. As a professional sales person, you obviously look to move the sale and the relationship forward.
While there is nothing wrong with this, one aspect is usually overlooked, and that is the product or service that you already sold.
After closing the first sale, usually the sales person’s excitement and passion for the product sold begins to fade. Usually when the customer has signed the order, received the goods and paid the bill, the sales person discontinues the “selling.”
At first glance this appears to make sense, because the customer has bought the product; you solved their problem and the client has agreed to the service and therefore there is no more selling required. The sales person feels no need to continue to try to convince the customer, because the customer is “sold.”
However, this instant drop in your enthusiasm for your product or service can have a detrimental “buyer’s remorse” effect on your customers. From the client’s perspective, at first you were so excited about what you sell that you could barely contain yourself. You went through all kinds of obstacles and repeated “NOs” but stood firm, persisting.
You relished the opportunity just to speak to the buyer about your wonderful product. You went out of your way to help, consult and be of service. Then suddenly, once you got the money, it all stopped and your passion for the product disappeared.
If you are genuinely excited about what you sell, then that excitement should remain with you AFTER THE SALE. You have to continue to SELL your products or services to the customer almost as if the customer DID NOT BUY.
You have to remember, that people make buying decisions based primarily on emotion and then back up or justify those decisions with logic. Once you have made the sale, you must continue to help the prospect justify their decision.
Usually account executives are moving on to additional products and services while the buyer’s foundational faith and conviction in the first sale has not yet fully cemented. Account reps are trying to build a relationship on a fragile foundation.
You must continue to confirm the buyer’s good decision and reassure him or her that it was the best thing to do. Continue to strengthen the conviction of the first sale before you move on to the next.
Keep selling. And then…Keep Selling!
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No introduction or explanation needed here. I am just going to give it to you simple, brief and straight. Follow these A B C s of account management, and you will grow your business!
A – Advise
If you really did your job in closing the sale, then you were able to elevate yourself from the position of sales person, to the level of professional consultant, solutions provider and trusted advisor.
During the sales process, you were a great advisor; you uncovered problems and exposed areas of pain and need. You then advised the client on the best way to solve the problem. However, immediately after the sale, your advice stopped.
Continue to advise your clients. I am not saying that you need to create multifaceted business plans and directives for free. However, a simple email or a brief telephone call with a tip here and there, can make all the difference.
“Hi Mary, I just wanted to let you know that there is a user’s convention next month and one of the main topics is using software solutions such as the one we installed for you. I would like to suggest that you send a few of your managers there as it will help them…”
Continue to be an industry expert and leader. Continue to consult and advise.
B – Build
Continue to build on the relationship. Provide additional services or become a liaison to other services. Make your clients aware that they can call you for other things aside from what you sell. You have many clients in many different industries. Let your clients know that you are a wealth of referrals. You are a veritable trove of information and they can call you for more than what you have in your portfolio.
C – Care
Before you pocketed the commission, this customer was the most important thing in your life. You were deeply concerned with helping them solve a problem. Then, after the sale, do you feel the same way? Let the client know that you genuinely care.
Do not underestimate the value of the unexpected telephone call or the quick email that simply asks, “How have you been?”
Contact your clients occasionally when you are NOT trying to sell anything! When customers feel that the only time they ever hear from you is when you want more money, you are not cultivating a relationship.
Follow the ABCs…Advise. Build. Care.
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Providing unparalleled customer service, and after the-sale service, in today’s marketplace, is essential in maintaining customer loyalty. Today’s modern and educated buyer demands more for less, and is always aware of alternative options, including alternative vendors and competitive offers.
Check it Out
Following are three mission critical points for providing good customer service. Although these tips may seem obvious, do not take them for granted. Check your internal processes and procedures.
#1: Can You Hear Me Now?
You must make it easy for your customers to be heard. The customer has to have the ability to quickly SPEAK TO A REAL LIVE PERSON! Having a problem is one thing, but when the customer cannot even get to a LIVE person to explain their problem, it creates a frustration and often an anger that has the customer saying things about you and your company that I cannot even print!
Listen, I don’t care what you think about your super-duper-smart-voice-recognition-software, voice-mail technology. Whatever you do, please, make it EASY for clients to talk to a real person, at least during your normal business hours.
#2: A Little Understanding
Now finally, after 25 extremely frustrating minutes of getting the run around with automated systems that made no sense, the customer gets a live person on the telephone. However, that person immediately informs the customer that problem for which they are calling about is something that is a simple, and in fact is actually the customer’s fault in the first place!
Look, as professional sales people, we all know that the customer is NOT always right. However, you don’t have to slap them in the face when they are wrong, either. Train customer service people to have some sensitivity.
#3: That’s Not My Job
The customer navigates a nightmare maze of automated messages and incorrect links that take them around and around in circles for 25 minutes. Finally, they actually get to the exact department they were directed to, and, unbelieving; they reach a HUMAN in that department!
However, that human, almost proudly, informs the weary customer…
“I’m sorry, but that’s not my department.” Or, “I can’t help you…”
Do not force customers to have to FIND the right person to solve their problem. YOU find the right person for them. Make sure no one ever answers a customer grievance by saying, “I’m sorry, Ms Customer, but that is not my job or department…”
Instead, “Ms Customer, I am so sorry to hear you are having a problem. Although, I cannot handle this or fix it for you personally, I am going to get the right person to help you get this solved right now. Just hold on a moment, and I will connect you to the best person to solve this problem…”
I know that to provide such customer service costs money. I know that it takes a lot of work, training, and effort. In my opinion, such service is not an option. It is what we do.
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Let’s face it, you are human and you will make mistakes. Also, your company and other people you work with have flaws and are prone to err once in a while as well. So what do you do when you or your company screws up, costing the customer time, money, headaches or worse?
#1. Acknowledge and Inform as Soon as Possible
The very instant you know that something is amiss; you have to inform the client. Do not wait in the hopes that something will correct the situation or that it may magically go away. Let the customer know immediately!
Even when it appears evident that something will go wrong, before it actually happens; inform the customer. To tell the client that there may possibly be a problem, and then have that problem never arise, could be a good thing. You can use such a situation to demonstrate that you are capable of averting problems. You are there, providing constant service.
However, to have the client feeling that everything is going smooth, only to have a surprise problem come up, could derail the sales process.
#2. Provide FULL Disclosure
The worst thing you can possibly do at such a crucial time is to, hide information, lie or be misleading. Do not try to “cover up” the issue. Provide the customer with full disclosure as to what happened. Be honest and direct.
#3. Take FULL Responsibility
Do not try to blame someone or something else. Take full responsibility for the incident, and apologize for everyone involved. Even claim those mishaps that you had no control over and you were not responsible to handle. Never take the, “That’s not MY department…” angle.
“Susan, I am sorry things did not go as planned. But please understand, it was the shipping company that messed everything up. They have nothing to do with us, and we can’t control how they operate…”
Let the client know that YOU are the account manager and that ANYTHING that happens, YOU are the one-stop, one-call to solve all of the problems. Handled correctly, you can turn a nightmare problem into the catalyst that secures a client’s business and loyalty forever.
Take responsibility for those things the customer knows that you cannot control, and watch what happens!
“Hey, you don’t have to apologize. It’s not your fault. Our event was rained out, but come on, you can’t control the weather!”
“I appreciate that Steve. But it IS my fault. I set up the dates. I knew well in advance. I should have studied the predictions more closely, and I should have had an alternative rain-date or a Plan B in place for you just in case the weather turned. It IS my fault, and I promise you that I will be more diligent in the future.”
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You have made the sale. However, understand that you have not closed the sale; in fact, you have just opened it. Here are three best practices for after the sale performance that will help you cultivate deeper relationships and turn more one-time customers into long-time clients.
#1 – Continue to Sell
What happens to your enthusiasm for your product or service once you close the sale? Usually when the customer has signed the order, received the goods and paid the bill, the sales person discontinues the “selling.”
At first glance this appears to make sense, because the customer has bought the product; the client has agreed to the service and therefore there is no more selling required. The sales person feels no need to continue to try to convince the customer, because the customer is “sold.”
However, this instant drop in your enthusiasm for your product or service can have a detrimental “buyer’s remorse” effect on your customers. From the client’s perspective, at first you were so excited about what you sell that you could barely contain yourself. You relished the opportunity just to speak to them about your wonderful products. You went out of your way to help, consult and be of service. Then, once you got the money, it all stopped and you disappeared.
If you are genuinely excited about what you sell, then that excitement should remain with you after the sale. You have to continue to SELL your products or services to the customer almost as if the customer did not buy. I am not talking about selling additional or different items. I mean continue to sell what you already sold! As you continue to sell, it strengthens the buying decision in the mind of the customer and raises your level of professionalism. The customer sees that you actually believe in what you said. The customer’s trust in you grows and this is when the customer will begin to “open up” and inform you of their other needs.
#2 – Make Yourself Available
Let your customers know that you are available often and for anything. Make an occasional telephone call or send a letter or email that tells the customer that you are always there to assist. Create three to five ways to inform your customers that you are available. These contacts can be days or months apart. However, let the customer that they can call you.
#3 – Become a Liaison for Everything
One of the most effective ways to maintain effective account management and follow up is to become a liaison for your customer to other services and needs. Become someone that the customer can call for ANYTHING that they may need, even though it may not relate directly to what you do. Become a resource for your customers. Let your customers know that they can call you for other things. You then can refer your customers to other customers. Network!
Continue to sell.
Make yourself available.
Become a liaison for everything…and you will build stronger customer loyalty.
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Here’s an email I received over the weekend:
“Dear Sean – thank you so much for your wonderful sales blog. My Sales Manager is always going on at me about my lack of after-sales follow up activity and I am trying to improve. Are there any other areas that I should be looking out for in addition to this? Thanks again Ian King”
Lacking an effective follow up process is a killer in sales. There is so much money left on the table due to this not being done that it can be scary!
There are other areas to avoid too.
Here are my top 5 mistakes to avoid in perfecting your post-sale activity:
1. No effective follow up sales process
2. Going for big deals all of the time
3. Not viewing current clients as prospects
4. Not looking out for trends in your client’s industry that can be an “in” with your clients
5. Being afraid to ask for more business
You’ve done the hard work in getting the client and as long as they are happy clients then there is gold in them there hills! As long as your post sales activity enables this of course!
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