Sales and Sales Management Blog

October 15, 2012

Have You Noticed the Same Disastrous Change?

I grew up several decades ago during a time of social upheaval and change, a time when there was tremendous political and cultural tension, a time when there were riots and demonstrations and assassinations.  It was a time when one could have expected the long established social etiquette customs to break down just as the rest of society seemed to be breaking down.

But they didn’t.

I grew up in a major city with supposed big city values and the hustle and bustle of the big city.

But when I went to a store or went to buy a car or a home or anything else I found the vast majority of people who waited on me to be efficient, focused on their job, friendly, and wanting to help.  There was an expectation that service to the customer was paramount.  Every employer, as well as every customer, expected those working with customers to perform their duties in a manner that reflected well on the company and the employee.  If service was slow or rude or incompetent, it only took a single complaint to get results on the floor.

Of course there were some employees—and some companies too—that simply didn’t care.  They were slow, indifferent, uncaring.  But for the most part they were the minority

Today I live in a small city of about 130,000.  Decades ago small cities such as this were famed for their hometown feel and the level of service that went far above and beyond what we would have found in a large city.  When I moved to my current city back in the early 90’s there was a very high level of customer service and care in both the consumer and business sectors.

But something has radically changed in the way customers are treated, and it isn’t just where I live or just in Texas.  I notice it throughout the country when I travel, more so in some areas than others but it permeates the entire country. 

When standing in line at the grocery store, the person at the cash register is often more interested in talking to a friend or the checker in front or behind them than in taking care of the customer in front of them. 

The salesman at the car lot glances at his watch a bit too much because you’re taking up too much of his time. 

The person who called you to sell a copier sighs loudly when asked for an afterhour’s appointment because you’re busy and can’t meet them until after closing. 

The lady on the phone trying to sell you electric service says she is too busy to come by and pick up your old electric bills to give you a rate comparison and wants you to fax them to her to save her a trip.

I’m certainly not trying to condemn all sellers.  There are many great dedicated sellers out there.  But especially on the retail side—and increasingly on the business side—customer service isn’t dying, it’s dead.  Those who are simply there to get a paycheck now far outweigh those great sellers who are dedicated to their job.

What is the root of this change?  Is it a breakdown of society?  Of family?  Are employers to blame for not training and insisting on a high level of service?  Or are buyers to blame for not demanding respect and service?

More than likely it is a combination of all of the above.

Will we ever see a return to high customer service levels with attentive, well informed and committed employees as the norm rather than the exception?

I don’t know the answer—but I’m afraid it’s a resounding “NO.”

Now, am I simply an old codger who is missing all the great customer service out there?  What has been your experience lately?

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August 27, 2012

Guest Article: “Avoid Losing Sales: Why You Should Make Customer Service a Priority,” by Megan Totka

Filed under: Customer Service — Paul McCord @ 11:30 am
Tags: ,

Avoid Losing Sales: Why You Should Make Customer Service a Priority
by Megan Totka

 

Making a sale is only the beginning of the business-customer relationship. The end goal of any sales organization worth its weight is to bring in repeat business. This means fostering a presumed long-term relationship from the first call or meeting.

The reactions that actual customers have to what your business offers reflect more powerfully than any advertising campaigns. In an online world, this can be a dangerous thing. Just one bad review can negatively affect a business in ways that are basically immeasurable. So how do selling organizations prevent one (or two, or three) bad apple(s) from tainting the opinion of potential consumers? The best way is through a proactive approach to your online business identity. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • ·         Emphasize customer service. Do not assume that every person you hire knows how to handle difficult clients with tact and grace. It costs next to nothing to implement brief customer service training for all new employees that stresses the vitality of this dying art. Even a consumer that is furious about a faulty product can be calmed with a soothing voice or online persona. Head off bad reviews by anticipating the needs of employees at the outset.
  • ·         Be accessible. Show clients that you care about interaction by providing online and phone options. Some people would rather fill out a form online than pick up a phone. Others want a human connection immediately. Provide both options. Following a sale, generate an email with contact information and a transaction number. Make it really easy for dissatisfied customers to get hold of you and not become more frustrated in the process.
  • ·         Search your business on Google. Make a regular habit of “Googling” your company and look on the other search engines too. You will likely find your official website – but what else comes up? Check the first few pages of results. Research tells us that the majority of online users do not go past the first page of a search, and even less look past the second or third pages. Do the same thing a potential customer will do. If you find a bad review, continue to the next step.
  • ·         Take the reins. Buy more domains and flush out the bad links with your own positive ones. This is not an easy task to undertake, but a strategy that does work. Create blog accounts outside of your official page, maximize social media profiles and come up with secondary site ideas. With the right SEO guidance, your positive information will eventually trump the negative.
  • ·         Ask for input. This is a really easy, really inexpensive way to stay on top of customer needs. Do not wait for a decrease in business, or for a bad review to pop up. Find out in what ways you can better accommodate your existing client base and then get to work making it happen.

Customers that are scared away from your company after self-research are ones that you will never have a chance to win over. What’s more – you will never even know they were interested. Avoid losing sales by implementing intuitive practices. A few easy measures will ensure client loyalty while protecting your online reputation.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan also specializes in writing articles about common-sense business best practices, from finding office furniture to hiring the right accounting firm.

January 18, 2012

October 7, 2011

A Simple Way to Distance Yourself From Your Competition

Every seller, no matter the product or service they sell, is looking for ways to demonstrate how they differ from their competition.  Most of us will go to great lengths to try to make our prospects and clients recognize how unique we are and how fortunate they are to be working with us.

In order to create that sought after difference we’ll talk up how great our customer service is, some will give out cute or useful freebies, others will bring in other vendors to help create the perfect comprehensive solution to their prospect’s or client’s issues.

Certainly we should be giving exceptional customer service.  The problem is every one of our competitors is claiming to have the best customer service also.

And by all means we should be doing everything in our power—including partnering with other vendors if necessary—to give the best and most comprehensive solution possible.  The problem is most of the time our prospects and clients don’t really grasp the true extent of our solution until after the product or service is delivered and has been in place for awhile.

But there is a much simpler way to not only demonstrate a real difference between yourself and your competition, but to give your client a very different experience than what your competition would give.  Furthermore, this strategy is so seldom used that it really stands out to the client.

What, pray tell, is the fabulous strategy that is simple yet can make such an impact on your client?

It is simply giving the client the purchasing experience they want rather than the one you think they want.

So simple, yet so few sellers do it because frankly they have no idea what their clients want to happen during the purchase because they simply don’t ask.

Yep, that’s it; couldn’t be simpler.

Most sellers mistakenly think they know what their clients want to happen during the course of the sale.  Ask a seller what their client wants and they’ll rattle off a number of things such as on time delivery, prompt service, a quality product at a fair price, a seller they can trust, and a number of other “expectations.”

These are so general that they are almost useless in defining what a client’s purchasing expectations are. 

What does “on time delivery” really mean?  Does it mean the same thing to each and every customer?

What does prompt service mean?  To one customer it may mean that a phone call is returned within 24 hours, to another it may mean the call should be returned within an hour.  To another client a phone call might be totally out of the question as they prefer to communicate only through email.

The fact is that no two of our clients have the same expectations but we treat them all the same because we assume we know what they want.

We never ask the most basic and simple customer service question—“What can we do to make this the exact purchasing experience you want?”

That question is asked so infrequently (some customers have never been asked that question) that many customers won’t know how to respond; they really won’t understand the question.

In that case you’ll have to ask some follow-up questions such as: “How do you prefer to be contacted, phone or email?”  “If something comes up and I really need to speak with you, is there an emergency number that I can reach you at?”  “Do you want me to keep you posted daily or weekly, or would you rather I only contact you if there is an issue or question that needs to be dealt with?”

Obviously the number and type of purchasing experience questions you need to ask will depend on the particular product or service being purchased. 

And a great side benefit is you can find out upfront if your client has an unrealistic expectation, and if they do, you can deal with it before it becomes an issue later in the sale.

If you want to really make a quick impact on a client and put yourself in a different category from your competition, quit forcing them to live through the purchasing experience you want to give them and begin giving them the purchasing experience they want.

It’s simple—just ask them, they’ll tell you—and then all you have to do is give them the exact experience they wan—and  that no one else can give them.  You’ll be a hero—and all you had to do was ask a few questions that you should have been asking every client anyway.

August 16, 2011

“Your Call Is Very Important to Us” and Other Lies

The automated call answering machine has certainly changed the nature of interacting with companies.  Whereas in the past when calling a company you might get a surly representative, now you often get an automated lie.

How often do you call a company and once given any option other than “sales” are immediately put on hold (funny how you can almost always get immediately through to the sales department isn’t it)?  If your calls are anything like mine, and I’m sure they are, you experience this on a far too regular basis. 

Once on hold you can predict with almost certainty what will come next—that all too familiar phrase, “Your call is very important to us.”  Of course after being on hold for a few minutes and having heard that message three or four times, you can’t help but think that your call is obviously not important enough to answer.

Our first contact with the company is a lie.  Nice going company.

Oh, but that is hardly the only lie we so often encounter before we even speak to a company representative.  Many times that initial lie assuring us our call is very important is followed up with another standard lie–that the company is currently experiencing unusually high call volume.  With many companies you’ll hear this message every time you call–no matter the time of day or night or the day of the week the call is made.

So our first contact with the company is greeted with two lies before we even speak with a human.

Do you feel wanted and appreciated yet?  Do you feel that your business is important and valued?  Do you feel that you are anything more to the company than a checking account?

And once we reach a human what happens?

In many cases the same type of standardized lie continues.

Have a complaint?  “We’ll investigate and get back to you.”  Often nothing but a stall hoping you’ll just go away.

Want to speak to a manager?  “I’m sorry, he/she is unavailable but if you’ll give me the details of what this is about I’ll have him/her return your call as soon as possible.”  Many times this is nothing but an attempt to keep you from speaking to a manager or is designed to give the manager the call details so they can decide whether they want to return your call or not.

My personal favorite, when asking for the name of a manager, an address to send a complaint to, or a phone number to the corporate office the response is, “I’m sorry, we are not allowed to give out that information.”  This may not be a lie—it may simply be company policy not to have actual lowly customers bothering those important people in the company who are far too busy and too important to be bothered with customers.

Of course it isn’t a lie every time we encounter these statements, but many times, probably more often than we care to know, these are simply lies designed to get rid of us or to block us from getting the resolution we desire.

It has gotten to the point that most of us expect to encounter some or all of this BS from many of the major companies we deal with.  We have come to accept the idea that many companies couldn’t care less about their customers despite their protestations and claims to the contrary.

I’m concerned that I’m noticing many of these same tactics that allow major companies to save big dollars by purposely under staffing or avoiding customer service issues being adopted by more and more small companies.

Large companies may be able to survive and even thrive based on sheer size and marketing ability, but small companies cannot afford to alienate and drive away their customer base.

Although virtually all of us will put up with automated answering machines, most of us prefer to speak to a human.  Few of us are willing to accept the impersonal and often downright rude behavior we get from major companies when dealing with smaller companies.  Many times we have chosen a small company specifically because we expect more personal and professional treatment.

Small can outwork, outperform, outsell, and out service big—but not by mimicking the most egregious mistakes and outrageous behavior large companies commit.

Many customers will stay on hold for 10, 20, even 30 minutes waiting to speak to someone at a big company while few would ever consider doing so when calling a small company.

Some will accept the response that the individual can’t give out the name of a manager or the address of the office when dealing with a major company but would never put up with that when dealing with a small company.

Many customers will resign themselves to having to invest large amounts of time and energy to resolve an issue with a large company but expect—demand—immediate resolution when dealing with a small company.

Selling small’s biggest asset is its ability to connect with prospects and clients on a truly personal level.  That is something that is very difficult for large companies to do because they usually have so many points within the company that touch the customer that it is very difficult to keep all of those touch points personal and in alignment with customer wants and needs. 

Add that difficulty with the large company’s desire to keep costs to a minimum by maintaining insufficient staff levels and you have a great opportunity for a small company to compete very successfully—as long as that small company avoids those large company mistakes and issues.

Personal relationships and service sells, and mega-company indifference is a perfect weak spot for small companies to capitalize on.

Are you taking advantage of the lies and indifference of your big competitors? 

Or are you one of the growing numbers of small companies mimicking those lies and the indifference, trying to cut a couple bucks of costs? If you are, you’re giving up one of your major advantages over your big competitors—and you probably won’t have to worry about saving those couple of bucks very long because your big competitors will drive you out of business.

Embrace your big advantage—your ability to get personal, to react quickly, to make the customer experience one they enjoy instead of one they just have to put up with.

August 6, 2010

Guest Article: “Managing Your Most Valuable Asset . . . And You’ll Be Surprised At What It Is!”, by The Brooks Group

Managing Your Most Valuable Asset… And You’ll Be Surprised At What It Is!
by The Brooks Group

Did you know that the chances of making a sale to an existing customer are seven times greater than the chances of making a sale to a new prospect?  This issue, we’ll give you the tools you need to help your sales team manage and maximize this most valuable asset.

After watching some of the hard-fought races in the recent midterm election, it’s easy to forget that the real work of a politician begins after the votes are counted. It’s not the campaigning that’s most difficult – it’s delivering what you say you’ll deliver after the election. It’s one thing to crank out campaign ads and stump speeches, but as Lyndon Johnson once pointed out, “It’s easier to throw a grenade than to catch it.”

The same can be said of sales. In many cases, the most grueling and demanding part of dealing with customers is not in the sales process. It’s after the sale is made. And that’s when the hard work really begins.

How do you and your sales team manage accounts after they’re sold? Let’s take a look at some fundamental ideas that are essential to maintaining your accounts for the long haul. First of all, why do you need to do it in the first place? The answer to that is simple and straightforward:

  • Selling more to existing customers is easier than always having to find new ones.
  • Selling to existing customers is less expensive than constantly finding new ones.
  • Selling to existing customers creates more predictable income, known margins and cash flow.

Again, the analogy of the politician is helpful here. Generally speaking, the effort and resources that incumbents need to win an election are a fraction of what challengers need – especially if the incumbent has delivered on their promises while in office.

It’s the same in sales. In fact, according to Peter Drucker:

  • Your chances of making a sale to a new prospect are 1 in 14
  • Your chances of making a sale to someone who’s not currently a customer, but has bought from you in the past, are 1 in 4
  • Your chances of making a sale to a current customer are 1 in 2

Clearly for your sales team, customers are the absolute best prospects. It only makes sense to ensure your sales team does their best to hold onto them. let’s take a look at some strategies to help successfully maintain the customers you earn.

Here are 10 Principles for Managing and Maximizing Your Existing Customers:

  1. Fully buy into the concept that the hard work begins after the sale is made. Celebrating a sale is great – but execution and implementation are ultimately more essential than celebration.
  2. Work to establish an expectation that is reasonable to achieve and possible to surpass. Failing to meet your new customer’s expectations will probably kill your relationship quickly. Failing to exceed them could be detrimental down the road – especially when competitors are doing their best to lure your customers away from you.
  3. Never take any customer for granted. Go the extra mile and work to understand their dynamics, needs and demands. let them know they matter… they are important to you no matter who they are or the size of their account.
  4. Manage the details. These are the issues that, if not handled correctly, can first disrupt and then totally destroy the entire account.
  5. Master an understanding of how things really work within the account. Who are the power players? Are you being relegated to lower levels? How do you ensure that you and your organization continue to receive “top billing?”
  6. Anticipate issues. You should never be blind-sided in an account. There should be no surprises. If you have delivery or quality problems, you should know about them and deal with them before they ever have a chance to become an issue.
  7. Be proactive but not pushy. Look for opportunities and additional ways to make life easier, solve more problems or create more value for your customer.
  8. Stay on top of billing. Work with your accounts receivable department to ensure invoices are correct and forwarded on a timely basis. Check to ensure your customer is paying on time. Anticipate payment problems and solve them.
  9. Understand that things do change. Your relationship, value, profitability and long-term viability with the account can be enhanced or diminished by personnel or organizational change within the account. Anticipate it and do your best to position yourself as solidly and deeply as you can within the account.
  10. Make sure your assets don’t become detriments. Don’t fall prey to bending too much for the customer. Remember that providing extra free service or discounted products only establishes an expectation that will continue to spiral downward to the point that the entire account may be unprofitable and not worth pursuing. Try to identify opportunities within the account that either better position you or generate more revenue for you.

What’s the bottom line? Prospecting is short term. The sales process is longer. But maintaining the account, continually meeting your commitments and exceeding expectations is the long-haul way to limitless success.

This is the area where there is a fine line between selling and servicing. the most successful sales organizations understand that selling and servicing are not independent variables or strict “one or the other” situations. Instead, they are two sides of the same coin — one drives the other and each is of equal importance.

Remember this: your sales team has to work hard to earn the right to sell to their customers. Then they have to continue to work hard to earn the right to sell them more and ultimately use them as positive, productive referral sources. How valuable are they? They’re clearly the most valuable commodity that your organization has. So treat them right.

The Brooks Group is a leading sales and sales management training firm, home of the IMPACT Selling System, offers public workshops as well as in-house training for your team.  Visit their website.

February 24, 2010

Create a Powerful, Effective Follow-up Communication Campaign–A Free Webinar on March 23

Are you teaching your prospects and clients to pay attention to you–or to ignore you?

What do your follow-up communciations with your prospects and clients say about you and your value to them?

Every time you communicate with your prospects and clients, whether a phone call, a newsletter, an email, or direct mail piece, you’re teaching them to pay attention to you because you bring value to them or to ignore you because all you do is waste their time.

Join me on Tuesday, March 23 at 1PM Central for a FREE 1 hour webinar to learn how to make networking work.

You’ll Learn:
” Why your communications define who you are and what you’re worth
” Why you must have a formal, disciplined follow-up communication program
” Why you have to have several different ways to communicate
” Why you must NEVER send a canned, commercial newsletter
” How to create valuable communications that increase your value to your prospect or client

This isn’t a come-on to sell products or coaching. You’ll learn real strategies that produce results.

LIMITED SEATING

The webinar will be recorded, so if you miss it live, you won’t miss a thing.

Register HERE

January 19, 2010

Guest Article: “Why Customer Service Destroys Salespeople,” by Mark Hunter

Filed under: Customer Service,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 10:30 am
Tags: , , ,

Why Customer Service Destroys Salespeople
by Mark Hunter

One position that has not been impacted by the economy is sales.  Ask any CEO and you will hear that one of their biggest issues is finding and retaining good salespeople. Something happened on the way to a sour economy: Too many companies learned the hard way that their salespeople didn’t know how to sell. Instead, their salespeople were good at taking orders and providing customer service.  There is nothing wrong with this approach, as long as the marketplace is always going to serve up new customers and keep current customers in business. Does that kind of marketplace always exist? Unfortunately, no.

As a sales consultant who works with a wide number of companies, I am not surprised with the current state of sales.  In the past 20 years, books and soothsayers have inundated us with advice saying that the best way to grow your company is through great customer service. (Think of companies like Disney, Marriott and Honda, just to name a few).  These are certainly great companies, and I’m personally an avid customer of each one.  However, if great customer service is all that is needed to win, then why is each of these companies struggling in today’s economy?

I don’t offer up this example to generate an in-depth discussion on economics and market share.  Rather, I put it out there to say that customer service alone is not going to help a company achieve its growth targets.  It is essential for salespeople to be focused on selling as their first priority and providing customer service as their second priority.

Selling is about digging in and working with customers to help them see needs they didn’t realize they had.  It’s about helping customers see how the solution for which they are looking can be found in what you are offering.  Selling is not about sitting back and taking orders based on what the customer wants.  If that’s selling, then there really is no need for a salesperson.  The entire process could be done on the internet or over the phone.  I know that observation just hit a sore spot to many of you reading this. Possibly, you’ve watched your industry be decimated by the power of the web. Nowadays, many customers can get what they want, when they want it and how they want it, all through their computer.

If your job was lost because of the internet, then let me share something that you may not like to hear, but is simply true: you weren’t selling; you were merely taking orders.  I am not putting myself on a pedestal, because one of my first sales jobs I thought I was a salesperson (at least, that’s what my business card said). In reality, I was doing nothing more than going around to grocery stores and taking orders from store managers.  I wasn’t selling. I was conveying information and providing customer service.

Today’s economy is crying out for salespeople. Are you someone who is willing to be assertive in making phone calls, meeting with customers, and spending time doing what I refer as the “deep-dive” with high-potential prospects to secure the really big business.  If a salesperson is not willing to go face-to -face with a customer, then they have absolutely no right to be in sales.  The only thing they are doing is hurting themselves and their employer.  The fastest test I know to measure a person’s aptitude towards selling is to ask them to explain in detail how they develop leads and handle cold calls.

When a company looks to outsource the lead generation process, or spend so heavily in advertising to try to create enough leads for everyone, then they are setting themselves up to fail.  Over time they will wind up with a sales team focused on capturing the easy sales. They do this by making everything a customer service moment.  This is akin to a pro-athlete thinking because they are a professional, they no longer need to stick to a physical workout program.   When a pro-athlete stops their conditioning program, they may not experience a falloff in performance immediately. Over time, however, the decline will be evident. The same is true for salespeople who are not routinely in the game of prospecting and developing new customers. They will lose their edge. The decline will be so slow that they won’t realize it is happening, let alone why it is happening.

Each client with whom I have the privilege to work hears this message:  The responsibility of finding and retaining new customers is the responsibility of every employee.  Salespeople by the very nature of their position must take the lead and be assigned weekly, monthly and quarterly goals of prospecting calls they must make.  Management owes them the tools that encompass an effective sales process. This process must include employees outside of sales whose primary responsibility it is to provide customer service. After all, salespeople should focus first on selling.  They need the time to achieve this realistic expectation.

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit www.TheSalesHunter.com.

October 2, 2009

Guest Article: “Client Service, Not Client Servility,” by Charles H Green

Client Service, Not Client Servility
By Charles H. Green

Most client-serving organizations I know make a pretty big deal about client service. For consulting, law, HR, IT, accounting, software, and salespeople in complex businesses—client service is right at the top of their list of virtues. And rightly so.

But—sometimes, things can get a little twisted.

What do you make of:

The administrative assistant who picks up the Officer’s laundered shirts and delivers them to him at the airport at 9PM. Regularly.

The project manager who hauls the whole team in on Sunday to re-work the slide deck. Regularly.

The senior officer who drops in on the staff meeting to “send a message about how much leadership cares,” but leaves early because “when the client calls, you know…” Regularly.

The salesperson who cuts price at the drop of the hat when the client demands. Regularly.

The VP who cancels his end-of-day wrap-up meeting with the new hire candidate on the final interview round because “I had no choice, the client changed our meeting date.” Regularly.

The manager who joins the training session late and slips out to take calls between blackberry-checks, because “we’re in the middle of a really tough client issue.” Regularly.

(The presidential candidate who, in mid-speech, stops to take a phone call from his wife on his cellphone from the podium. More than once.)

The key word is, of course, regularly. Any one of those examples can be held up as a case of client heroism. If, that is, it’s an isolated event. The problems come when it’s not isolated.

That’s when client service gets perverted into client servitude. And when we become servile, three things happen:

We continue to insist that we are in fact meeting the highest standards of service;

The client (or team, or associate) no longer respects us.

When respect is gone, our ability to be trusted advisors is quickly compromised.

Client Service Is Not Client Servitude

Great client service is doing things above and beyond; behaving in unusual ways when faced with unusual situations; and doing so selflessly, for the sake of the client.

An act of client service is an act freely chosen. In the long run, we do it because we believe in it as a way of doing business. But in the short term, in those cases where we might be better self-served by doing something else, and we still choose client service—that is true service.

Being servile is quite another thing. It means seeking out options to give faux service, so we can get credit. It means doing things not for their own sake, but for the credit it may garner us in the eyes of the client. It means getting our priorities wrong—seeing things as how we can help ourselves, not one’s clients or partners.

Synonyms for servile include sycophant, brown-noser, suck-up, flatterer, lickspittle and toady. Adjectives we use to describe the servile include obsequious, smarmy, devious, slimy, flattering and fawning.

We suspect those who are servile of dishonesty—of speaking falsely in an attempt at self-aggrandizement. Their motives are therefore bad. And ironically, their servility costs them in terms of respect from the very people they are most trying to impress. We don’t trust such people. And we don’t respect them.

We don’t respect them because they seem to have a low estimation of their own worth. They seem to need the approval of others to feel good about themselves. And if someone doesn’t value himself highly, then they could be wrong either about their worth—or wrong in their estimation. Neither is good.

What client takes advice from someone who doesn’t respect the worth of his own advice? What team member believes a senior who always subordinates all other value-adding activities to servility, calling it “client service?”

Clients take our advice for various reasons, but basically because they believe in our expertise, and they believe we have their best interests at heart. Being servile destroys both of those: because it is clearly self-motivated, it draws into question even our competence. After all, if our motive is client approval, might we not shade the data?

Most clients don’t want servants, they want partners. They want professionals who have self-respect, who have the courage of their own convictions, who can be trusted to speak the truth because it is the truth, not because it will get them approval.

It’s not that client service is unselfish. If I’m honest, there’s always a tiny touch of servility lurking around the edges of most client service I perform. It’s hard to be unaware of the value of being perceived as client-serving

The trick is to not be overcome by a need for recognition as one who serves clients. If we become slave to that recognition, then we have to that extent abandoned client service.

To be client service oriented is to do the next right thing, and to be detached from the outcome; particularly whatever benefit might accrue to me from doing the right thing.

This is the heart of it, I think. Client service is doing good for the client. We are not surprised when we get credit for doing it. But expecting good from it is Station One on the slippery slope, where the End-Station is doing it only in order to get credit for doing it.

Charles H. Green is founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates. The author of Trust-based Selling and co-author of The Trusted Advisor, he has spoken to, consulted for or done seminars about trusted relationships in business for a wide and global range of industries and functions.  Centering on the theme of trust in business relationships, Charles works with complex organizations to improve trust in sales, internal trust between organizations, and trusted advisor relationships with external clients and customers.

September 21, 2009

Guest Article: “Why Customer Service Destorys Salespeople,” by Mark Hunter

Why Customer Service Destroys Salespeople
by Mark Hunter

One position that has not been impacted by the economy is sales.  Ask any CEO and you will hear that one of their biggest issues is finding and retaining good salespeople. Something happened on the way to a sour economy: Too many companies learned the hard way that their salespeople didn’t know how to sell. Instead, their salespeople were good at taking orders and providing customer service.  There is nothing wrong with this approach, as long as the marketplace is always going to serve up new customers and keep current customers in business. Does that kind of marketplace always exist? Unfortunately, no.

As a sales consultant who works with a wide number of companies, I am not surprised with the current state of sales.  In the past 20 years, books and soothsayers have inundated us with advice saying that the best way to grow your company is through great customer service. (Think of companies like Disney, Marriott and Honda, just to name a few).  These are certainly great companies, and I’m personally an avid customer of each one.  However, if great customer service is all that is needed to win, then why is each of these companies struggling in today’s economy?

I don’t offer up this example to generate an in-depth discussion on economics and market share.  Rather, I put it out there to say that customer service alone is not going to help a company achieve its growth targets.  It is essential for salespeople to be focused on selling as their first priority and providing customer service as their second priority.

Selling is about digging in and working with customers to help them see needs they didn’t realize they had.  It’s about helping customers see how the solution for which they are looking can be found in what you are offering.  Selling is not about sitting back and taking orders based on what the customer wants.  If that’s selling, then there really is no need for a salesperson.  The entire process could be done on the internet or over the phone.  I know that observation just hit a sore spot to many of you reading this. Possibly, you’ve watched your industry be decimated by the power of the web. Nowadays, many customers can get what they want, when they want it and how they want it, all through their computer.

If your job was lost because of the internet, then let me share something that you may not like to hear, but is simply true: you weren’t selling; you were merely taking orders.  I am not putting myself on a pedestal, because one of my first sales jobs I thought I was a salesperson (at least, that’s what my business card said). In reality, I was doing nothing more than going around to grocery stores and taking orders from store managers.  I wasn’t selling. I was conveying information and providing customer service.

Today’s economy is crying out for salespeople. Are you someone who is willing to be assertive in making phone calls, meeting with customers, and spending time doing what I refer as the “deep-dive” with high-potential prospects to secure the really big business.  If a salesperson is not willing to go face-to -face with a customer, then they have absolutely no right to be in sales.  The only thing they are doing is hurting themselves and their employer.  The fastest test I know to measure a person’s aptitude towards selling is to ask them to explain in detail how they develop leads and handle cold calls.

When a company looks to outsource the lead generation process, or spend so heavily in advertising to try to create enough leads for everyone, then they are setting themselves up to fail.  Over time they will wind up with a sales team focused on capturing the easy sales. They do this by making everything a customer service moment.  This is akin to a pro-athlete thinking because they are a professional, they no longer need to stick to a physical workout program.   When a pro-athlete stops their conditioning program, they may not experience a falloff in performance immediately. Over time, however, the decline will be evident. The same is true for salespeople who are not routinely in the game of prospecting and developing new customers. They will lose their edge. The decline will be so slow that they won’t realize it is happening, let alone why it is happening.

Each client with whom I have the privilege to work hears this message:  The responsibility of finding and retaining new customers is the responsibility of every employee.  Salespeople by the very nature of their position must take the lead and be assigned weekly, monthly and quarterly goals of prospecting calls they must make.  Management owes them the tools that encompass an effective sales process. This process must include employees outside of sales whose primary responsibility it is to provide customer service. After all, salespeople should focus first on selling.  They need the time to achieve this realistic expectation.

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit www.TheSalesHunter.com.

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