Aug 20, 2018
by Elizabeth Slater
Some time ago a reporter writing a story on sales asked me a simple question – “If you had to give one piece of advice on how to improve sales what would it be? ” I replied that my one piece of advice would be – “Don’t be obnoxious.”
After I hung up I wondered if I should have given such a basic piece of advice. Surely everyone who works with the public in any way knows that they should not be obnoxious and would not need me to tell them that. Well, based on what I have been reading, hearing and seeing, I am not sure that I a correct in my assumption.
A fair number of examples of people in the business being obnoxious, or at the very least ignorant of the techniques of how to conduct business, have come across my desk. These examples occur in all areas of sales, between sellers and buyers at the trade level and consumer level. Obviously, the people in these stories have never heard of or read any of the books out there on sales and customer relations, or even read any of my past articles in which I have rattled on at great length about the importance of stellar customer service.
Another thing that surprised me is that the offenders in these stories are not all disgruntled employees or owners. The star, in one of the stories I am about to relate, is the business owner.
This story told of a consumer who sent a letter to a company that had raised the price of a product. A longtime customer (he had been purchasing from the retailer for over five years) deemed that the price of the product was to high.) According to the letter he wrote to the company he asked for an explanation of their pricing and sales policy.
In response, he received an email that read, “Thank you for your previous support. We have removed your name from our mailing list so as not to bother you in the future. Sincerely…”
As this is not a column about pricing we will not delve into the whole issue of pricing. Based on the response that the customer received, my question is, what could have been done to maintain this person as a customer?
Now granted I have only heard about the letter written by the customer I have not seen it. Regardless of the tone of the letter, I believe that someone who has been spending money with your company for five or six years deserves more from you than a standard form email. Even if the original letter was written in an angry tone, once a person has had the opportunity to air their views s/he, in most cases, is amenable to continuing their relationship with your company.
What would you think the chances are of the company selling to that customer in the future? My guess is not much.
Being fair to the company, I do not know if the customer who wrote this letter was worth saving. Though in my long experience in customer relations I have found that most customers who have been buying from the company for a long time are worth saving. They are usually willing to shift their views when presented with the right information.
That being the case, here are a few rules to put into practice and make sure that everyone in the company put into practice.
Rule # 1: Treat your customers and potential customers well. Make customers feel that you value them. If they are current customers let them know that you value their business. If they are potential customers give them every reason to buy your product and avoid giving them reasons not to.
Rule #2: Be available to sell your product when your customers want to buy it. If you are making sales calls to the trade, either make an appointment or on open calls have the time to wait for the buyer to finish with others. If you are a retail establishment, maintain your hours. If the sign says open 9 – 5, then be there and admit customers. Never turn a customer away if they get to your business during those hours, even if it is two minutes to five and you close at five.
Rule #3: A complaint does not mean the customer no longer wants to buy your product. If customers complain about something you have done remember that if they have taken the time to write you a letter they have a genuine connection with your product. Just because they are telling you something you may not want to hear does not necessarily mean they do not want to buy the product. Many times they just want to be convinced that the product is worth it.
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