Your Sales Process, NOT Relationships, Wins Customers.
By David Goldsmith
Monday, 21st September 2009
When I hear managers say that the new vision of their firm is to get customers to like them better or that the new vision is to create better relationships, I'm always concerned for them. 

While I understand what they're trying to do, I also see how they're headed in the wrong direction.  You can't substitute your role of managing well with the position of wanting to be liked.  Business relationships don't give back the returns you think they will, and if you don't adjust your focus, you're going to be disappointed at best and even suffer worse consequences.

Earning new customers involves much more than building relationships and getting people to like your firm. Widen your focus to how the firm deals with your customers from start to finish, well before your employees even enter the picture.  Customers may hear through the grapevine that your company doesn't deliver on time or that orders are always screwed up.  How well will your "relationship" vision work now?

On the flip side if you throw out the "management guru" philosophies of getting in touch with your customers and first work on the processes that make the customer feel welcome from the get go, the relationship builds automatically. 

For example, your firm supplies industrial washers and dryers for hotels and institutions or you create video production tapes for corporate distribution.  One sale is $75,000 a pop and the other is $5000-$10,000, yet they are very much the same.  All day long 365 days a year you ship washer and dryers or create Quicklime, Real Windows, CD and VCR production. You've heard some news that some customers may be unhappy with the products you've been delivering and that the opinion in the market is that you don't deliver as promised.

Would your first reaction be to start implementing a customer-relations-building initiative?  Maybe you would even start to make phone calls to clients and ask them why they have been disappointed with the product.  Both might be good ideas, but you're already barking up the wrong tree.  Customers don't always know how your company works, so they can't give valuable feedback on how to solve a problem. Also, just because you've made contact with a customer doesn't mean that they will like you, it could mean that they now have an employee's name to attach to their problem…that's all.

A better approach is to build quality into your product/s.  Customers walk away happy when everything happens correctly.

A customer's individual experience with your firm means more to them than how much business you process in a year.  Just because you ship 500 washers a year or 300 presentation tapes a year does not mean anything to the one person that is laying down the money to improve their business.  The higher the ticket item, the more you have to remind yourself of this point. Perhaps many of your customers think for months, should they or shouldn't they buy. 

The discussion is typically sealed when the buyer feels that parting with the money will give them a return of something more than what they spent.  The washer may make them $37,000 net per year and the tape may bring them $100,000 worth of new business if all goes well.  They want to feel as secure upon purchasing as they do on the day that their purchase arrives and for months after.

To do this start at the beginning.  The sales people or the materials of the firm should show them the process.  You sign and we start.  Delivery is in 4 weeks. With everything in between defined.  The check arrives and you send them an even more complete package to get them involved to the extent they want to be.  For the washer, you help confirm they know layout and the tools needed for on-site delivery.  For the tape firm you schedule a meeting with all the proper people and have an outline of how you can build a winning product.

Don't ask the customer what they want!! Have a formula of questions that draws out what you need.

Make sure everyone is present and consider recording the sales call for future reference.

Throw in additional value.  That could be a booklet about tools to increase productivity or to improve marketing.

Even to the very end you keep the process going as it is designed. Don't deviate or cut corners if the process works. You may have given your pitch  2000 times, but the customer has only heard it once.

Get the entire company behind you. If you're dealing with items that have options or customization, a production expert might walk the buyer through a few paces so that the customer feels that your team understands them.  You want the process to win over the customer.

It's like when you return to your hotel room after dinner and find a chocolate on your pillow.  How happy do you feel just before you bit down on your treat?  Hate to break it to you, but patrons in 1200 other rooms had a chocolate on their pillows, also.  The staff didn't select only you to get a special piece.

Again, this is not to downplay the relationship-building process, but to put it in perspective.  You do a bad job, customers don't return.  If you build a process that builds relationships, customers feel excited to work with a firm that's responsive and delivers products or services as ordered.

The Strategic Alchemist, David Goldsmith, is a consultant, speaker, author, and professor who is known worldwide for improving decision makers' individual and corporate performance. Mr. Goldsmith has provided results for Fortune 200 CEOs, was recognized as NYU's Outstanding Professor the Year, was named one of Successful Meetings Magazine's 26 Hottest Speakers, and was awarded CNY's Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

To learn how you can improve your performance using these award-winning proven strategies and tactics, check out www.davidgoldsmith.com, email david@davidgoldsmith.com or call (315) 682-3157

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