I find too often that new growth initiatives get derailed by the unimportant, at least what appears to be unimportant among my circle of priorities. Regardless of the industry our customers tend to make things urgent for us and sometimes their emergencies become our emergencies and it’s real easy to get caught up in the whirl wind of panic as the end of the world nears in the minds of our customers. The perception is always the same; yet in every circumstance somehow it’s entirely your fault and it needs to be fixed now. Sound familiar??
All too often the causes of these emergencies tend to be self-inflicted and could have easily been avoided with the right communication for both you and your customer. As sales professionals it’s up to us to walk that tight rope and determine what levels of action need to be taken and when. We want to maintain a strong level of customer service; however we also don’t work for free and want to maintain a high level of productivity while delivering great service. A lot of this can be handled in the beginning of the process by level setting the customers’ expectations upfront. You know the old saying “Under Promise and Over Deliver” somehow seems to ring true here.
With that said there are circumstances in every transaction that warrants a little customer responsibility. This needs to be pointed out in the beginning otherwise you may find yourself on the receiving end of some pretty heated e-mails, phone calls and worst of all lost business. If the facts of the deal are not communicated effectively upfront; the customer’s expectation of your services could end up being a lot higher than what you are capable of delivering on. When that happens the happy euphoric world you successfully filled your customers buying experience with really does come to an end.
Here is an example of what I’m talking about:
A customer purchases a used automobile that is no longer covered under the factory warranty. The Business Manager presents different Vehicle Service Contract options that are available for the customer to purchase. The customer is presented with pricing options and chooses the product that best fits their budget. They close the deal and the customer is happily on their way to enjoy a newly purchased vehicle. Six months later in the heat of the summer the air conditioner no longer works and the customer discovers that they are responsible for the entire cost of the repair. Why? It turns out that when the customer purchased the vehicle the only product that fit their budget was the basic power train coverage of which the air conditioner was not part of. Makes perfect sense when you break it down to the bare bones of the situation after all the coverage the customer purchased did not fit the problem. However this is not how the customer perceives the problem, as a matter of fact the customer feels deceived and wants a new air conditioner stat. This of course is not only a problem for the customer but a problem for the entire dealership and presents a huge customer service issue. This particular customer left the dealership with a piece of mind that was not clearly communicated by the business manager. A simple disclosure and explanation of coverage that fit the customers budget at the time could have ramped up the customers awareness of the risk and responsibility involved in the level of coverage they purchased. This added communication could have alleviated a lot of the customer’s anger down the road especially when they get presented with a pricey repair order from the service writer.
Is it possible the customer would never have bought the car to begin with if the Business Manager disclosed what kind of coverage they were really getting for the money? Maybe or maybe not, the real question to ask is how many potential customers now do you think will be affected by the perception problem this Business Manager created overall? I would argue quite a bit, probably more than we could possibly measure.
Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when managing similar situations:
1: Never Short Cut Your Presentation: After a while if not careful a sales person can get caught up in a lot of assumptive traps. If you have been in your role for a while it is easy to assume that the customer is familiar with the lingo, product and process. What happens is the sales person is either in a hurry and wants to move on to the next deal quickly or wants to satisfy the customer’s impatience by getting them on their way quickly. What they really end up doing is skipping very important steps along the way and quickly closing the deal. As redundant as the process may feel on your side of the fence, remember that this may be the first time the customer on the other side may be hearing what you have to say. So take your time and present your product in its entirety.
2: Always Balance Price with Value: People don’t buy unless the value of the product exceeds the amount of money they will need to fork over to buy it. Sometimes you may come across a customer that is so focused on staying within their stated budget that the entire interaction becomes all about price. You may come to an agreement on price, however if what you’re getting is not laid out correctly the product purchased might not be what the customer is expecting when it counts. The situation above may have been avoided if the sales person pointed out the limitations and recommended a product that both fit the customer’s budget and their piece of mind. Sometimes that may require pushing them beyond their budget and if that is the case and the value is there they will buy it.
3: Review the Deal before Closing: It is always wise to recap the conditions of any pending transaction and point out any holes that may affect the customer down the road. This may open up a deeper discussion around the customer’s needs and bring the deal back to the negotiating table for added products and services in case the customers real needs were never addressed. It’s very tempting to finish the close when you’re ready to “sign on the line that is dotted”. Remember, the best and most successful sales people in today’s economy play more of a consulting role with their customers. This will help your customer build trust and faith in your expertise. If they have trust and faith in your expertise they will continue to buy even if problems occur.
Level setting your customers’ expectation will allow you to hold your customers a little more accountable to the purchase decisions they make. Problems that occur after the sale are never fun; however a lot of the pain can be mitigated with a few simple habits.