Archive for Customer Service

Careful with those fighting words!

Fighting wordsThe customer’s always right... Right? That’s great in theory, but it’s not always feasible in practice. Promises made and unkept are worse than promises not made. But not making the unreasonable promises of an angry client or prospect can seem like the makings of a fight!

That’s where Sandler Rule 28 comes in: When under attack, fall back. Falling back can be very appropriate when you’re trying to cool a heated situation.

If a customer is upset with your projected timeline, for example, falling back would look like this:

“Help me understand. If we’re not able to make this shipment within 3 months, we’re probably going to lose you as a customer. Knowing that’s the case, what would you do if you were me?”

It’s hard to stay angry at that. It gets everyone to a more okay place, and it gives the other person an opportunity to give you a suggestion they would be comfortable with.

One of my clients had a meeting scheduled with two team members from another company, to see if it made sense for them to do business together. Their Up-Front Contract stated that only those two team members would be present, but the CEO had other plans.

While the CEO wasn’t initially invited, he had a pretty dominant personality and decided he should attend. So he did. The CEO was very uncomfortable with the industry that my client works in-distrustful, even-but he kept asking technical questions during the meeting.

The answers to those questions required my client to use some industry jargon, and it didn’t go over well. The CEO accused my client of using a lot of words but not saying anything. My client was angry, but didn’t want to lose the rapport he’d already built with the other two team members.

At this point, my client knew he needed to fall back. He told the CEO, “I don’t have a horse in this game. If we aren’t a good fit for you, that’s really okay. I’m happy to explain the technical side to you, but if you don’t want me to, that’s okay.”

The CEO left early. But the other two team members actually tried to sell my client on how he wouldn’t have to deal with the CEO! They still wanted to do business with my client.

When you’re trying to get your needs met, instead of falling back, it’s easy to get defensive and lose bonding and rapport.

But my client wasn’t trying to get his needs met at the expense of this other company. Because he didn’t fight back when the CEO wanted him to, he was able to maintain bonding and rapport with the other two people in the meeting.

Instead of fighting back when you feel under attack, try to make the other person feel okay. You’ll be surprised at what doors will remain open.

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Uncovering expectations with magic!

Magic wandOne of the more powerful techniques we help people learn is how to uncover expectations. We call it the “magic wand” technique. A client shared a great story a while back that helps demonstrate how it works.

The client of mine is a roofer, and he’d received a referral from a realtor he had worked with before. The realtor had him look at a roof, and warned him that the owners were literally moving out that day. The husband had been transferred out of state, and they had just now gotten a buyer for the house.

My client knew it was going to be tight. Usually the whole process of getting an adjuster out to the house, filing the claim, and receiving the check takes a week or two. So usually it’s done several weeks before someone moves out. In this case, most of the family’s possessions were already loaded on the moving truck out front, and they were inside doing touch-up paint work!

As my client talked with the family, he found out they had never replaced a roof before. Not knowing what their expectations were, he immediately thought of the magic wand technique.

He asked them, “If I could wave a magic wand and you ended up with the best possible outcome, what would that look like to you guys?”

They answered, “We have to have this closed before we move into our new house. And if the roof’s not insurable, the buyer’s going to back out of the deal.”

Understanding the situation and their expectations, my client got the ball rolling quickly. He had an adjuster out there first thing the next morning, and got them an estimate and a check that same day. He also got a signed contract for them that day, and his roofing company completed the job just a couple days later.

Later, the family was saying goodbye to their neighbors, when the neighbors asked about the roofing sign in front of their house. “You guys just had your roof replaced?” they asked.

“Yes, we did,” the family responded.

“Wow, that was fast!” the neighbors said. “It’s been years since we’ve had our roof replaced. Think we should talk to your roofer?”

Of course, the family said they should, and went on to rave about what a great job my client had done at meeting and even exceeding their expectations!

You can use that magic wand in a variety of situations to uncover what the best case expectations are when you’re talking to a prospect. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a $20,000 sale like that roof, or a $20 million one. It’s all about putting the focus on the other party and learning what they ideally want to happen. It’s about making the situation comfortable enough that they’re willing to share that with you.

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Are you being tested?

Failed testChances are, whether you knew it or not, you’ve been tested at some point by a prospect, or even by a client. Sometimes it’s conscious on their part, sometimes it’s just ingrained in their subconscious.

How you react is huge!

One of my clients went on a week-long vacation not too long ago. As usual, he set up his email auto-responder and changed his voicemail appropriately so everyone would know he was gone. Once he got back, he followed up with several leads that had come in by email, asking them if a short phone conversation made sense.

Fairly quickly, he received an email response from one of the individuals. “We were testing you for timely communication. You failed.”

Ouch! Maybe they weren’t a good fit for him in the first place, but that didn’t make receiving the email any easier.

Another client of mine had a different experience in December one year. Keeping in mind his goals for that year, he closed a fairly big deal with a past client, simply by following up in a timely manner.

A lot of people leave opportunities on the table during that time of year! As a buyer, have you ever experienced poor follow-up and follow-through from others during the month of December? Chances are pretty good you can.

Of course, in some cases, there’s not a lot you can do. But often, knowing that prospects and clients could be testing you can make all the difference.

Simply following through and following up with people in a timely manner can make all the difference.

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Losing business over a car appointment

Car repair shopWhen you're selling, how much attention are you paying to the expectations of your prospects? If your behavior is too disconnected from their expectations, you can blow it in the most unexpected areas.

A client of mine was having some work done on his car a while back. He'd used the same place for servicing his care for several years. Recently, however, they had done some work without his requesting it, and they still made him pay for it.

Regardless, he decided to call them to get some additional work done. When they spoke on the phone, he asked, "Would you set up an appointment so I can get the work done?"

Without asking any questions, the guy responded, "Nope. We don't set appointments for that type of work."

My client asked, "Why is that? You set appointments for all these other types of work. Why not for this type?"

The guy responded, "Well, it takes longer than 45 minutes."

My client thought that was odd, so he ended the conversation. He then called another car place he'd used once or twice, and asked them the same question. "Will you set an appointment for this type of work?"

"Yes," that guy responded. So they set the appointment.

When my client went into that shop and was talking to the guy that worked there, he discovered that both car places were actually owned by the same people!

So what prompted my client to look at another place? It was a bad experience. But not the one you might think! He still called them even after they charged him for work he didn't ask for. The disconnect was when they wouldn't set an appointment for more work!

He'd already spent several thousand with them, and had the potential to spend several thousand more. But because they didn't pay attention to his expectations, and adjust their behavior to match, they lost that additional business.

That's a great example of how careful you have to be about people's expectations. The quality of work almost didn't matter. They even charged him for stuff he didn't approve! It was his expectation around setting an appointment.

Are you making the same mistake? Are you paying attention to the expectations of your prospects and adjusting your behavior as needed?

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Respecting insurance salespeople?

Salesperson balancingThink for a moment about the most respected professions. What comes to mind? Chances are that a profession like doctors came to mind. On the other hand, it's very unlikely that salespeople came to mind, much less insurance salespeople.

One of our clients defies that stereotype with just one major difference: He sells on value, not price.

A while back he got a call that was a significant claim from a client. While most insurance agents despise claims, he views it as a great opportunity to both demonstrate value and gather great third party stories for selling on value in the future.

In this particular case, when he first had a conversation with his client, they talked about what kind of auto liability you should carry. Many people don't realize what's actually at risk there. When he explained that to his client, they significantly increased their coverage, because they're financially very successful.

So when the call about the significant call came in, while it wasn't good news, his client immediately saw the benefit to buying based on value, rather than price.

The kicker? The client was actually a sibling of a referral partner of his. Can you imagine having to explain the situation to the referral partner if they had sold on price?

The fact that most don't sell on value is why sales is so un-respected as a profession!

The client says, "I only want to spend X dollars a month."

"Sure," the salesperson replies. "We can do that! We'll just cut these three things out of it and we'll save you $25 a month!"

Then the phone call comes in, and they don't have something they need.

In the insurance world, it might sound like this: "Why am I not covered for that?"

"Well, you wanted to save a couple dollars a month, so we took out that coverage."

Can you imagine a doctor doing something like that? A good doctor is going to work to find the right solution, not the cheapest solution, and not the quickest solution. All of us in sales should be doing the same.

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3 lessons from a wrong number

3 lessons from phone callA client of mine recently turned a wrong phone number into a great opportunity. Let’s take a look at what happened, and a few lessons we can learn from the situation.

The phone rang at my client’s office, and the office manager picked it up. After her customary greeting, the person on the other end said, “Hey, when are we going to get the quote from you guys?”

After a brief conversation with others on staff, my client got on the phone with her. He uncovered that she was actually calling the wrong company. In fact, she’d spoken with several people in his industry, had them out to look at some work, and nobody had called her back.

He asked if she’d like him to come out and take a look, and she said yes. He went out to look over everything, and ended up spending a decent amount of time with their maintenance guy. He asked him a number of questions to make sure he really got a feel for the issue.

Once he was back at his office, he sent her an estimate that same day. He knew nobody else she’d talked to had sent her anything yet, and that quick communication could make a huge difference.

There are a few lessons we can learn from this story.

First, most people would have just said, “Oh, that was a wrong number,” and would have never done anything. That’s reactive, not proactive.

My client was proactive instead, and said something like, “Hey, I think you may have called the wrong number. Happy to help if we can, though.”

Second, he asked questions to uncover what they didn’t like about his competitors. Then he tailored their interaction with that in mind.

Finally, he focused on who the decision makers were. Not only the first person he talked to on the phone, but the maintenance guy as well. He might not have the ability to say “yes,” but he most likely has the ability to say “no.”

So look for opportunities to be proactive, uncover your prospect’s past bad experiences, and focus on the entire cast of decision makers.

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Making it easier

Punching computerYou may be losing sales if there is any point in your sales funnel that’s a challenge for your prospects or clients. How can you make it easier for people to do business with you?

Sadly, most businesses do not make it easy to do business with them. And if it’s a challenge for people to buy from you, then they won’t!

At a workshop I went to several months back, the speaker shared a great example of this. He asked the audience, “How many of you have ever shopped online? Raise your hand if you have.”

Naturally, most of the hands in the audience went up.

Next, he said, “Okay, if you’ve ever found it challenging or a pain to complete the checkout process, leave your hand up. Otherwise, put your hand down.”

Most hands stayed up.

Finally, he said, “Now if you ever abandoned an online purchase because of how difficult it was, leave your hand up. Otherwise, put your hand down.”

A huge portion of the hands stayed up. Those people got all the way to the end, but chose not to do business with the company because they didn’t make it easy.

Online, that can be an easy thing to see. But that happens in businesses around us every day. Big sales are made or lost because you make it easy or hard to do business with you.

Are you making it easy for people to do business with you? Take a look at your website, how you gather information, how you work with clients, and how you initially sell to clients. You might even gather feedback from existing clients, and potentially even people that didn’t do business with you.

Find out what was challenging for them, and come up with some strategies for improving yourself.

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Blowing a half million dollars

Burning moneyI was recently speaking with someone about doing some training. They shared the story of how one of the people they wanted me to train had blown a half a million dollar deal in just thirty seconds.

I was on the phone with the prospect, and asked a question that I frequently ask people when they're referred to me for training: "Why in the world would you want my help?"

Thirty minutes later, he finally stopped talking. Turns out that his organization had been leaving millions of dollars on the table because they put people in situations that they weren't ready for.

Most of that thirty minutes was him sharing how he worked with individuals on strategy and getting investors. But there was a problem with the investor meetings.

I asked, "So where's the disconnect?"

He said, "It's amazing how many of these people blow an investor meeting in just minutes. And it's because they have no idea how to interface with somebody."

He then shared a specific example. A company he was working with had developed a product that could potentially be useful to every small business on the planet. That's a huge market!

He put the owner of that company in front of a potential investor. This particular investor already knew what the product was, and was basically ready to drop a half a million dollars in their hands.

Thirty seconds into the meeting, the owner had blown it. All because he didn't know how to conduct himself when in a selling situation.

He had the passion, he had the knowledge, he just didn't know the "how" to sell someone on an idea or a product.

It's a great example of how people by HOW you sell long before they buy WHAT you sell. Even if your product or service is great, you can easily disconnect with people if you aren't careful and intentional about the HOW.

And it doesn't matter what it is! If you're not careful, you can blow the opportunities before you really get a chance to talk to them about it. The only way to get better is to seek out knowledge, and then actually apply that knowledge to turn it into a skill and a habit.

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Over-promising and under-delivering

Crossing fingersUnfortunately, there are a lot of people out there in sales that promise the world to their prospect, then either under-deliver, or charge more than they claimed they would. It's amazing how you can set yourself apart simply by doing what you say you'll do, and not over-promising.

One of my clients was recently working with a prospect. The prospect was looking at two different providers, my client being one of them. But the other provider they were looking at was promising them all sorts of crazy things.

My client, on the other hand, took a much more realistic approach. They talked the prospect through the compromises they would need to make in order to come even close to the budget they wanted.

Finally, the prospect got an actual investment amount from both providers. My client came in right where they said they would, where the other provider was way out of the prospect's budget.

Who do you think that prospect went with?

Unfortunately, there are many companies and salespeople that will say, "Oh, we can do that," but then surprise their customers with extra charges on the back-end.

I was recently sitting by an executive director of an association. We struck up a conversation, and I asked what he actually spent his time doing.

"Unfortunately, a huge portion of my job is babysitting."

I asked, "What do you mean by babysitting?"

He responded, "Well, the majority of the calls we get are from our members' customers that are now unhappy. If our members would just follow through with what they tell people they'll do, my job would be very, very easy."

You can set yourself and your organization apart by simply having an honest conversation about the investment, then doing what you actually say you're going to do. And depending on your industry, that may make a huge difference.

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Our best management articles

ManageI've written a number of sales articles, but also many articles on the topic of management. This should be no great surprise, since management is one of the areas I coach and train in.

Let's take a look at the top five management articles over the last few years.

Woman on Phone Frustrated5. Do you make these 4 communication mistakes?

We all have people in our organization that communicates with prospects, clients, customers, or strategic partners. If those people are making any of these four communication mistakes, you need to make sure it's taken care of.

Read more

Diet4. Stop buying prospects food

This one is specifically for sales managers. It's all too common in the sales world to go around buying food for prospects. If your team is doing this, they need to quit it! Read a couple examples of what the real cost is.

Read more

Airplane seats.3. 4 words that changed a life

On a flight, I sat close to an extremely successful business executive who was sharing his secrets to success with a young business person. During that conversations, the executive shared just four words with the younger individual that summed up all his unbelievable success.

Read more

Stainless Steel Pen Laying on Written Page2. The common denominator of business success

I've been fortunate enough to observer many successful people over the years I've been in business. They all shared a common denominator that was obvious to me, yet I resisted engaging in that behavior for a long time.

Read more

question answer roadsign1. How to get answers from almost anyone

When you meet with anyone on your team, or with a client or prospect, you need to get information from them. And often times, they're resistant. In our most popular management article, I shared how to get answers from almost anyone.

Read more

If you found any of those articles helpful, feel free to brows through all of our articles, and subscribe to our newsletter where we share new articles as we release them.

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