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Sales People: Are You Giving Your Customers A Great Experience?

31st Dec 2013

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Providing an exceptional customer experience is a genuine differentiator. While it doesn’t come with the sorts of budgets aligned to R & D, that doesn’t make it any less important and it is something that’s too often overlooked…

Anyone in sales will tell you that doing business in Sydney has had its share of challenges recently -  low economic growth, tentative business sentiment, and the commoditisation of services which were previously considered high value, coupled with increasing instances of offshoring, are all making it harder for Companies to succeed and Sales professionals to earn commission. So with this in mind, as a profession what are we doing to ensure our existing customers are having the best possible experience?

What makes a great corporate customer experience? This is a subjective topic that occupies my mind on a daily basis. I’ve been sold to, I’ve sold, I’ve been managed by great Sales Managers and I’ve managed Sales people. I’d like to share my take on what I like to see from sales people when I’m buying and the mindset I take when working with my customers.  I’m hoping you’ll share some of your ideas too.

A great customer experience is:

 Genuine.

“I hope you’re well” has become overused in my opinion. Do you hope I’m well? Do you really? There are so many corporate clichés cheapening our emails and sitting in our deleted voicemails, and it makes me wonder whether it is possible to have a conversation without any genuine words being said. “Hi Steve, I hope you’re well. Just touching base so that we can synergise on the matter discussed at the back end of our last connection. Let’s connect on this one to move forward to a Win - Win solution. Kind Regards, David”. More than a few sales people clump together these cliché’s in the mistaken belief that their ability to regurgitate bullsh*t bingo (Google it!) is impressing their customers. Saying less with more doesn’t impress anyone.

Personal.

Acknowledge the human side of how we spend the daily grind. Step out from behind your role and your company, give a bit of your personality and have a genuine interest in the person you’re working with. There’s no harm in making a joke, talking footy, fishing or rollerblading. Work is such a serious affair for so many people that if you can make someone laugh you’ve done them a huge favour. If someone makes me laugh they’re a lot closer to winning my business! We generally deal with people for who they are, not who they work for, so give your customers a chance to see the real you.

Listening.

Ask your customers about their goals, the problems they face in their role, what keeps them up at night - and then shut the hell up motor mouth!

Taking the blame.

If you’re wrong, admit your mistakes - don’t look for an excuse to prove you’re not wrong, it won’t be believed. Sh*t happens, always has and always will. If nothing went wrong the title “Account Manager” probably wouldn’t exist. Guess what, your customers know this, you won’t lose a customer for making a small mistake, but you might for not admitting it. Admit when you or your company has made a mistake, say you’re sorry and do absolutely everything you can to rectify the problem with minimal inconvenience to your customer.

Doing the 1%er’s.  

An expression often used in professional sport, doing the 1%er’s is performing every little aspect of your role well, doing each and every small thing you can think of that will make your customer’s job easier.  These 1%er’s are not in your job description, they’re not an industry standard, they’re personal to each customer. The more you can think of for each customer, the better the experience they’ll have dealing with you and your company.

Putting yourself in your customers shoes/eyes/seat/position.

Why do they work with you over your competitors? Have they told you? Have you asked? Give your customers more of what they want from you.  Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes is a mindset rather than an action, I believe the more we do it, the better the experience we provide. Not sure if what you’re considering doing is ethical? Ask yourself if you’d be comfortable explaining your actions to your customer. Trying to think of 1%er’s to improve your customer’s experience? Put yourself in their shoes. By putting yourself in your customer’s position you will be able to think of ways to enhance your contacts reputation within their own company, such as providing sales leads or industry intelligence they can then share/take credit for – which is closer to a 2%er than a 1%er in my opinion! Warning: This requires a level of emotional intelligence us sales people aren’t renowned for.

Relevant.

Your manager might expect you to pitch everything on the shelf, but if it’s not relevant to your customer, don’t bore them.  Refer to point 3 if you’re not sure which of your products or services are relevant.

Being easy to deal with.

A great customer experience happens when we understand that we are solving a problem for a customer.  If you’re causing them an administrative nightmare you’re forgetting that your job is to help them perform their role and they won’t remain your customer for much longer.

Finding a balance.

Keep front of mind but don’t be a pest. As sales person you want to develop the relationship with your customer and maximise sales opportunities within the account as fast as possible. As a customer you expect a vendor to understand your business, although their desire to meet with you within a week of your first conversation isn’t a priority given your looming project deadlines. As sales people we need to recognise this and keep ourselves front of mind by providing something valuable during each interaction. I believe that the creativity and awareness to consistently produce these valuable nuggets during each interaction with customers goes a long way towards providing a great customer experience.

Foresight.

Seeing potential issues and solving problems before they arise. You can take responsibility for doing nothing more than your job and turn a blind eye to upcoming problems your customer may have after they sign a Purchase Order form, or you can take responsibility for doing everything in your power to make your customers job easier by solving problem before they arise, sharing the experiences of other customers in similar situations and giving them honest advice (which doesn’t always include buying from your company).

Consistent across your business.

Our customers should have a great experience no matter who they deal with at your company. Whether it’s your receptionist, your accounts department, your teammates or your Managing Director. I remember waiting in the unattended reception of an IT Integrator in North Ryde for about 5 minutes, in that time 4 different people asked me if I had been looked after, with genuine concern. Wow, that to me is a sign of good company and it was a great experience.

This is not an exhaustive list, just a couple of starting points for providing our customers with a great experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, are there other important things to you as a customer? What else do you do to provide great customer experience?