Monday, October 12, 2015

no one cares what you're selling

Do you value shock?  A single event that stops you in your tracks, paralyzing your ability to comprehend, to breathe, to process.  Nothing else matters.

I think it's safe to understand that no business values shock, save electricians and power providers.  However, some businesses' response to shock seems to promote the ensuing behavior.  This can be easily avoided with consistent training, coaching-in-the-moment, and not only establishing expectations, but holding those expectations accountable.

For example, Starbucks has a very simple policy: if the customer doesn't like their beverage, with no questions asked, the Barista will remake the drink or offer a refund.  Plain and simple.  I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed customers react so angrily, so hastily.  Over coffee!  We're not talking about an event so detrimental to your health, let alone your existence, to merit such a heinous response.  Regardless, customers still go overboard, reacting unnecessarily.  What's so incredible is that Starbucks trains their employees on how to react; relationships are a priority.

Just yesterday, I witnessed a customer berating the Barista because she received the "wrong sandwich".  Now you must understand, I heard the Barista myself seek clarity and repeat the customer's order.  Which is exactly what she received, but not what she was hoping for.  After spewing anger and hate, demanding to speak to the manager (which the Barista involved was actually the shift manager to start with), the Barista apologized, remade the not-requested-but-hoped-for panino, and even thanked the customer for their business.  I was so impressed with her ability to hold control of the situation and demonstrate kindness, in addition to the very ethos of the brand, when the customer displayed the exact opposite.

This type of professional behavior can be replicated in any business.  Treat everyone like a "guest", and you won't get lost.

G: Greet.  You must greet your customers. A quick "hello" or "welcome to ____" sets the tone. Make sure your tone is sprite and springlike, as a disingenuous welcome instantly detracts from the business.  If the client is on the telephone or in conversation, a simple smile and wave will announce your attention and signal you're availabilty.

U: Understand.  Why are your clients there? Are they taking a stroll through your boutique, gathering ideas and enjoying the day?  Are they comparison shopping, looking to gather education and data?  Maybe they'll just "know it when they see it".  Whatever their intentions - as the salesperson, it's your job to find out what exactly the client is hoping to accomplish, and make that happen.  And then some.

E: Explain.  What can you do for them? Once you've identified what exactly they're hoping to accomplish, explain what you can do for them, both immediately and longterm.  This can be as simple as helping the client find the perfect dress to wear to for a special occasion, or as complex as executing customer business enterprise solutions.

S: Suggest and sell.  You've identified the clients' needs and explained what you can do for them.  Now it's time to hit the ball out of the park and set the wheels in motion. Suggest solutions to meet their needs and ask for the sale.  All too often, employees will identify the needs of the customer, present a solution, but never ask for the close.  To me, that's like creating a menu, shopping for the groceries, spending all day preparing a beautiful meal, but then never serving the dishes.  You must ask for the sale!

I understand you're looking for a new vehicle.  You want something classy, with great power, loaded with every amenity and safety feature available, that will last you the better part of a decade and grow with both you and your lifestyle to come.  I suggest the 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE Coupe.  Shall we place the order for your new car?

I recognize selling a car usually brings a much lengthier process and requires infinite more resources, but you get the gist. Ask for the sale.

 T: Thank.  What was the original goal of the customer? To purchase goods or services?  To gain education and insight? To try something new?  Whatever the reason, thank your customer. Invite them to return.  Tell them you want to stay in touch, ask for their contact information, and do something with it. Within a week, send a quick thank you note. It must be hand written. Short, sweet, and to the point.

Hello Mrs. Thompson,
I hope this message finds you well.  I want to thank you for stopping in to the boutique today. I know you're going to love your new Lady Dior bag. Remember, the bag is made of luxurious lambskin, so be sure to keep it away from your dark denims.  I hope to see you soon!   à bientôt, Joseph
                                                                                                                                                                              Within two weeks of sending the note, follow up with a phone call.  Your reason for calling: securing future business.  Your approach,  making sure you had the right address on file, that they received the note, and that they're loving their purchase.  This will massively decrease product returns and ensure happiness with the customer. It also allows for even more understanding about your client.  In the example above, where did Mrs. Thompson first take her new Lady Dior bag? Was she celebrating a special occasion (that you should be notating in her client file for future acknowledgement), or was it "just because..."  Learning why clients buy, understanding their motivation and spending abilities, will help you with future business engagements.

You've now officially started clienteleing - or leveraging your professional relationships to drive the business.  With consistency and practice, you'll grow your network of customers and clients beyond measure.  And once you're at the next level, it will never matter again what good or service you're selling - you'll always have a strong customer base loyal to you.

Treating your clients like GUESTs every time is only enhanced by your attitude.  Find your voice.  In the car example above, if I worked for the very storied Mercedes-Benz, I'd learn about German culture.  Maybe offer clients' children a small bag of  Haribo gummy bears or sign every thank you note with a simple and easily translated danke.  The simple gestures can exceed your clients' expectations, setting you above and beyond the competition, and ultimately benefit the sales probability and outcome.

A friend asked if this method is applicable to more than just traditional retail situations.  The answer: absolutely.

Imagine for a moment that you're an insurance salesman.  Of course, you'll follow an established sales tactic: become well versed in your products and services, identify potential clients, pitch your solutions, ask for the sale, and close the transaction.  But it doesn't stop there.  Clients want to know that you're going to grow with them, not just sell them one product and move along.  Regardless of what you're selling, you must include the promise of future growth and commitment between you (or your company) and the client.  If you're selling software, will you offer regular check-ins to train new employees?  Will you reassess the clients' business needs on a consistent schedule, ensuring the right solutions for the right needs?  Do you offer a discount or incentive to purchase additional products/services/solutions in the future?

It's not always what product or service you're selling, but the access to your expertise and assistance in the future. In the world of computers and telecommunications, Apple not only sells wonderful products, they also push solutions and prioritizes the customer relationship.  Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts doesn't just bring the style and class of Burberry to the table, but a commitment to building trust and longevity with their very valuable customers.

Sometimes, unconventional leaders are the way to drive the business to unexpected heights.  Many might have questioned why the fruitful technology giant would have lured a luxury fashion executive, but for those who know Ms. Ahrendts' critical thinking abilities, quest for excellence in customer experience, and remarkable methods to not only capture clients' attention but their loyalty and lifelong business, it was no surprise.  Subsequently, her realigning of the eCommerce department with the traditional brick-and-mortar retail department has already increased profits, minimized expenditures, and maximized customers' opinions.

In short, treat your customers like you want to be treated.  Maximize each opportunity to strengthen the relationship, further your brand's awareness, and be honest.  After all, the answer is no...until you ask.

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