Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

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Do Not Dial 911: It is not an emergency! - February 13, 2016

This week I am addressing this post first to the client and second to the sales person.

 

To the client: have you ever watched the cartoon or read the book about Chicken Little? What about the variations and stories of crying wolf? Come on, you know, the sky is falling! Everything is a disaster. Something is always wrong. Look a wolf – nah not really. These may be children’s fables, but in business, many of the morals are the same. You don’t have to constantly hit the panic button. Do not dial 911, it is not an emergency.

 

Regardless of what industry you are in, whether you are buying products or services, the reality is that perfection does not exist. When something does not happen 100% exactly as you see fit, the situation does not constitute an emergency. Sure, there are times when a product that you desperately need to keep a machine in your plant operational does not show up as scheduled. Maybe we’d call this a border line emergency, but more so an inconvenience. And yes, when you hire a certain type of firm to provide a specific service, you expect a deadline and/or budget to be met. Missing the deadline and/or budget may be unplanned, unexpected, or even costly, but it is far from an emergency.

 

Why then do you take a tone that everything happening is earth shattering? Oh my, what am I going to do since that part I need won’t be delivered until 4:00 PM today versus 11:00 AM when I was told? I am not downplaying your concerns, but your actions, or better yet reactions, say a lot about how your service (or product) provider will treat you.

 

When you deliver your message to your provider that everything is going wrong, everything is bad, nothing works, fault, fault, fault, fault, well then you are delivering a message in a way that says, “I am a jerk, I must always be right, I am the customer period, you must give-give-give into me”. And, the customer service or sales person you are dealing with will soon begin to hear blah, blah blah. And ultimately, when something serious does happen, because no one (or no business) is always 100% perfect, you will be treated just like the little boy that cried wolf.

 

To the sales person: please understand that my somewhat harsh criticism of the client written above does not give you Carte Blanche to treat your clients rudely or that you should consider all that call in with a concern to be overreacting. Quite the contrary. You should treat every one of your clients with the level of respect they deserve. Let me repeat that – treat the client with the level of respect they DESERVE. Nothing less and nothing more.

 

Venting frustration about a client behind closed doors happens daily in my life, whether I am venting, or simply the sounding board for one of my team members. It is done behind closed doors for a reason – it is generally out of frustration and can be dealt with professionally – once the rep cools down.

 

Client relationships are just that, human relationships. And, while no business works to perfection 100% of the time, you should at least try. It is understandable though, when clients constantly hit the panic button or want to dial 911 on the situation you are managing, to want to give them a piece of your mind. There are better ways to handle these situations.

 

First, you and your team must realize what sets this client off to begin with, by making a list of ongoing reactions. Analyze this list and determine if the client is a panic first type of client or if they have a legitimate concern. If they are a panic first type of client, add them to the list with an explanation on their behavior.

 

Second, build a trend list, which can be coded indicators on what sets this client off. Two things can come from this – (1) you will know how to be proactive to this client or (2) how and when to be reactive. These short lists will give you “fall back” reasons on why something is or is not happening as the client expected.

 

Third, you’ll now see your repeat offenders come to light, and from these repeat offenders you will have more ammunition to make business decisions on keeping the client, terminating the relationship with the client, setting new guidelines, changing pricing or payment terms, etc.

 

As sales people and sales managers, we are constantly evaluating statistics and analytics about our clients buying habits, decision making processes, order values, and so on. But, sometimes we fall short on realizing how “soft stats” as I call them, come into play when making relationship management decisions. Let me close my post this week with an example…

 

I have a long-term, repeat client for whom we completed and launched a project earlier this week. We spent close to a year working on this project, from outline to proposal to project execution to project completion & launch, which was intensive. Generally speaking the project was great. Everyone on both sides worked together, as a team, diligently to make sure the project was a success. And, with all things considered, this particular project was a huge success. But, if you were to ask one of the client decision makers, he would disagree. Even though his team, including the president of his company thought it went extremely well, he finds fault in the smallest of details simply because that is his style.

 

We should have expected this behavior, right? We did. Having tracked this clients behavior for almost 8 years, we knew he’d hit the panic button when no one else would. We knew that the smallest of a technical hiccup would create a dial 911 situation. And, having known this prior to calling this project complete, we prepared. We had “all hands on deck” ready to answer his call. Like I said before, nothing is 100% perfect, but all of the team members (his and ours) would rate the completion and launch at about a 98% success.

 

Knowing how to deal with this type of client will help you achieve greater success. Call it a crystal ball moment; having some insight into the client before he or she even hits send on the panic, 911 email.

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