Recently, a salesperson worked three long months trying to make a high commission sale to a wealthy professional, a doctor. Not only did the salesperson know their product but they also worked hard to develop a trusting relationship. The good doctor was astute enough to focus the salesperson's recommendations on investments property. In the end, his trust in the agent's competence won out. He would become another satisfied source of referrals. In turn, the agent would gain access to a new market rich with professionals possessing needs they could fill.
A month later the agent received a phone call from the good doctor. The client became rude and curt on the telephone. He said he was mis-informed and felt ripped off. He didn't need that much insurance and thought the premiums were excessive. His colleagues told him of group products which he should have evaluated instead. The doctor said he bought too quickly without being properly advised. He shouldn't have bought so soon.
Have you ever faced a situation like this before? Have your clients ever regretted buying from you? We have all had remorseful buyers, but how does remorse progress into a bad client who terminates his relationship with you by letting his product or service be replaced. This may not make much difference if you make a sale expecting never to see the customer or client again. But today, you can't afford that cavalier attitude. Clients need a mortgage every 8 years. They buy a car every 5 years. Your customers will buy an investment every week or month. You can afford to lose a sale. But you can't afford to lose a customer or client. Don't they realize that you really know their needs? Aren't they aware that you read the Wall Street Journal every day and have professional designations telling the world how much you know? The answer lies in how clients could ever become de-sold in the first place.
KEEPING THE SALE
Making a sale takes great skill, but the real benefit comes from keeping a client. The cost of getting a new client is nearly double that of selling to an existing one. Recently, I refinanced a past client to help them tap into their equity in the home. When I asked them if they had heard from the agent who sold them the house (who referred me to them) they replied that they had received a card from her about three years ago but since then, nothing. By this time, even if the agent did call, it would be perceived as a cold call to their own past client. In fact, the property was recently listed for sale, and they hadn't even given a thought to calling the agent who sold them the house.
No wonder business gets replaced. Clients often can't remember why they bought from an agent, and even worse what the agent even did for them.
Possible stages of the selling process:
1) APPROACH SELL DE-SELL
LOW TRUST HIGH TRUST LOW TRUST
LEVELS OF TRUST
Your prospect goes through many selling stages before they decide to buy. They first gets acquainted with you during the approach or courtship period. They may reject or accept you at that point depending on the strength of the referral. After the first few tenuous minutes, the salesperson tries to reach a sort of similarity with the prospect. Rapport is generated by a close identification with the salesperson's personality. The prospect tries to reach common ground. Their striving to reach similarity, "That salesperson is just like me,-- I enjoy her company." The degree to which you generate rapport will determine the quality of information you receive during the time you probe.
The probing stage of selling is much more important than just determining needs. This phase is also useful in generating a relationship bond. I interviewed computer consultants a few years ago. Most told me what they could offer and what I should allow them to do. But, one told me why he was asking questions and then wrote down every answer without judging any of our inefficiencies. As I answered, I found myself glued to his pad of paper. His style of asking questions about my needs was like putting super glue on our emotions.
The next selling stage is trust. If you show empathy and listen, you'll develop rapport rapidly. Your prospect will listen to your recommendations and sell them selves. Trust comes from confidence in the competence of the abilities and desires of someone else. From trust comes the close. With trust, it is rarely even hard or manipulative. It's simply a culmination of a high-rapport trusting relationship, much like a lover's kiss. The highest level of trust comes during the point at which people buy. This is the primary reason why all referrals should be acquired when someone buys, not afterward.
When the prospect is closed, the sale is over. Or is it? The first phase of de-selling is remorse. If your client isn't serviced properly or is left alone, they may feel remorse. This remorse may not be bad enough to avoid paying the first premium or payment, but they may feel that they could have made a mistake.
Have you ever heard that people buy due to emotion and then justify it by logic? This is certainly more true during the development of a relationship with a salesperson, less true after that. The initial period after your client buys is filled with remorse. It could be your most vulnerable time in losing business to competitors. I bought an insurance policy from a financial planner a few years ago. I hadn't thought about it again until another agent asked me what insurance product I owned. When I told him, he said my company had pool reserves and couldn't continue providing the benefits. I called my planner and asked him if he knew something about the company that he wasn't sharing. The key phrase here is, " I called my planner." Was I a bad client or was I caught off guard during a vulnerable period of remorse? You may not be so lucky. Your client my not bother to call.
The next phase of de-sell is doubt. This step revolves around the motives of the salesperson. "Was he just trying to make money from me? Didn't he care about my family? Was I just an easy mark?" This doubt stems more from a people relationship crisis than a product crisis. The replacement salesperson is fomenting the crisis by playing on the prospect's doubt.
"Didn't your agent tell you that product X was better? You know why? He makes a lot more commission on what he sold you than what you really need. In this case the client isn't comparing products, he is doubting the ethics of the salesperson. The doubt is in the person-to-person relationship, not in the product.
It doesn't take long before doubt gives way to fear. The prospect gets a feeling of impending doom or loss of money. "If I don't get rid of this product, I will be in trouble. Fear occurs anytime after the sale. It doesn't have to be rational. When it occurs, your customer will contemplate rejection of you and then your product. Have you ever been concerned about losing a customer when they don't return phone calls? He won't give you the chance to defend yourself? Is he a bad client? He simply went through a process of de-sell. The de-sell cycle may occur as quickly as the sell cycle. This process is typical of what the North Koreans did to the United States POW's during the Korean War. This same sort of remorse, doubt, fear, distrust and regret cycle is inherent during any brainwashing episode. The product is simply a focal point of attention. Is the client bad or just a victim? Does the salesperson attempt to sell and run, NO! He tries to instill an ongoing sense of trust through a long term relationship. "Stick with me as your partner, and I'll make you money.
The most obvious way to avoid a de-sell is to keep in contact with your client. Since the client bought the relationship first and the product second, he needs a good relationship maintained. I have never heard a prospect yet say, "Gee, I'd rather buy a relationship based product (like a car, financial products, house) through the mail than from a real flesh and blood human being." Your prospect also believed there would be a continuing relationship with you when he bought the product. If your doctor saw you once but never again it wouldn't be long before you'd use other doctors. The same is true of your clients. Don't let your clients become orphans. Keep in contact.
Just sending birthday cards or even a regular newsletter will do wonders in ensuring their loyalty. Then, when you do call, you'll find not only a receptive source of referrals, but also a ready market of new business. Are clients who replace their products or services bad or just responding to neglect?
There are FOUR basic areas in which most of your client's objections about you and your products fall: 1) confusion, 2) doubt, 3) product weakness, and 4) low trust. When your client is confused about what the product can do, he opens himself up to criticism by competitors. Does your client know what he is buying? If not educate him. It's true that many clients will buy whatever you recommend, but you may face de-sell if you aren't there to defend the product.
When your clients are in doubt, they don't believe the claims you've made about the products. They need more information to satisfy questions about the product's capabilities. Recently, while in the midst of selling me a life insurance product, an agent handed me a Wall Street Journal article explaining how built up cash values of policies would be protected from taxes. How he spotted my doubt, I don't know, but he sold me more insurance because he did.
If your client feels the product is weak, he's displaying a concern about it satisfying his needs. He may be aware of a product's pitfalls because a competitor pointed them out. It is up to you to go in and re-establish his needs and goals that both of you initially discussed. Then, show the client how the product truly meets his goals or upgrade him to a better product or service.
Low trust is the most critical area of client objections. Trust revolves around the client's reliance on your competency to solve his problems. It also focuses on how well he identifies with you. People tend to trust others who are most like them. They distrust those who seem dissimilar. The longer you avoid contact with your client, the more dissimilar you become. If the replacing salesperson is able to convince your client that the product was sold because of high commissions, you're sunk. Trust will be lost.
Bad clients don't just happen to good salespeople. They are made. It's not easy for a replacing salesperson to get through the barrier of a happy satisfied client. But, if you lose contact, your client will gradually de-sell himself often aided by your competition. Selling is hard enough. Selling after your client has gone through de-sell is like a divorced couple getting remarried.
The relationship between you and your clients can be tenuous or a gold mine. It can be a source of referrals or misery. It all depends on how you nurture the relationship. The sell starts when your client buys not when you first make contact. The de-sell may start at the same time if you ignore you client.
Bad clients don't just happen, they are created.
Just thought you should know.
Have a profitable day,