I decided I needed to get a new pair of shoes. The ones that I have are a couple years old and, quite frankly, a bit worn out. So, I decided to head to the local ShoeEmporiumMart and get myself some shoes. I knew exactly what I wanted...and in what section of the store to find it. As I entered the store, I saw a couple customers browsing and 3 sales attendants by the cash register.
As I stroll past them, one of them says, "Hi. I will be right with you." Assuming she was discussing something important and required time to finish her discussion, I went on my own.
Fine with me...I know what I want anyway. I head over to the shoes I want and the specific shoe I am after is not on the shelf. So, I hunt around for a couple minutes only to figure out that there is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to how these shoes are shelved...and decide I would "hunt down" that kind lady that said she would help me.
After a minute or two of looking, I find her at the counter again chatting with the other two sales reps about her obviously too intense weekend of drunken debauchery. I ask her if she knew where I could find my New Balance 820s in a 4E...and without even skipping a beat, she says to me and I quote...."I said I would be with you in a minute".
I don't think I have to tell you what happened next. Suffice it to say that I got my shoes from FootLocker instead.
You see...like this example, some aspects of your sales ability are painfully obvious to your customers. But, some of them are much more subtle than this example...Subtle enough that you probably don't even know that you are doing them. But, your clients know. Believe me!
So, here are some ‘subtle' and some not-so-subtle ways that you literally destroy your relationship with your clients.
Be inaccessible. One the primary complaints I receive from the clients I refer to agents is that the agent is hard to reach. Heck, one of the major complaints I hear from other agents is that some agents are hard to reach. Don't answer your phone. And, when someone takes the time to leave a message, don't worry about calling back. After all, if they want to reach you so bad, they will just call back, right?
Talk more/listen less. Youre the important one here. Youre the expert. What they have to say is not important at all because you have all the answers.
Be dishonest. Nothing will turn off a client more than being dishonest. The phrase ‘a web of lies' implies that it takes a lie to cover up a lie. And another one to cover up that one and so on.
Ignore simple manners. Whether you like it or not, your manners matter to your clients. Go ahead...keep your clients on hold. Talk on your cell phone about nothing that relates to your clients that are standing right in front of you. Use profanity and disrespectful language around your clients. Say something negative about another client in the presence of one of your clients. Go ahead...it's the truth, right?
Take "No" for an answer. That's right...just give up. Automatically assume that the client will never work out because you heard the word ‘No' the first time you contacted them. After all, only the "serious" customers that are ready to go right now are worth your time.
Don't get to know your customers. Ignore the important things in their lives. Don't worry about birthdays or anniversaries. Forget that they have 4 dogs they treat like children. Ignore the fact that the ugly vase on the mantle is actually Great Grandpa George. Don't get to know them on a personal level...its not required anyway. After all, they are just walking dollar signs, right?
I would bet that 98% of the people that read this will already know why you shouldn't do these things and come up with the next logical step in this conversation: Well, what should I do instead?
BE ACCESSABLE! Answer your phone whenever possible. Reply to all messages and email within a maximum of 6 hours. Make sure that your clients understand that you are there for them and that you appreciate the fact that they trusted you enough to want to contact you.
LISTEN! You were given two ears and only one mouth. That means you should listen twice as much as you talk. Take the time to listen to your clients. What they have to say is important to them. Therefore, it MUST be important to you. Ignore your rehearsed responses to standard objections and tailor them to fit the specific needs of your client's concerns. Make them feel important...because they are!
BE HONEST! Be honest to a fault, if need be. In this market, clients need an advocate that is out for THEM not THEMSELVES. Say what you mean. Don't beat around the bush about facts that need to be said. Even if what is needed is a smackdown...it would be better for you to do it and be honest about it than to be deceitful and then get caught in the lie later on. You have one shot to build trust...don't blow it.
USE YOUR MANNERS! For sales people that want to reach the top rung of the ladder, there is no substitute for patience, civility, and good old fashioned manners. Say ‘please'. Say ‘thank you'. Make eye contact with people when they are speaking to you. Open doors for people. It sounds silly, but these things are not just marketing gimmicks designed to make a client happy. They are the tried and true marks of good character.
FOLLOW UP! Whether you want to believe it or not, sometimes "no" means "not right now". I see this every day with my company. Agents simply give up after the initial contact with a potential customer because they were told "no". It has been proven time and again that it takes seven points of contact for a consumer to remember who you are and why you are trying to contact them. So, it is up to you to ensure that happens. Call your prospects. Email your prospects. Work your leads. Don't just give up initially because you didn't get the answer you wanted on the initial request. Sales isn't a McDonald's drive-thru. You might have to ask more than once...or twice...or eight times. I work with an agent currently that just landed an exclusive agency agreement on 35 properties because she followed up on a referral from my company that screamed at her on her initial phone call. (If you want to hear the whole story, contact me...be happy to share.)
KNOW YOUR PEOPLE! Notice I didn't use the word ‘client'. I have said time and time again that this is a people business. You deal with people. And, they should be treated as such. Get to know them on a personal level. Use that to your advantage. Remember their kids' names; their dog's name. Ask about the things in their life that are important to them and make them important to you as well. By the same token, allow them to get to know you. Developing a rapport and trust is mutual. It has always been true, you must be able to give before you are proven worthy to receive. That rule holds true here also.
It is a hard and fast rule of business that it costs six times more money or time to cultivate a new client as it does to retain a current one. And, in this market, I would bet it costs even more. Extraordinary customer service skills will only lead to successful retention of your clientele. And that will ensure that your sales career will never die.