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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

handshakeYou have heard the term “Relationship Marketing.”   So what is it?    In this short post, I will provide you with a few tips that have helped me gain clients, win friends, and manage to stay self-employed for 21 years.

Below are my Five Tips for Building Sales Relationships that Last a Lifetime

  1. Networking Meetings:   Forget about yourself completely.  Show a genuine interest in the people you are talking with or sitting beside.   Make people feel important.  This is a proven way to win friends and influence people and it is not out of style yet!
  2. Questions:  Learn to ask questions that build on the prospects needs and buying motives versus trying to tell people what you do and how well you do it.  Open-ended questions engage people more than the Yes/No type.  Eventually people will ask, “What do you do?”
  3. Give of yourself:   Volunteer!  Give your time and resources to the events where your prospects are.  This will create visibility for you.
  4. Become a Connector:  Look for ways to connect people within your network.  During conversations, listen for opportunities to help people meet others that may fill their business or social needs.
  5. Stay in contact:   Keep in touch with contacts and past clients through phone calls, notes, cards, and even little gifts here and there.  I love to give books.    I once had a client say to me, “I have not done business with you in three3 years and you keep sending me a gift.  Thank you!!!”    When another client was laid off from a high-level job,  where he received many vendor holiday gifts, I was the only one he said sent him a gift to his home and it made him feel so special.

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Recently, after a long hard week of training and consulting, I had an image in my mind of a leisurely, decompressing Friday afternoon with a late lunch. I had heard of a new place in Fort Worth, a farm to market with impressive reviews.  Walking in, the atmosphere was what I hoped; quiet and inviting with white table cloths! I will say, upon our first greeting, I lost my positive impression as the hostess looked down on us while walking us to our table. There was no “friendly and polite” in her posture.  I guess it may have been while her restaurant fit our image of class, we did not fit theirs.  Or perhaps it was because after 12 hours a day for four full days and one half day, we shed our business attire for shopping in sun dance square and made our way to lunch wearing jeans.

waiterThe waiter came and took our order for a glass of wine and shared the specials. His service was upbeat and was what we would have expected from the start.  I was disappointed as I thought they might have fish and most dishes except the chicken salad were heavy fare. Not really the light lunch I had in mind, but if I had to, I would eat here. In the meantime, he convinced us to order the tomato soup and a blueberry salad to start.  We did…  the salad came… no berries… I guess they ran out (still good though).  The soup came.  It was cold.  The waiter could see our disappointment and took it back.

At this time, we chose to leave. The waiter could have handed us the bill and simply let us go.  Instead… now pay close attention to what he did and the lessons you can learn. Why? Now I cannot wait to go back and have dinner while there this week with “our waiter, Nick”  because he did this:

  1. He offered us bread with salted butter to go with our wine. It was amazing!
  2. He brought us biscotti cookies with our check (my favorite).
  3. He told us where to go for lunch fish just a few doors down.
  4. He said, “I don’t want to rush you, but they close at 2:00.” and offered to call and say we were on route

Service Lessons for Creating Value

  • Do not judge a book by its cover! We ended up leaving him a great tip and I wrote a great trip advisor review despite the fact I did not formally dine there.
  • When customers are grumpy or quirky – love them anyway! You have no idea what kind of day, week, or life they had.  Maybe they just need your patience.
  • Practice Lagniappe– the Cajun custom of giving the customer a little extra. What is the something extra you can do or give that will make your customers feel special?
  • Even when they do not buy; treat them as your best customer! They will tell people and a time will come when they buy from you!

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6CSRsIs this competitive environment making it more difficult to retain customers?  You can do this by equipping your team with communication skills that allow them to display competence and professionalism.  Training can help your customer service staffs deliver exemplary service as they learn how to make every customer feel like a valued client and increase call-to-close ratios. At Peak Performance Solutions, we offer practical training that fits into your existing service system and will take your team to the next level towards excellent customer service.

  • Art of Engagement – Participants will learn how to communicate their company’s unique advantage over the competition and build a lifetime rapport that will minimize the impact of concerns, questions and objections
  • Service That Sells – Participants will develop interpersonal skills that enable them to build long-term customer relationships, increase sales,) and lessen customer complaints
  • Eliminate the Dread of the Cold Call – Participants learn to reach out to the right people, get their interest, and make the sale

Whether your sales and service personnel are just starting their careers, or could benefit from brushing up their techniques with new skills, the right training can make a big impact.   In addition to training, you may want to supplement their learning by emailing your service staff or managers interesting articles on customer service.  Here are four articles to get you started:  Designing a Process For Customer Service Issue Escalation, Ten Lessons To Increase Sales Success, The Impact of Adapting to Behavioral and Communication Styles for Your Business , and Ten Ways to Offer Better Customer Service.

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meetingIn our previous post on Building Teams training, we introduced three courses to jump start teams and gave some article suggestions. In this post, we will let you know about additional team training you may want to consider.

These two courses may be relevant for most types of teams during different stages of development:

See also previous posts on Improving Meetings and Creative Problem Solving Processes for other start-up courses on specific topics your team may need.

The following additional courses are more advanced concepts and the workshops are designed to be facilitated working sessions with intact teams.  Suggested prerequisite courses for these workshops are listed in the Creative Problem Solving Processes post mentioned above.

An article you may want to check out is Evaluate Team Performance and Determine Training Needs, it includes a link to a form that helps a team self-evaluate where they are in team development.  If you are still unsure about what type of training your team needs, consider the type of team to make sure you offer the right learning opportunities.   Articles you may want to check on different team types for ideas on what skills they may need are 8 Considerations For 3 Types of Teams and Difference Between Self-Managed and Self-Directed Teams.   Or you may want to contact us for a copy of our team building training model, which may help you plan future team training, custom programs, and team-building events.

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Achieve Sales Success

Achieve Sales Success book

In the book Achieve Sales Excellence, we are given 7 rules form a customer’s perspective they would consider “must have” requirements of an effective salesperson wanting to sale to them.  I thought we could look at each of the rules and turn them around from what the customer wants to what it means the sales professional must to do in their role.

Below is a summary of the 7 Customer Rules.

  1. You must be personally accountable for our results.
  2. You must understand our business.
  3. You must be on our side.
  4. You must bring us applications.
  5. You must be easily accessible.
  6. You must solve our problems.
  7. You must be innovative in responding to our needs.

Let us take a look at rule 1 first and then we will look at the others in future posts.

“You must be personally accountable for our results.”

Everyone wants guarantees today. Your product or service most likely is tied to your customer’s bottom line. In your presentation, it is important to show the Return on Investment (ROI) of your product or service and be able to back it up. Even if it is difficult to predict ROI, you must show them what you can do for them and fully follow up that the product/service did meet their needs and your promises.

Examples:

  • When I talk about how my training program will increase positive work attitudes to a potential client, I must be prepared to state how a good attitude positively impacts their workforce – i.e. less customer complaints, increase in productivity, lower turnover, etc. Once I see they understand this and are beginning to consider the training, I can suggest some timelines and measurements the customer may use to verify that attitudes have improved in their workforce after the training has been held.
  • For any type of company, something as simple as asking for testimonials or participation in case studies after you provide the service or deliver the product can remind your customer what worked for them.  If the sales person follows up along with customer service (or they are reminded of sales reps name during interview), it may also bring to mind how helpful the sales rep was in making it all happen smoothly.  Written or electronic customer satisfaction surveys are easy to send out, yet they seldom provide the data for improvement or relationship building that a personal phone call or in-person follow-up meeting can.

In my next post, we will look at customer rules 2 and 3 of the 7 for sales reps.

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In 1998, the Chally Group did a survey of 80,000 buyers regarding what they look for when choosing a vendor.  Below are the responses:calc_file_money

  • 39% – sales person’s competence
  • 22% – total solution (features/options of product/service)
  • 21% – quality of offering
  • 18% – price of offering

What do these numbers really mean to you and your sales staff?  What brought about these changes from previous business norms?

The sales person is most likely high because in today’s business; it is about relationships, trust, and cooperation.   Part of the rise of the sales person over the other options, which were more important in the past, may also be a result of team-building and collaborative problem-solving heavily emphasized in companies during the 1990’s and into this century.  Business predictions indicate sales competence will continue to be high as customers continue to expect great service.  What could that mean to your business?  A good sales staff means fair sales for your organization.  However, a great sales staff is a true competitive advantage in today’s market.

The other three are still important to potential customers.  As you can see from the numbers, reputation outweighs price – which is why sales training and books on selling now include presenting value rather than reducing price when trying to close.

What could be the reason that total solution not at the top of the list?  With the rapid increase in technology and improvements in manufacturing, everyone now expects to get lots of options for customizing the solution to meet their needs.

What about quality?  Since it became well- known in the 1980’s that better quality was key to keeping customers and higher quality meant less manufacturing costs in the long run – everyone now expects quality.  If customers do not get what they expect quality-wise, next time they will go somewhere else and they will encourage others to go with them.

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Don’t let your thoughts roll off your tongue. They will bite you!

Check yourself, take this quick customer service quiz:

A client cancels a meeting for their professional service. They claimed it was for an unexpected medical appointment. You have no written signed contact nor have you received payment from the invoice you sent this week. You are disappointed. Your response should be:

A.   No problem, I hope everything is okay and let me know a convenient time to reschedule.

B.   Well, now you know why I want payment up front.

I know for all of you professional sales and service reps, the answer is obvious. “But”- I actually heard with my own ears, response B.

I felt badly having to cancel an appointment with a photographer at 6:40 pm the night before an appointment as I wanted a new photo as much as he wanted his pay. So I was actually in shock to hear his response. So much so for two days, his comment continues to linger on my mind. There was no empathy, something all service professionals are trained to convey and worst no sense of professionalism. We all have disappointments as entrepreneurs, sales and service reps. So how do we handle them:

  1. Learn to handle these disappointments with grace. Empathy is part of the role you play, no matter how you feel or how desperately you needed that money.
  2. Grumble and complain to your coworkers, spouse or significant other if you have to, not your prospect or client.
  3. Put processes in place to avoid situations such as a deposit. Payment in full in advance may not seem realistic to a client or the companies CFO.
  4. Learn to be flexible: it pays dividends. Let me give you an example. I have a regular customer who has had to cancel training the day of a training on more than one occasion. It is a financially great day as I have 3 sessions in one day. Our contact states, I am to be paid in full if cancellation occurs within 3 days of training. I have not enforced that and did charge a very small fee for prep time. I have received four direct referrals from this client that led to long term accounts and I know more to come.

In summary, Sales 101: Be easy to do business with and your rewards will come.

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