In the non-capital industrial sales business (sales with a unit value under $25,000.00), speed counts.
In fact, very often the supplier with the fastest response to both an inquiry and the ability to accurately quote & deliver will get the sale.
This may not be a budget or cost management process, but it may be a “Do You Have…” process.
Here is a key to understanding this. If the customer starts with this question, “Do You have _______ In Stock?” Something has happened on his or her end that has moved their need into a near urgent or potentially urgent state.
Understand that the customer does not want to appear to be in need of what you are selling because they do no want to be taken advantage of. However, if they did not NEED IT NOW, they would not have asked whether you had it in stock.
So, with this understanding of your customers need now uncovered, you have the opportunity to become the hero to your customer. Just with a few simple words. “Yes, we do have that in stock”, or “Yes when would you like it delivered?” and the sales is in motion.
The next step is simply to close the sale and fill the order. This is done by capturing the customers contact info and forwarding them the quote to be signed off on as quickly as possible.
If you are going to win, you will need to have to have a high-speed quoting system. It could simply be a form to fill out and fax. Or a spread sheet in which to enter data into and fax/email. It could even be a server or cloud based quoting system. (I personally love the cloud based quoting program www.socketapp.com) Whatever your method, it is important to get the order confirmation delivered within 5 minutes or less to avoid competitors to quote ahead of you and win the sale.
Following sending the quote to the customer, is important to now use a soft touch. Do not push the order process too forcibly. You will need to assure them the product will launch upon order confirmation and that you will be ready to act with the speed that they require.
In no time, you will get the order confirmation back or a request to process the payment. If they are on account, get that order in motion. If they do not have account, run their credit card and get that order in motion.
Be sure to let your customer know all the way along the sales process that you are being proactive in filling their order and never use language, vocal tone or body language that gives them the idea that you have them over the barrel.
If it appears that you are taking advantage of the customers need for your product or service, the sale will be on one-time deal. They likely will not become a repeat customer.
On the flip side. If you treat your customer with respect, understanding, precision and solid communication, you will be respected as the supplier who got them out of a jam. Your positive actions will earn you respect, trust and referrals. Your attention to their needs and the promptness of your actions will also earn you the ability to sell at full price.
After all, the value is in what the item they just bought will do for them! It is not in what it cost them nor what it is. Those are just the minor details.
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/speed.jpg12001800gerrywiebehttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pnggerrywiebe2015-11-26 13:37:182022-05-09 12:36:27Sales Velocity 101 for the WIN.
Here are two simple and highly productive sales lessons that will go far in improving your customer relationships and making more sales.
Answer your voice mail.
I have been trying to get a hold of a seller to connect him with a client of mine for a solid week, all without a response. Wait that is not true, I did get a response from his voice mail system telling me that his mailbox was full and could no longer take new messages.
It must be nice, when business is so strong that you can ignore phone calls, let voice mails go without reply and build up until there is no room left for new messages, customers or opportunities.
Now do not get the wrong message here, I am and will not be a proponent of dropping everything to take a call any time the phone rings, but that said, it is good practice to check your voice mail 3-4 times a day, return meaningful calls promptly and never, ever let a voicemail box fill up to the point where there is no room for new messages.
The seller in question is making deadly mistakes, after all if you cannot even manage a voice mail box why should I let you manage my several hundred thousand dollar a year account?
Here is another simple and highly productive sales lesson that will go far in improving your customer relationships and making more sales.
Check and return Email messages.
Turns out the same guy will not respond to or in fact even check his own email account…? I have sent him no less than three emails, two with read receipt notices (telling me for a fact my messages have not yet been opened) and a Linked-In in-mail message over the past 3-4 days all of which have gone without any reply.
Again it must be nice to have so much going your way that you can afford to not respond to a willing buyer, or perhaps…
He has not come to realize that there is a direct correlation between responsiveness and customer perception. Now let’s this clear, this person represents a highly credible company the reality is that I have every reason to want to connect this seller to my client and my client will most likely become a major client of his going forward, however this deal may never off the ground because the “Perception” being built is that the seller does not care about even the smallest of things, voicemail, email etc…
I am of the philosophy that if one proves he/she does not care about the small things, they should not be trusted to look after the big and truly meaningful things.
In this I think I am like most of you. So here is the sales lesson, show respect, be prompt in your replies and take advantage of every possible opportunity to listen to your customers and prospective customers.
If you are going out-of-town and cannot answer or respond to an inquiry just use a telephone service, leave a message say you are away or program an auto responder to flow back to incoming email.
A “DO NOTHING” strategy will directly bring a “GET NOTHING” result.
Strange thing is, in my career, the more I learned to shut my mouth and open my earns the more sales I made.
How about you or your sales team, have developed bad sales habits and taken on a pattern of missed calls, un-answered voice mails and ignored emails? If yes, you have a major opportunity in front of you, get proactive with customer communications and watch your sales grow and grow.
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/do-nothing-1.jpg12001800gerrywiebehttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pnggerrywiebe2015-02-08 16:19:332022-05-09 16:01:24It must be nice… To Not Need Business
The facts have not been changed to protect the guilty.
OK, I admit it I have a secret love of hot dogs, to be specific an A&W Whistle Dog, Onion Rings and Diet Root Beer. Now don’t get me wrong this is not a daily or even weekly thing, but it was a twice a month thing. So you say, “OK you like some fast food every so often, what’s that got to do with a sales based blog posting”. Well this is where things get interesting. My regular Whistle Dog fix costs me about $11.50 a hit and I go twice a month so that’s $23.00 a month or $276.00 per year.
I am a nice, quiet, very predictable, repeat customer and I bus my own table when done. This makes me pretty much every A&W shop owners dream customer right? You bet right, so then why am I now being charged $.25 for one little plastic disk of BBQ sauce to go with my onion rings? I mean WTF. I am seriously miffed.
I think it was Robert Burton (and not Ben Franklin) who coined the phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” and that’s exactly what is going on here. I just dropped $11.50 on a hot dog, badly cooked onions rings and $.03 worth of root beer and they have the nerve to put the touch on me for a single serving of BBQ sauce?
Well first I asked the sales clerk if she was serious, and she was so I very politely paid the lady the $.25 and have not been back for two months, those two months will just keep going and going as I have now started my one man boycott against dumb sales policies and practices. Be warned from now on if I see them, or experience them I am going to write about them.
Yes, the A&W shop owner got their $.25 and now I am going to keep my $276.00/year times the next 20 years and believe you me that $5,520.00 plus inflation is going to by me… well I guess I am on the lookout for a new hot dog shop. Oh and I do hope that the A&W shop owner comes to realize that no matter how many coupons you give it, it will never make up for “Taking Your Customer For Granted”.
OK, my rant is over, now let’s look at the sales lesson, you have a fully qualified customer, who is paying their bills on time, every time, so what happens? Some number-cruncher in the organization says we are losing money on (enter your example of the BBQ sauce here) and we have to pass this charge onto the customer no matter what.
If you agree to start doing this; congratulations you have just joined the Penny Wise, Pound foolish club. You will lose customers by the dozen all because you did not follow one of most primal product pricing policies… Thou shalt not insult your customers by “nickel-and-diming” them.
There are dozens of pricing strategies to not only get incidental costs covered but to use them to build customer loyalty (none of which appear to be covered in the A&W shop owner’s operations manual).
Now apply this our daily industrial sales reality, we are busting our back sides, to make sales worth thousands of dollars a unit. Getting sales, providing great service and earning customer loyalty is hard work. Are you losing sales, sometimes big sales over policies and practices that are seen by your customers as them getting nickel-and-dimed?
Three key questions:
1. Are you’re pricing policies and/or practices triggering negative emotions in your customers, compelling them to go shopping?
2. What if your biggest barrier to more sales is the pricing program you are following?
3. Are you taking the $.25 as asked for and trading away loyal customers for life?
If you want to know more get in touch.
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/whistle-dog.jpg12001800gerrywiebehttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pnggerrywiebe2015-01-28 21:32:082022-05-09 16:36:43The Whistle Dog Factor
When I have dark moments of self-doubt (and I do) and question my direction, value, skills etc… I cut the negative process short and head instead for the “Red Tin”. In this “Red Tin” I keep the original copies of every recommendation and/or testimonial I have ever received going back to the 80’s.
If you read these you will quickly note what they do not say is… you said you would… and then sort of came close. Instead they say, you listened, understood and then just shut up and did the right thing, and you did it over and over to earn my trust.
These documents are all past tense, they speak to what was done, not what was promised. They speak to listening, little talk, and much action, they speak to investing in learning the real needs of the customer and meeting them head on, they speak to putting others first to then gain the reward of a long-term, profitable relationships.
Today, too many sellers are just pitching the stuff they are “told” to sell, they are not sales professionals, they are order takers. A sales processional seeks to understand a true need and then fill it. They seek an honest relationship, one in which they earn an equal voice with the buyer and can either agree or disagree with the buyer to truly define needs and then fill them.
Is todays, wham bam, thank you man, sales approach what is missing is “TRUST”, trust that the seller actually cares about the buyer needs, and trust that the seller is actually looking out for the buyers long-term, best interests.
The overriding problem is time, companies looking to grow and their sales people do not understand that developing real relationships takes time, and is much more about hearing and not about pitching, it’s about listening and not about talking.
This chart, to my experience is brutally true. Most sellers quit round about the 2nd call when in fact the sales magic happens in the 5th to 12th call or direct contact with the buyer.
It may appear counter to what you are being told today, but taking time to get to know someone and their needs, while slower and far less fancy is in fact a clearer path to more sales and thus more commission that any other sales approach.
Being a genuine human being, caring about others first, is in fact the fastest way to forming a trusted relationship, and in the cold light of dawn, buyers will always choose to do business with those they know and trust above anyone else.
All I can say is that anything worth doing, takes time. Relationships take time, understanding takes time, but from relationships comes trust, and from understanding comes sales orders. From meeting needs over the long run comes reputation and from a positive reputation, the testimonials and letters of reference. All hard-won and of deep value, that endlessly reaffirm that I took my time and did it the right way.
Great but how do I make that happen? You start by shifting employee attitudes and to be more specific your attitude which is far and away the biggest single item that will determine your ability to get along with others, define what plans you will make and how you will execute those plans. The results of engineering this shift is well researched, for every 1% improvement in employee engagement you can see up to a 9% improvement in operating profit .
Thankfully building a great attitude is a skill set than can be learnt and developed, allowing you to get significantly more out of life and business. Your positive attitude, or lack of, is what attracts or repels the people you come into contact with, and nowhere is this truer than in sales and customer service. We have all encountered the condescending, rude and/or fully disengaged sales person, these are examples of the negative engagement we encounter every day and unfortunately, too often found in our own businesses.
To take your engagement and your business to the next level you need to know three things:
1. That a positive attitude is the result of deciding to have one;
2. It will only work for you in direct proportion to the effort (learning, training, practicing and consistent application) you put into it;
3. That attitude, both good and bad is highly contagious. As such when you develop and role model a positive and engaged attitude you lead others towards the same.
Do you have a positive attitude (most like to think they do, but, in fact do not)? Most do not understand that their lack of positive attitude and disengagement is keeping them from their own goal achievements.
Crafting a progressive attitude, and resetting your goals based on it will raise yours and others engagement levels and excel you towards the accomplishments you are hoping for.
Thanks for reading, Gerry L. Wiebe, Founder | President
 Sources: Gallop, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, IES & Towers Watson.
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/yes-2.jpg12001800Gerryhttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pngGerry2015-01-18 10:41:072022-05-09 16:40:41Raising Employee Engagement Brings A 9% Increase In Operating Profits
Customer Service Super Star Case History Number 1: Auto Shop Shocker
My daughter was in a small car accident and thankfully she was not hurt. The other driver quickly admitted 100% fault, so off to the auto body shop she went. While at the auto body shop my daughter asked for a few other things to be quoted on; one being the front bumper which was cracked (by yours truly) and the other, a few deep key cuts to her driver’s side door, unfortunately made by some wayward youth in our area. The shop quickly worked out some prices for her, but despite what was covered by insurance and me paying for the repair of the front bumper I damaged, a review of her budget meant the key cuts would have to wait until a later date.
A few days later I drive my daughter to pick up her car from the shop. Her car looks like new; impeccably cleaned, washed, and vacuumed. Overall, all of our expectations were met and the price we charged was exactly what we had been quoted. All was well, so we paid and left. A few hours later my daughter calls me saying, “Dad, all the key cuts on my door are gone!” Wow, what a nice thing to do for another person. The auto shop had no reason to do this, they went completely above and beyond. Since they had quoted us on removing the key marks (it was a few hundred dollars worth of work) we knew the exact value of their contribution to exceeding customer expectations.
Are we impressed? You bet. Are both my daughter and I happy to tell this story all over town and recommend this auto body shop to everyone we know? Absolutely. They understood what the two second rule, that extra effort, would mean to my daughter. They gave of their time and services to do so and in return receive many enthusiastic customer referrals from me. Plus, I have a great case history of exceptional customer service and now you know, so if you are ever in need of an auto body shop in Abbotsford, BC please check out Erv’s Auto Body located at 2736 Garden Street, Abbotsford, BC or give them a call at 604-859-7410. Just tell them a very satisfied customer referred them to you.
Thanks for reading, Gerry L. Wiebe, Founder | President
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/mechanic.jpg12001800Gerryhttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pngGerry2014-09-20 10:43:522022-05-09 12:30:38Customer Service Super Star – Case History #1
I am an early riser and often have breakfast meetings with suppliers, direct reports, and sales staff, starting at 6:30 in the morning. In my town, good food at that time of the morning leaves you with just a few options, so the local White Spot is my location of choice. I am also a creature of habit and like to sit at the same table, (which means I also get one of the same two servers most mornings) order the same food, and have the same condiments; with one of my all time favorites being Tabasco™ sauce. This has in fact been going on for years and I have gotten to know the two wonderful waitresses rather well.
One morning I get a Tabasco™ bottle that only has about three or four drops left in it and I end up getting into a big conversation with my server, Barb about how I just love the stuff; but if truth be told, I love the new Chipotle Tabasco™ sauce even more than the original.
A week later I am at my table with someone and Barb is my server, I order my regular egg dish and coffee and off she goes to get things in motion. A few minutes later my eggs are getting set down before me and then… Barb puts down a brand new bottle of Chipotle Tabasco™ down in front of me says “enjoy” and goes off to another table. I was thrilled and my respect for Barb skyrocketed. At the end of my meeting I found the White Spot manager and proceeded to tell her how impressed I was that Barb had arranged to bring in Chipotle Tabasco™ sauce for me as it was my favorite and how much I appreciated both her and the extra service.
Well, the manager was very happy to take my compliments but not at all sure what I was talking about, as they in fact do not stock Chipotle Tabasco™ sauce and had no plans of doing so. I quickly sought out Barb to find out the facts. I was awestruck to discover that she had gone out on her own time, with her own money and bought the sauce specifically for me. Further, she was in fact storing the Chipotle Tabasco™ in her locker to make sure that it did not disappear and that it saved just for me. I do not even know where to place this extraordinary level of customer service. To me, my local White Spot Restaurant is now five-star dining and I hope to contend for the title of “worlds greatest raving fan 2013.”
If you’ve read my article How To Build A Customer Service Super Star In Two Seconds, this is what my teacher was trying to impart to me all those years ago, what Barb does for me twice a week, every week is a perfect example! In conclusion, be like Barb; humble in charter, dedicated, engaged, and the world’s best at what she does. To me she is a living example of what exceptional customer service has the potential to be.
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/tabasco.jpg12001800Gerryhttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pngGerry2014-08-20 10:44:312022-05-09 13:23:44Customer Service Super Star – Case History #2
I don’t know if you know this but your natural state is that of joy and inner peace. Everyone is born in that state. It’s your responsibility to make sure that you stay connected to that state throughout the course of each day.
It’s your humor being’s™ job to help you stay connected. Your humor being is of your higher self it’s the part of you that brings out the best in you when times get really tough.
The first time I can recall when my humor being™ had a dramatic if not miraculous effect on my life was when I was in the third grade. I was performing in the play “Alice In Wonderland”. No, I wasn’t Alice. I was Humpty Dumpty. You know the egg guy. It was opening night and the auditorium was packed with parents, teachers, students and their families. That’s a lot of pressure for a 3rd grader.
There I was sitting on this wall in my egg costume. My opening line was “I’m one who has spoken to a king, I am.” Well, I guess I said it with just a little too much enthusiasm, because I lost my balance and fell over the back side of the wall. All the audience could hear was a giant thud! I didn’t get hurt, not physically anyway. But, I remember how humiliated and embarrassed I felt waiting behind that wall. All I could think of was that I messed up big time. I was going to be the laughing-stock of the entire school. I thought the rest of the cast would berate me for ruining the play. And how, I wondered, could I ever face my parents? I wanted to run off the stage and hide, but I was literally frozen by fear.
At the same time that these negative thoughts were running rampant in my mind, the teacher was running up the steps from the first row and called out “Steven, are you okay?!” Without missing a beat I yelled out as loud as I could “Yeah, but I think I cracked my shell. I hope Alice doesn’t mind scrambled eggs!” Much to my surprise the entire audience was howling with laughter. Hearing the laughter, I slowly stuck my head above the wall to check out what was going on. As soon as they saw my egghead the laughter turned into cheers and everyone in that auditorium including the cast was standing and chanting, “Humpty! Humpty!” Being the ham that I am, I jumped on top of the wall and took many bows. The teacher was begging me to please sit down before I fell off again. But I couldn’t help myself. I was totally blown away by the attention I was getting. The cheers and the laughter grew louder as I took one final bow. Eventually I sat down and the play continued. And what a great success it was!
Question: What happened here?
Answer: That was my humor being™ coming to the rescue. In a matter of seconds, there was a major power shift in focus. I literally went from a klutz to a hero. Just by blurting out “Yeah, but I think I cracked my shell, hope Alice doesn’t mind scrambled eggs!” An emotional transformation took place. I went from the most humiliating moment in my life (at that time, because believe me there have been many more since that time) to being the star of the show. I’m not exaggerating when I say star. When the play was over, I was actually signing autographs.
Question: What would have happened if I would have allowed fear and other negative thoughts to be the dominating factor that night?
Answer: No doubt would there have been a totally different scenario. When you allow your humor being™ free reign to work its magic, you can take control of events and circumstances that can otherwise infringe upon your happiness. Sometimes laughter or even a little levity seems to be the only remedy to all of the madness that attacks us every day.
HIGH POINTS TO REMEMBER
• Allow yourself to make conscious choices to utilize your humor being™ on a daily basis at home and at work.
• Humor ignites creativity. Creativity leads to productivity. Productivity can be contagious. Why not start an epidemic in your life right now?
• Utilize your humor being™ on a daily basis and notice a shift in attitude towards life challenges.
Steve Rizzo is The Attitude Adjuster. He shows people how to acquire the attitude they need to succeed on all levels of life – while enjoying the process. He’s the author of the critically
acclaimed book, Becoming A Humor Being and the executive producer of his own nationally syndicated PBS special. Steve Rizzo’s keynote speeches and seminars are invaluable in learning
about the power of choice, the power of your humor being™ and the power of your thoughts.
Author Steve Rizzo, This article originally posted on Craneblogger.
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/unexpected.jpg12001800Gerryhttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pngGerry2014-07-09 15:20:012022-05-09 14:52:46Are You Prepared To Handle the Unexpected?
You got a call from your car dealer service manager a week after having some repairs done just to make sure everything is okay? You got a call from your doctor the evening after treatment just to check up on you. You got a questionnaire in the mail from a restaurant you dined at soliciting
your comments and suggestions.
Some business people tell me that’s looking for trouble. I disagree. I think it’s looking for rapport, loyalty, satisfaction and repeat business. If follow-up turns up a lot of dissatisfaction, you need to make some changes. The dissatisfaction is there whether you discover it or not.
How would you react if you got a thank you note a few days after buying a new suit from a clothing store, you got a birthday card from your insurance agent, you got a free dinner gift certificate as a thank you from a hotel chain, you got a personalized luggage tag in the mail as a gift from your travel agent?
Recognition and appreciation can be very powerful and very inexpensive as a marketing strategy. It is true that comprehensive follow-up and follow-through may reveal some inadequacies in your business operation and that’s good if you use those discoveries as impetus for improvement.
Of course every business, no matter how well-managed, will have to deal with dissatisfied even angry customers from time to time. Sometimes the customer is justified in his complaints other times he is not, but the handling of the dissatisfied customer can have far-reaching impact on a business.
https://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/customerservice.jpg12001800Gerryhttps://wiebeindustrial.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Artboard-1-8-1.pngGerry2014-06-09 15:24:312022-05-09 14:54:12Tips on Great Customer Service
For quite some time now I have been thinking about doing some business writing. I wanted to write about past experiences both good and bad and what lessons I have learned from these experiences.
I read a lot (at times up to three books a week) and so I know what I like and do not like in business writing. I love real world case histories and testimonials and I hate dry text-book stuff.
Unfortunately, one needs both and not just one or the other to maximize ones learning curve. Sometimes I end up reading two or three books on the same subject at the same time just to create a balance of these factors on a given subject. Sometimes however we are very lucky and the author can give us a good mix of both in one package (Tipping Point, Blink and the Outliers all by Malcolm Gladwell being great examples). To me this is the best type of business writing and so it is the general style I am going to follow.
Now before I get going on this series of essays I want to thank a few people for giving me the ability and motivation to start writing.
First of all thank you to Bill Gates and the Microsoft Office team. I have mirror vision dyslexia, resulting lousy spelling, grammar skills and terrible penmanship. The use of Microsoft’s word processor and presentation software literally has allowed me to have a business career that I am sure I would not have without their software.
Moving on I want to thank Jack Stull the owner of Jcrane Inc. for always making me feel like the tidbits of knowledge I share and throw around are worth discussion and application. I also want to thank Jim Barkman who I work with and for. Jim has taught me to be direct in my communications and every day lets me know that my work in sales, marketing and business development is not too shabby and does provide good value to those people and businesses I interact with.
So without ado here is my first essay.
How not to treat a cash customer:
About eight years ago, I was in the process of developing my own business which supplied B2B marketing and business development services to companies in the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia.
As a part of this I had set up and outfitted a home office. I bought a state of the art PC from IBM and a small printer. A few years into the business I was in the market for a very strong small business printer as, making strong and crisp presentations was critical to my ongoing success. After doing some basic research and looking at a few office supply stores and retail technology shops, I had decided to buy a multi-function office printer. In fact, I specifically wanted to purchase a Brother MFC 8600 which is a six in one business tool (printer, copier, scanner etc…) that had good reviews, a low-cost to own and operate and could be purchased and serviced locally. This purchase would cost me about $875.00 plus taxes. All in I was going to spend about $1,072.00 on this unit which, at that time, was a sizable amount of money to me.
I needed as opposed to wanted the unit and so I went out to purchase the machine and put it to work. I thought that I would pick it up at the local office supply store and in so doing would get a cash rebate through their loyalty program (never underestimate the hooking power of those loyalty programs), after all I knew a few folks at the local office supply store, they had helped me out with other purchases and I valued their expertise and support.
So I went to the store and sought out Mark (name changed to protect the innocent) and asked him to set me up with the Brother MFC 8600 I talked about earlier. Mark then proceeded to advise me that they had in fact sold out of this unit and replacement units would not be in for some time.
I was disappointed but not beaten, I knew they had the same unit just down the street at the local electronics superstore. In just a few minutes I was in the superstore and standing in front of my beloved Brother MFC and that is when the whole story got very interesting for me and very expensive for the superstore.
I waited and waited for a sales person to come and help me out and after a while I had waited so long I had to go and find a sales person (Lesson 1) and get him to come over and help me out. Once I found him and got him to come back to the display area I informed Sam (Name changed to protect the guilty) that I wanted to purchase a Brother MFC 8600 just like the one on display. I was standing their plain and simple asking him to take my money when what does he do? He left me with my wallet, literally, in hand and proceeded to go have a conversation with another sales associate (Lesson 2)!
Now I am starting to get a little ticked off but I am a patient guy and I needed the unit so I waited and then I waited a bit more and sure enough Sam comes back to me and we start-up the sales process again. I confirm I want the Brother MFC 8600 and he went off to find me my new unit and get it to the sales counter, I am a willing buyer (Lesson 3) and frankly happy and excited about my purchase.
But instead of a bringing back a big new shiny box with my new business unit inside Sam tells me they had not properly cleaned up the display area and are in fact also sold out of the Brother MFC 8600 and will not be getting anymore in as they are upgrading to a newer and more expensive unit… did I want to purchase anything else?
I informed him that I did not want to purchase anything else and instead I asked if I could purchase the display unit at a discount price. Well off he went again (Lesson 4) to find someone who could help him figure out my request. About 10 minutes go by and I am frankly running out of patience at this point, but just when I am down to my last ounce of patience along comes Sam with his sales manager in tow. Now I have to go through the whole thing again, at the end of which I tell him I want to purchase the display unit and ask him what the price discount will be for the display unit. He proceeds to tell me that the unit price is the unit price and that…
Hold everything in the middle of our conversation he stops talking to a paying customer (me) and HE TAKES A PHONE CALL!!! (Lesson 5) for what seemed like an hour but was in reality about five minutes.
Upon returning to our conversation he advised me that if I wanted the display unit it was the same price as the list retail price and that the software and a paper staging piece were both missing. It was my decision (Lesson 6).
I challenged him on the price and he quickly pointed out that they had a price matching policy and that if I could show him a confirmed price from a competitor at a lower price for the exact same make and model that he would be pleased to sell me the unit at the lower price.
Well I was not impressed, I was out of patience and out of luck with my desired purchase and frankly I was rather pissed off at how I had been treated, been talked down to, leveraged by the sales manager and pressured on the sales price even after I was willing to take a display unit with a missing software package. Did I buy the unit under these conditions? Not a chance.
I left the store empty-handed but not with my brain turned off. I was now fully awake, engaged and in a bad mood, and without my Brother MFC 8600. But what was a person to do?
I sat in my car for a little while and thought it all out. I recalled all my facts and lessons learned (more about those later) and went over everything from start to finish. I formed a new plan and put it in motion (Lesson 7).
Here is what followed in the next 60 minutes:
1. I went back to my local office supply store and found Mark;
2. I told Mark all the details of my electronics superstore experience;
3. I asked Mark to give me a written quote on his companies standard computer print out form for their COST on a Brother MFC 8600 and to include his name and phone number on the printout;
4. I advised Mark that he would soon be getting a call from the sales manager at the electronics superstore and to simply back up his written quote;
5. I told Mark I would protect his anonymity when I told this story in the future and that I would refer others to him because of his support in my time of need (Lesson 8);
6. I now went back to the electronics superstore and presented the sales manager with a written quote from my local office supply store for the exact make and model of Brother MFC 8600 multi function printer but this time the price was $525.00;
7. Now I told the sales manager to honor his own policy and demanded the unit be brought to me and that I would only pay the price as now dictated by the written quote from the office supply store;
8. He promptly refused
9. I then demanded to speak with the store manager who came out and reviewed everything;
10. There was a mini conference between the store manager, the sales manager and Sam my sales associate;
11. A call was made to my friendly office supply store and the quote issued by Mark was discussed with Mark who advised the electronics superstore manager that I was a very loyal customer who they would have been happy to supply if they were not waiting to be restocked ;
12. I was very begrudgingly told I would be allowed to purchase the unit at the price set out by the office supply store;
13. I paid the $525.00 plus taxes for a total of $598.00 and collected my now hard-won Brother MFC 8600;
I then went home and set up my new machine with software downloaded off the internet. That night I went to bed with a strong feeling of accomplishment and many lessons learned.
All totalled I saved $474.00, a whopping 45% price reduction!!! (Lesson 9)
At the start of the process I was willing to pay the full retail price plus taxes. But the players in the process got greedy and violated the basic respect a seller should have for a customer. As a result they got their own policy handed to them on a silver platter.
Here are the lessons I learned and feel are worth sharing:
Lesson 1 | Making customers wait is a poor business practice:
Never, ever leave a customer unattended or waiting unnecessarily. Always hook up with the people who are in your place of business, they are there for a reason and if they do not buy today they will buy tomorrow. Further, people like to tell others about their life experiences and if they were treated well they will tell others; like wise if they were treated poorly they will usually tell many more people about their bad experiences than about their good ones. This is even more important if you are on a sales call at their place of business; where you are both a seller and a guest, act accordingly.
Keep in mind, people are very fast to tell others about their experiences good or bad, there is an amazing power of peer influence involved here; if you neglect to show and provide the proper respect to people you do so at your own peril.
Lesson 2 | Do not disrespect your customers with your actions:
Once you have started a sales process with a prospect they are yours to lose. They are engaging with you as you represent something they want and it is your responsibility to prove its value. This is a simple business truth and I fail to understand why any seller would rudely disrespect their prospect by leaving to start a conversation with someone else.
In sales, the relationship is everything; it does not have to be a buddy, buddy relationship. Lord knows I am not a strong relationship seller and more of a technical and/or value seller, but you must use basic politeness and stay on point from start to finish in your sales process.
Lesson 3 | Don’t ignore opportunities to enhance the sale:
Willing customers are hard to earn and easy to lose. People hate to be sold and love to buy (Jeffry Gitomer). When you have a qualified buyer and you have the product and/or service they want to buy it’s the time to sell some fries with that burger, up sell your customer with added or related items in support of or protection of their purchase. Be a focused helper and increase your sales while making your customer happy that you are helping them out.
In this experience, the opposite was true and additional sales opportunities to sell additional items like toner, paper and extra warranty were lost.
Lesson 4 | People want to deal with people in authority:
People like to deal with people who are educated and informed about their products and/or services and want their sales person to have the power (to a reasonable degree) to be able to help them. Delays such as playing out the “Limited Power to Act” aka “I have to talk to my sales manager (often the invisible sales manager)” or telling people “I don’t know anything about this product” is a sure way to raise the anger of a customer and bring on the full risk of customer loss. If you need to consult another person, deal with this up front so as to set and control the expectation of the customer. This can be used to engage them deeper into the sales process. In fact, informing people of about your sales process is usually a good thing, it shows transparency and integrity.
If you literally do not know what is required then do one of two things.
In a short sales process go find someone who knows what is needed to help the customer and then make a professional transfer. Tell your customer that the person you are getting is more knowledgeable than you are and will give them a better insight and better service. Tell them that if they do come back you would be very happy to help them out with any other area.
In a long sales process turn the situation into an interview by telling your customer that you need to know all their questions, issues and concerns. Be sure to write each one down as you talk to your customer. When you have the entire list ask these questions:
1. Is this all the questions, issues and/or concerns you have?
a. Take down any and all additional items;
2. If we can get you satisfactory answers to these items will we be doing business together?
a. Ask the qualifying and obligating question and get an answer; otherwise why do all the homework;
3. When can we meet again to review the answers I will be researching for you?
a. Get a firm date, make sure you have enough time to do proper research and craft a good to better presentation but not so much time as to allow the customer to lose the positive energy and emotion they have about the sales process (two to three days max);
Then book an appointment, get busy finding out the answer to each item as well as related details, and build a killer presentation.
Overall, build a positive customer experience and the customer will return and bring others with them!
Lesson 5 | Don’t strong arm your customers and don’t be a bad role model:
There are two lessons in one here. First the sales manager tried to leverage me on the price of an item that clearly should have been discounted. Overall, this a bad business practice and one that will always come back to bite you sooner or later. The second part of this lesson is a further extension of lesson 2. However the error is even more critical now as the sales manager has just modeled to his sales associate(s) that disrespect to a customer is an allowed business practice, fully condoned and OK to repeat at any time up to and including the abandonment of a paying customer. Business staff who are told one thing and see another will most often clone the actual conduct of the highest ranking person they work around, so conduct and culture come from the top down. Bad manners and disrespect for customers if shown by the business leadership will no doubt become the daily practice of all below him/her. So if you want an outstanding level of customer service in your business model it 100% of the time because everyone is watching you and you are their role model, whether you know it or not.
Lesson 6 | Do not give customers ultimatums:
In my experience, telling a customer to take it or leave it will usually not work out, most people will leave and go to another seller, they may even pay more elsewhere but they prefer this to a seller’s bad attitude and poor communications style.
Show respect and leverage empathy; “yes it is a lot of money but it does bring a lot of value. We do not have any ability to move off this price point but I do have other products of lesser quality/value, would you like me to show you some of these?” This is a classic and respectful presentation of the same facts which also gives your customer a soft choice instead of a hard-edged decision.
Lesson 7 | Don’t make hasty decisions and do value the thinking process:
Never, ever react or over react in any given business situation. Like the cagey old gun fighter played by Clint Eastwood in the movie “Unforgiven”, the gunfighter with the coolest and most levelheaded thinking who thoughtfully processes everything going on around him (even in a full on gun fight) is the big winner in the end.
Reacting emotionally will get you little and usually put you into a losing situation. As a buyer or even a seller there is nothing wrong with taking a break to get some fresh air and think things over. Frankly, the biggest issues and problems in my life and in over 30 years of business have been thought through and resolved while I was mowing my lawn, not in the boardroom. Always reserve the right to make a clearheaded review of what is going on.
Seek council on big decisions and purchases. If you are not 100% happy with how things are going to proceed, back off or stop all together. The same is true with sellers, do not overpower your customer or bully them into a purchase even if you can. Buyer’s remorse can in fact be a major liability and much more expensive than the loss of profit on the sale (remember that happy customers tell others and refer new customers to you).
Finally if you come to a better conclusion or plan of action and it is well thought out then act on it. Propose that alternative idea, service or product approach, act out a different scenario if it will suit the situation and go for the result you are prepared to live with if it goes your way.
Think it out three times, plan it out twice and execute the final plan just once. If you are committed to a course of action, do it and be ready to win or lose, you may or may not make progress towards your goals but at least you will know you acted to the best of your ability and towards a better result than the one offered by someone else at your expense.
Lesson 8 | The impact on others:
Mark went out of his way to help his customer make a purchase with no immediate profit to him which resulted in a very profitable long-term relationship…
Mark put this customers needs ahead of his own and in so doing started a positive chain reaction which added positively to his reputation, gained a raving fan (me) and many new customers which I have referred to him, not to mention all the added sales.
Lesson 9 | Thinking about your options can pay off:
I saved a lot of money by not accepting a second best sales scenario and being leveraged for full retail price on a product not deserving of full price. Going ahead with their “only we win” sales process and poor customer focus did nothing for me. Stepping out of the electronic superstores let me form a new set of options which I then acted on allowing me to make a better deal for myself.
If only I had been treated respectfully from the beginning I would have no doubt paid the full retail price. It was their actions, lack of correct actions and poor customer focus and service that brought on the chain of events and this story.
Likewise I am forever indebted to my local office supply store where I have continued to shop to this day. I have spent thousands of dollars with this store over the years and referred many, many people to it. I know full well that I often pay more for the same items than at the electronics superstore just down the road but I place value on how I am treated, the service I receive and the product knowledge of the staff who serve me.
I am sure there are other lessons that I have learned and can pull out of this experience but this sets out all the main points.
As for that Brother MFC 8600 that I was sure was the right purchase and worth fighting for it still does daily duty in my home office and has performed flawlessly all these years.
To date this unit has cost me less than $.02 per page and my asset cost is down to just $6.23 per month and going down every month. If ever I hear they are going to stop making toner cartridges for this unit I am going to buy a 20 year supply and ride this unit right into my old age.