(This article originally appeared on Deb Calvert’s blog)
In a previous CONNECT2Sell Blog post, we talked about what can happen if you stay in sales mode all the time. It’s very important to check in with your customers occasionally, to make sure that they feel their service needs are being met. You might wait for customers to complain before you provide service to them. If so, you are only meeting some of their needs… and those needs are only being met after dissatisfaction has settled in. What’s more, some sales people miss even those clearly stated issues because they spend all their time in full-on sales mode.
The idea is to anticipate and meet a customer’s needs, including those needs related to service. By proactively identifying and understanding those needs you solidify customer relationships and set yourself apart from the competition.
Here’s a simple technique to dramatically improve your customers’ perceptions of how you interact with them and meet their service needs.
I call it a simple service check. It works like this. Without any problem already being out on the table, without any other cause, just for the sake of proactively wanting to know, you ask a question. Here’s the question – “We’ve been working together for a while now. So I was just wondering… what is it that you like about the way I serve your account and what would you like to see me doing differently?”
It’s a wide-open question. Of course, some of your customers will say that what you’re doing is just fine and no changes are needed. Others, though, will tell you that there is a little something they’d like for you to do differently. In my experience, those answers are often very minor changes, things that indicate there’s a nagging pet peeve or a little quirk the customer would like for the seller to know about. Sometimes, it turns out there are significant problems the customer has not found a way to talk about yet.
I’ve heard responses to this question ranging from “please don’t wear cologne because I am highly sensitive to odors” to “it really bothers me that you’re 10 minutes late to every meeting” to “it would really help me out if you’d call me on the day our order ships.” These are all simple fixes, easy things for a seller to do that make a big difference to a buyer.
Large or small, the sales person who knows about a problem that’s been a customer’s mind has an advantage. That advantage is you have an opportunity to solve the problem. Problems solved equals happy customers.
Now I know that some of you might be thinking it’s a bad idea to ask a question like this. It might be like opening up Pandora’s Box. What if the customer is dissatisfied? Should I invite them to tell me about that? My answer is yes, absolutely, you really should. If you don’t, the problem won’t magically disappear. Instead, it will fester, simmering inside the customer. When you do eventually hear about it, it may be too late.
Of course, no one wants to hear bad news. We don’t want to deal with anything unpleasant. But it’s much better to know about and deal with problems before they become insurmountable. This is the crux of showing your customers how much you care and solidifying relationships with them.
There’s one additional and significant advantage that comes from asking this kind of question occasionally. You will differentiate yourself from every other seller out there. Most people never even think about asking a question like this. And of those who do think about it, many are too afraid to actually ask the question.
That means if you will ask service check questions, your customers will come to respect your openness and willingness to be vulnerable in exchange for understanding them at this level. It means they will give you the feedback you’re looking for, and they will be more receptive to feedback you need to give them, too. It also means that they will feel like they can trust you.
In sales, you couldn’t ask for anything more. To maximize each and every customer relationship, you need to check in on your customer’s perceptions of how you are serving their needs.