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Custom Growth Solutions, LLC | Sandler Training | Oklahoma City, OK
 

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Customer Service

Mike Montague interviews Ray Setter on How to Succeed at Customer Service.

 

Brian Sullivan Interviews Jonathon Farrington on The Critical Elements of Proactive Client Retention.

It’s that time of year. The holidays loom, there is a chill in the air, and countless articles appear providing guidance to sales representatives about how to close the year strong. The five, ten or twenty best strategies are outlined in checklists to insure end-of-year success. “Contact every client” is an action often recommended, as is “Revisit prospects who have chosen another vendor.”

Retail champions, the subject of my book RETAIL SUCCESS IN AN ONLINE WORLD, outlines not only how to connect with customers face-to-face but also a long-term engagement strategy for after the customer leaves the store. 

Read Time: 6 Minutes

Learn how to do a simple five-part client satisfaction call using the RECON framework. Caroline Robinson, Sandler trainer from the UK, talks about checking in with your clients and getting on the same page.

The more opportunities you have to interact with your prospects, the better, and the end of the year is an opportune time to reach out and reconnect with your clients and prospects to get in front of them prior to the new year.

The sales industry is fast-paced now and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the clutter of new selling techniques, emerging technologies, and more specialized analytics. Although those components – and some others – can play a major role in your level of success. It would be a mistake to spend too much time on them and ignore the basics. Before you get carried away learning this or that, remember to take it back to your roots and ensure that you are providing optimum customer service. If you have strayed a bit or are just looking for a reminder, below are five imperative tactics to employ in your practice.

The very best people skills that candidates will ever employ are on display in the interview situation as they try to win a position with your company. If they don’t capture you there, do you really want them in front of your valuable customers?

The customer's always right… Right? That's great in theory, but it's not always feasible in practice. Promises made and unkept are worse than promises not made. But not making the unreasonable promises of an angry client or prospect can seem like the makings of a fight!

Customer service is an interesting aspect of any business. Whether you call it inside sales or customer care, your frontline employee may have the most difficult job in the company. Have you ever cringed when listening to one of your frontline people on the phone? Do you find your staff to be too strict with the policies or too loose?

Just like all the other areas of a company—the warehouse, the accounting department, shipping—customer care is a process. In fact, it typically involves a number of processes, such as incoming order processing, returns and re-stocking, setting up new accounts and solving customer problems. If a customer-care candidate does not already have a process orientation, it will be an uphill battle to instill one. Consider the following true story.

One of the more powerful techniques we help people learn is how to uncover expectations. We call it the "magic wand" technique. A client shared a great story a while back that helps demonstrate how it works...

Instead of repeating the same customer service behaviors over and over with customers who have their unique characteristics and preferences, every employee must learn how to adjust their customer service style from one customer to the next. If we do not do this, some customers are left disappointed, even when the customer service standards have been met.

If you want to measure productivity in your customer-care providers, measure their bias toward action before you hire. Taking action is a quality that says, “I must do something, so I’ll quickly assess the situation, decide on a path, and do something myself.” Rather than wait for the customer to call back, a bias toward action says to reach out to the customer first. A bias toward action is the proactive ingredient in customer care.

Chances are, whether you knew it or not, you've been tested at some point by a prospect, or even by a client. Sometimes it's conscious on their part, sometimes it's just ingrained in their subconscious. How you react is huge!

When you're selling, how much attention are you paying to the expectations of your prospects? If your behavior is too disconnected from their expectations, you can blow it in the most unexpected areas.

Think for a moment about the most respected professions. What comes to mind? Chances are that a profession like doctors came to mind. On the other hand, it's very unlikely that salespeople came to mind, much less insurance salespeople. One of our clients defies that stereotype with just one major difference...

A client of mine recently turned a wrong phone number into a great opportunity. Let's take a look at what happened, and a few lessons we can learn from the situation. The phone rang at my client's office...

You may be losing sales if there is any point in your sales funnel that's a challenge for your prospects or clients. How can you make it easier for people to do business with you? Sadly, most businesses do not make it easy to do business with them. And if it's a challenge for people to buy from you, then they won't!

I was recently speaking with someone about doing some training. They shared the story of how one of the people they wanted me to train had blown a half a million dollar deal in just thirty seconds.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there in sales that promise the world to their prospect, then either under-deliver, or charge more than they claimed they would. It's amazing how you can set yourself apart simply by doing what you say you'll do, and not over-promising. One of my clients was recently...

I've written a number of sales articles, but also many articles on the topic of management. This should be no great surprise, since management is one of the areas I coach and train in. Let's take a look at the top five management articles over the last few years.

If you're like most people, you've been in a situation where you had to deal with someone, and could actually feel your frustration rising. It's a common occurrence in customer service, and can end up with both parties ready to fight! As soon as you start to feel your frustration rise...

In many industries, there's a common problem. Phone calls aren't returned in a timely manner, and so-called "professionals" may not even show up for appointments. One of my clients was recently able to take advantage of that issue.

When it comes down to it, most people really view negotiations as a lose-lose situation. Or, at best, they view it as a win-lose scenario. But if you really strip away what good negotiations are, they're a conversation that results in a win for both parties. So how do we, as salespeople, get to that point?

Have you ever been frustrated because doing business with a certain company was harder than you thought it should be? Have you thought about your own organization the same way? It may be difficult to do business with you, and you may not even realize it.

In Sandler, we have a rule: No pain, no sale. It means that unless you can find an actual pain a prospect is experiencing that you can solve, you shouldn't sell them anything. Pain is the reason someone does business with you. If someone has pain, you have to figure out...

Asking the right questions is extremely important. But once you know what questions to ask, actually asking them in the right order is hugely important! It definitely happens in customer service, but it can do even more damage in sales. It's amazing how often I see salespeople ask the right questions, but in the wrong order. Let's look at uncovering the decision maker as an example.

Your prospects may think they know what's causing their pain, but they're often wrong. As a salesperson, it's your job to dig into the symptoms they share, and diagnose what is actually causing their pain. Not only that, but you also need to see if you're even the person that can help with the actual source of the pain! In other words, you need to be seen as a trusted advisor, not a salesperson. A client of mine recently shared a story that illustrated this well.

You know good customer service when you experience it. It's hard to explain at times when it's not so great, but it's easy to recognize when a customer service agent has gone above and beyond to make sure you're satisfied. At some point, every day, everyone is a customer. A good customer service experience is something that everyone can relate to - so what is it that makes for an exquisite customer service touchpoint

We've been publishing helpful sales, leadership, and management articles on a regular basis for the last two years. One of the things we're able to track is which of those articles is the most popular. Since you may not have been a reader of ours for the entire two years, I thought it would be beneficial to share the 5 most popular sales articles.

The one constant in the world is change. If we're not careful, we can lose opportunities because we try to rush things and do them on our timeline, not the timeline of our prospect. One of my clients recently modified their sales process. They adjusted...

Have you ever wasted your time with a game of phone tag? Not only does it waste your time, but the other individual's time as well. Having a clear next step at the end of every communication interaction is huge! And it's all too common for it to not be there. But if you don't have it, you can lose out on a lot of opportunities.

I was at an event recently, sitting at a table with other professionals of varying ages. We were discussing the differences in the current generation from previous generations. One of the executives there responded, somewhat tongue in cheek, "This is all because soccer moms." Of course...

It's not what you say, it's how you say it. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about sales, management, or even your personal life. Tonality and body language plays a huge role! And even then, you need to make sure you respond, not react. I had a client recently...

Even though they may not be clearly defined, you likely have some long term objectives for yourself, your family, your career, your business, etc. Recently I heard some advice about being insincere that bothered me greatly and has since I heard it.

When you think about different activities you do where you interact with others, are you thinking of how to maximize those interactions? What's the key to getting the most out of any interaction with any person?

Technology has changed the way sales works. At the very least, it introduces new tools that your prospects may prefer for communicating. And if your prospects are comfortable with that technology, you'd better get comfortable with that technology.

Dress can play a huge role in sales and customer service. If you're not dressed right, it can make or break whatever piece of business you're working on. So how do you make sure how you dress contributes to what you're doing, rather than detracting from it?

In sales and in customer service, it's frequently the little things that matter. There may be sales you've made where something very small tipped the scales your way. Or possibly you've lost a long-term client over something you didn't even know had happened.

What do you look at as great customer service? Most likely it's not something huge, but some set of little things. Or it may even be just one little thing. Why are those little things so important?

Robert was at the doctor's office to get a shot. The only problem was, Robert was not entirely comfortable with needles. Robert was called back into the exam room. As they were getting everything ready, he thought he was pretty calm and relaxed. But he know that any moment, that needle was going to come out.

Finding out and using your customer's preferred method of communication is huge. I've seen it make or break a deal more times than I can count. Just recently, I had a client share a story about how it nearly ruined a relationship.

It doesn't matter whether we're meeting with a prospect or talking to an existing client. When we meet with someone, we need to get enough information from them to know whether we can help them or not. It should be all about asking them questions.

If you're like many salespeople out there, you may have been guilty of winging it during a sales call. Maybe you just did it once, maybe you do it more often. You may even do it every time you make a sales call. If that sounds like you, you're in trouble!

People will buy how you sell long before they buy what you sell. How you treat people speaks volumes. People will remember if you treat them better than your competition treats them. In one case, practicing this technique led to a customer of mine raising their annual purchase order from half a million annually to nearly four million dollars a year.

Have you ever had a prospect bring you a problem that you knew you could solve, you decided to business together, and it all fell apart? Often that's because the prospect brought you what they thought the problem was, but it turns out that the real problem was completely different. Is that really their fault? Or should you have taken steps to discover that ahead of time?

If we don't ask questions, we can waste time, energy, and even money. It leads to unpaid consulting and making assumptions. Some people are much more comfortable than others at asking questions.

In every communication situation, somebody's buying and somebody's selling. Inside of us, subconsciously, we think that they're always the same. If you look at yourself and how you buy, you're going to sell the same way. You put yourself in your prospect's shoes, even when they don't think the same way you do. And that can be dangerous.

When clients and customers come to you for your help, you're probably the expert. Like a skilled doctor, you can look at their symptoms, find out what the underlying problem is, and prescribe the best solution.

Recently I did some customer service training for a client. While we were talking about good service versus bad service, something happened that provided a great example of the impact bad service can cause.

Typically when I do customer service training, I will ask them what they think of good service, and who comes to mind. Then I’ll ask them what they think of bad service, and who comes to mind.

 

I have been doing a lot of traveling during the last two months. In spite of Chicago's brutal weather and some minor inconveniences, my flights and hotel reservations have gone remarkably smoothly and I have experienced a high level of customer service.

It's March Madness time, which I enjoy, but not always for the same reasons my friends do. Because I'm in sales, it's fun just to watch the teams execute their strategies and then try to figure out how these strategies apply to my own profession. And what stands out, season after season, is how predictable the plays have become and how easily they can be countered