One of the biggest frustrations I hear from my clients is the amount of time and effort it takes for them to put together proposals; particularly those that don’t end up winning the business.
Unfortunately, the standard approach to making client proposals usually involves describing your products or services, including some corporate background, adding a few references, and finishing with pricing information. This is the last approach you want to take. It practically guarantees you’ll miss the mark. And worse, preparing and delivering these kinds of proposals soaks up significant time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Here … Read the rest
It was a lesson in humility I’ll never forget.
Decades ago my first real job after graduating university was selling accounting systems door to door to businesses. After several days of making little progress, I finally had a manager agree to walk me to his office to hear my pitch. Following him, I said, “Thanks, I really appreciate your time.” He turns, scowls at me and asks, “Why, is it not worth my time?” He’s dead serious. It occurred to me that I was being too grateful and too deferential to a potential customer.
How about you and your team … Read the rest
Oversharing blunders that annoy customers and limit careers.
“I wish some of my team members would think more before they speak.” This was the comment made by a senior HR manager of a construction company where I was brought in to conduct training. She continued, “They inadvertently share more than our customers need to hear.” In today’s world of social media where people post their opinions and details of their lives for the entire world to scrutinize, we’re finding oversharing is a growing problem. Not only does it jeopardize customer loyalty; it also limits career advancement. See if you or … Read the rest
See if this applies to you or the team members in your organization: You’ve been working in your industry for several years. Your responses to requests from customers, prospects and co‑workers are fast and accurate. You know your stuff and your product knowledge is one of your greatest strengths.
If this is the case, then the bad news is that your extensive knowledge may also be one of your greatest weaknesses. The reason — you may be inadvertently coming across as being arrogant and insensitive.
I’m not suggesting that you have a holier-than-thou attitude or that you are unfriendly. It’s … Read the rest
Sports bloopers are often about preventable errors that favor the other team. The classic is when players score against their own side.
In the world of business, there are similar blunders — particularly during buying conversations with potential customers — that end up favoring the competition. As I explain in my seminars for sales teams, it’s not always a shortfall in your company’s product, price or service that ruins a potential sale. Often it’s inadvertent comments that put customers off just enough for them to choose your competitor. Unfortunately, sales reps are usually unaware they commit these offences so they … Read the rest
The sales manager didn’t hesitate when I asked her, “What’s one thing you think your reps could do more of to enhance their sales success?” Her immediate response: “Follow-up.”
Working with sales and service teams for more than 25 years and observing the practices of the most successful reps, I’ve found this to be true. We often get so caught up in responding to customers and prospects, or hunting for new business, we neglect to pro-actively follow up as thoroughly or consistently as we should. Ironically, following up is one of the easiest and highest payoff activities we can do … Read the rest
In today’s workplace employees spend less time talking and more time e-mailing, texting, and engaging on social media. Ever consider how those messages are perceived by your customers, coworkers, and even by your employer? To ensure your electronic image reflects your best self, take this mini quiz.
1. There’s a big difference in what you officially write at work, vs. comments you post online on your own time.
Answer: b). While theoretically there may be some anonymity in what you post “privately,” in reality your online presence makes no distinction between your personal and professional image. … Read the rest
As a business owner or manager, what you ultimately rely on most when deciding your company’s future is your intuition. The challenge with so many stakeholders relying on you to make the “right” decision, is ensuring that your instincts are reliable.
Effective leaders hone their intuition the way a chef cooks a pot of chili. Like chili, intuition needs to include the right ingredients and then be allowed to simmer a while. Here are several ingredients for you to stew on:
Even as a senior executive, you’ll end up making better decisions after spending some time at … Read the rest
Whether fair or not, we are often judged on first impressions. This harsh reality is nowhere better seen than in today’s ultra-fast business world where customers size you up in a nano-second based on your personal image. Since their impression of you will determine whether or not they want to do business with you, the impact on your career and on your organization’s bottom line can be staggering.
Since it’s often awkward to confront employees on these sensitive issues, you need some ammunition to make the task easier. Here are some image-related reasons that customers may not like you or … Read the rest
I’ll just come right out and say it. I believe that treating customers fairly and equally is a mistake. It’s unprofitable. It belittles customers and employees, and it’s unethical. There, I’ve said it.
Certainly, we should treat people fairly — but not equally. I’m not advocating some Orwellian decree that “some animals are more equal than others.” This has nothing to do with a customer’s value as a person. It has to do with bending so-called “rules” to give exceptional customers the kind of unique service they deserve.
In my many years working as a consultant and trainer with dozens … Read the rest
Reasons potential customers may distrust you.
Interesting to hear the response from managers when asked about what factors impact sales. Many will reference the economy, customer demographics, competition, and recent innovations. While those factors certainly play a role, I often find, when brought in to train sales and service teams, that employees inadvertently chase away new potential customers. It usually happens within the first 10 seconds of customer communication, and most employees have no idea that they are committing these offenses. See if this is true in your organization. Consider these three reasons potential customers may distrust you or your … Read the rest
Simple statements that increase your perceived value
Quick — name two words which, when frequently used by waiters and waitresses, increases tips by 12 percent. (Hint: it’s not please or thank you).
Give up? The answer is, “…for you.” So, rather than saying to a customer, “Would you like some more coffee?” the savvy waiter would say, “I brought more coffee over for you.” The patron thinks, “Gosh, you did that for me, how thoughtful!” and tips accordingly — on average 12 percent more.
That’s what I call easy money. If you answered correctly — ignore the rest of this … Read the rest
Common Teambuilding Approaches — and Why They Don’t Work
“I can accept it when one of my employees makes a mistake. What I don’t have patience for is when my employees don’t play well with one another.” This was a client, a business owner with 45 employees, who explained, “When there’s a problem with a customer, employees focus more on blaming other departments and covering their own backsides than stepping up to help each other to resolve the problem. We need a stronger commitment to teamwork.”
Over the many years that I’ve helped teams to strengthen trust with their customers … Read the rest
How to improve telephone communication.
Like you, there are times in my work when e-mails and texts aren’t efficient and I actually need to phone someone and have a real conversation. In my case, it’s when I’m preparing for a training session or to speak at a conference that requires interviewing senior managers and key employees. I’ve made literally thousands of calls over the years and — since I pay particular attention to customer communication — I’ve created a list of Top 10 Telephone Turnoffs. See if you can relate to them, which I’ve rated from least annoying to worst. … Read the rest
Business building tips that cost nothing.
Remember the days when people noticed good customer service, talked about it, and most important — rewarded you for it? Happy customers would return and spread the word. In today’s fast-paced world, however, people are so rushed moving to the next thing, or so distracted by their mobile devices, that good customer service is overlooked. Fortunately, as I share in my seminars, there are several easy things you can do that will enhance your service and boost your business which your customers will actually notice. Best of all, they cost you nothing. Here are … Read the rest
Four touch points when it pays to dial‑down your approach
In a world of TV ads that blare, e-mails that SHOUT IN ALL CAPS, and employees who talk when they shou1d listen, consider the advantages of making your customer communications quieter. Here are four touch points I share in my seminars when a strong/silent approach will differentiate you positively in your customers’ hearts and wallets.
- When Establishing Rapport
You’ve likely heard about the importance of elevator pitches. The idea is that within the first few minutes, you should give your potential customer a synopsis of what you do and what … Read the rest
When managers plan their business strategies, common sense dictates that these game-plans should be in line with customer needs. The first step in planning is therefore to identify customer preferences. Unfortunately, most conventional approaches to determining customer needs are flawed.
Here are five of the most common methods used to gather customer opinions along with their drawbacks. Keep these often-made mistakes in mind when planning your business strategy.
Mistake #1 — Counting Cash
One way to find out what customers think — indirectly at least — is to look at revenues, the assumption being that if revenues are increasing then … Read the rest
In the days before e-mail entered our lives (up till the mid-1990s) the most pervasive interruption for the average manager was a ringing phone.
Even then, most managers had secretaries who screened their calls. Then along comes e-mail. Managers now receive dozens of messages from anyone — including spammers. The problem gets worse as employees who are sending e-mail messages within a company can easily send copies, no matter how trivial, to everyone else — including to other managers. The end result is that with the advent of e-mail it’s easy for a manager to spend an entire day reacting … Read the rest
Creating rapport with anyone in fewer than 30 seconds.
We all know the power of first impressions. How people perceive us during the first few seconds of an encounter has a major influence on whether they will trust us, be attracted to us, or want to conduct business with us. To create a positive first impression, we need to know how to connect immediately with others regardless of their age, gender, ethnic background, mood, or the situation.
Let’s begin by testing your “first impression awareness.” What would you think of the waiter in the following situation? You’re having a business … Read the rest
“The problem with my salespeople is they’re not cold calling enough!” That’s the concern I hear most often from sales managers and business owners when I speak at conventions on how to boost sales. Yet when I examine their cold-calling strategies, I generally find they’re ill-conceived.
Decision-makers in most organizations soon grow weary of the large number of salespeople phoning them. So if you’re not well-trained when you cold call, I guarantee that you’ll face a lot of rejection.
On the other hand, when you’re professionally trained, cold calling is easy and tremendously profitable. Here are steps to boost your … Read the rest
Interesting to hear the response from managers when asked about what factors impact sales. Many will reference the economy, customer demographics, competition, and recent innovations. While those factors certainly play a role, I often find, when brought in to train sales and service teams, that employees inadvertently chase away new potential customers. It usually happens within the first 10 seconds of customer communication, and most employees have no idea that they are committing these offenses. See if this is true in your organization. Consider these reasons potential customers may distrust you or your team members.
Imagine that you … Read the rest
Tips for Staying Up When Customers Wear You Down
Someone once said that life would be easy if it wasn’t for other people. Making a living however, usually involves interacting with humans. Your job may be fine when customers are pleasant and everything goes well. Sooner or later though, unavoidable delays, foul-ups and interruptions can make even good jobs turn into, well … work. To help you have more up days than down — even when things go wrong — here are several strategies I share in my seminars for making your job easier and your mood better. The bonus … Read the rest
When I’m asked speak at conferences on how managers can boost business, they often assume we’re going to focus on gaining new customers. Ironically, that’s the last thing we should focus on. Neglecting existing customers to chase new business is akin to gathering water in the proverbial leaky bucket. We can exhaust ourselves trying to collect more water when we’d be further ahead by simply fixing the holes. The more sustainable approach to growing business is ensuring existing customers are so thrilled that they’ll not only return; but they’ll also recommend you to new potential customers. The challenge is without … Read the rest
How to up-sell without turning off your customer.
If you and your employees aren’t trained on effective ways to upsell, chances are you either offend customers by being too pushy, or leave money on the table that customers would have willingly spent with you. Either option is costly.
When organizations bring me in to train employees on how to increase revenues from current customers, I often find that not enough attention is paid to up-selling.
Up-selling refers to when you help a customer decide to buy a little extra or “up-grade” slightly the final purchase. A car dealer, for example, … Read the rest
You may have great products, but you can still have customer service problems caused by bad weather, equipment failures, or human error.
While you can’t control external events, you can control what you say to upset customers. Certain phrases will serve to either defuse or enflame.
After more than 20 years of speaking at conferences and training teams on customer service, here are my top 10 worst things to say to unhappy customers (from least offensive to most), along with tips for regaining trust.
- “Want the good news or bad?”
When customers hear bad news they tend to catastrophize. They … Read the rest
Conventional workplace wisdom espouses the virtue of employees being friendly with customers. While friendliness is a good thing, too often employees interpret it as encouragement to become their customer’s friend. That’s not such a good thing. The key question is what is the most appropriate and profitable employee-customer relationship? Having conducted customer service training seminars for hundreds of organizations over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are five things every employee should consider as they develop relationships with internal and external customers.
Not All Interactions Are Fun
Chances are, customers would rather not go through the process … Read the rest
You have no doubt noticed that technology is changing the “face” of customer service. Traditional ways we used to interact with customers, win their trust, and keep them coming back are becoming irrelevant. Here are three of the most significant trends in customer service, and how you can position your business to capitalize rather than capsize in response.
Trend #1 — Self-Serve Slavery
What apparently started with self-serve gas stations has now become the norm. Customers are now booking their own travel, doing their own banking and even scanning their own groceries at self-serve checkouts. There are pluses and minuses … Read the rest
Is what you do for a living perceived by potential customers as being a mere commodity; more or less the same as others in your profession? When that happens, customers revert to the easiest differentiator — price. The outlook gets worse as you realize that somewhere in the global economy there is likely someone offering similar products or services for a cheaper price. And with the Internet it’s easier for your customers to find them. What’s most frustrating is when you know your products and services are indeed different, but customers don’t seem to get that and put you in … Read the rest
Perhaps you’ve noticed that customers are becoming increasingly hostile. Case in point was the highly publicized incident where a patron in a fast-food restaurant became so enraged that he attacked the restaurant manager. The customer spilled his coffee on his breakfast and when the manager refused to replace the meal, the ensuing argument led to violence that ended with the customer being arrested.
It seems in our fast-paced frenetic world customers are now more tired, rushed, stressed and downright fed up. That’s why in my customer service seminars both managers and frontline employees frequently ask me how to handle the … Read the rest
Let’s admit it — when it comes to dealing with customers who are stressed, some jobs are easier than others. A masseuse working in a resort spa will have more pleasant customers than a lost luggage agent at a busy airport. If your customers are sitting in a chair at your hair salon, they’re likely to be more relaxed than if they were sitting in an examination chair in a dental office.
That’s why so many customer service training programs fall short of desired results. Over the last decade there’s been a dearth of frontline training that focuses on enhancing … Read the rest