Archive for July, 2009

I intervened on behalf of a customer today who had purchased hardware from a vendor I recommended. I’m questioning that recommendation now but that’s a side note.

Anyway my customer has been experiencing problems with a mobile device for over a week. According to my customer the vendor has been non-responsive to multiple calls and emphasized they are really crippled while their device is down.

I called the vendor and said, “We have a problem that needs to be addressed with customer X. I’m stepping in to see if I can help you resolve the issue.”

He gave me his version of he responsiveness along with some directions that he gave the customer to follow. I asked him “did you walk the customer through these steps”? He responded “Oh no I just sent the instructions to them. It should be easy they just need to get an RMA.” I’m thinking “have you ever tried getting an RMA especially being a non-technical person. That’s almost an act of God”

I then proceeded to follow his instructions.

I won’t bore you with my endeavors trying to get some help for my customer. Let’s just say I ended calling back the vendor. On my return call I explained the hoops I jumped through and asked if we could just have a loaner device sent to the customer. Stating this will help them through this crisis while we resolve the issue.

I thought getting an RMA was hard.

I was politely assaulted with a barrage of excuses and “if you would just do…” actions. Finally I interrupted and explained “Look we have a customer down. What can we do today to get them running?”

I’m still not sure what the outcome is going but think I have him convinced sending a loaner in the interim is a great step in the right direction.

As I’ve pondered today’s discussions I’ve come to one conclusion –  many have lost the art of customer service.

Customer service shouldn’t feel like a burden. It’s a huge investment in your future success as a sales professional.

3 Key components to excellent services I’ve discovered:

  1. Quick Response
    My customer spent over a week with now resolution. How do you think he’s feeling?
  2. Take Ownership of a problem
    Their your customer so take ownership of their problem because it’s yours as well. Stepping in on behalf of your customer will strengthen their loyalty to you because they know you have their interest at heart.
  3. Follow Through
    My customer called me because the vendor didn’t follow up with the customer. He had no idea there was still a problem. Follow through  reinforces the fact that you are working for them. You have the opportunity to ensure a problem is solved.

I’ve only outlined three keys to customer service. But I testify that incorporating these characteristics will build customer confidence loyalty. And we all know happy, loyal customers lead to more sales.

Happy Hunting!

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This morning I’m catching up on some reading in the mobility space. In particular I’m reading “Trends in Mobile Field Service by Sumair Dutta, Aberdeen Group. When I come across this quote by John Tricoli, President of TephSeal.

 “The automation capabilities of our handheld solution have allowed us to cut labor costs by 10% to 15%. With our labor costs exceeding $1 million a month, this solution has saved us more than $1 million in labor alone in its first year of use. The solution also enables us to receive 85% of our billing data the same day the service is performed as opposed to waiting weeks for service paperwork under our old method. Faster access to data enables us to bill customers in a more timely fashion, which improves our cash flow.”

Why is this important?

It’s my customer. I’ve worked with TephSeal for over three years. I take this as a personal nod. (A little patting on the back is good every once in a while)

I’m thinking to myself “why didn’t I know that our solution had impacted TephSeal so positively?”  I mean this is HUGE and I didn’t know it.

It’s person a reminder that I need to do a better job of discovering the true ROI my customers are experiencing with our mobile platform PointSync.

Why is this important?

  1. It enables me to go wider and deeper with my customer
    What do you think the first thing I did when I saw this quote? I rang my customer, thanked him for the quote and said ” it’s great to see that we’ve made an impact on your business. I’m wondering when we’re extend these same solutions into other departments”
  2. I now have published quotable references
    References are huge – especially if they’ve expressed unsolicited platitudes about your product are services.  Quotes are even better if discovered by a prospect in a major publication or reseach group’s articles. Nothing like free advertising driven by a happy customer.
  3. I’m now armed with “New” or “Reinforced Selling Points”
    John’s quote has given me ammunition for future discussions with prospects. I now have specific areas where a customer has found value in adopting our technology. Now when a customer asks “how have you impacted the business of existing customers” I have a customer’s results not just a sales pitch.

This has been a great experience and a moment of celebration and reflection. I’ve assigned myself  a new task this month – reach out to every customer and discover other areas where their experiencing benefits using our platform. I’m confident I’ll find additional benefits that will futher hone by ability to represent our product and assist my customers.

Happy Hunting!

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you know that I’m very big on consultative selling and building solid relationships with customers. I’ve been pondering the principle of customer relationships and have come to the conclusion that while good customer relationships are important they are only the beginning.

Think about it for a moment — how many good relationships do you have with prospects or customers? I’d be willing to say you could answer quite a few. But are these relationships driving you business?

How many of your customers, when a new project comes online, shop the competitor? Of those, how many end up buying from your competitor? This begs the question what value is the relationship?

What you really want is a Customer Loyalty coupled with your relationship!

Customer Loyalty is founded on the relationship you built with the customer. But Customer Loyalty is so much more! Just because a customer buys from you doesn’t mean they are loyal to you. Remember loyalty is earned not purchased!

Customer Loyalty is founded on or driven by the following:

  1. The value you offer the customer.
  2. The combined value you and your product offer the customer.
  3. Loyalty is reciprocal. What are you doing for the customer other than taking an order?
  4. Product or Service Enhancement – Are you improving the quality of your product? Or has it become the same old stale story. Once a customer perceives a decline in quality they naturally start to consider other options.
  5. Reliable source of answers – Does your customer turn to you for answers about your product? More importantly does he seek your advise for the future implementations? This naturally means you have to be up to speed on your products AND the market.
  6. Be Pro-Active – Are you actively finding and recommending solutions to potential problems faced by your customer.
  7. Going to bat for your customer – when there’s a problem with your customer, are you leading the charge to break down barriers or is the customer wrestling to jump through the support hoops?Take the lead – you’ll be amazed at what happens.

These are just a few ideas for earning loyalty. As you ponder these a note of caution, there is a significant difference between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Do you know the difference. I’d love to hear your recommendations. Remember loyal customers equal long term business!

Happy Hunting!

Please call me at 512-alsa3j-dalj4

Posted: July 24, 2009 in Sales
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I came in this morning after a fantastic day off with the family at the Canyon County Fair yesterday. Naturally the first thing I did upon my return is check voice mail and emails (I haven’t got to the emails yet).

The first voice-mail I received was from a salesman trying to interest me in his voice technology for mobile solutions. The pitch was strong and some what compelling. He then asked me to return is call to 512-alsa3j-dalj4. Even if I wanted to call him back I’m not sure how to call 512-alsa3j-dalj4.

I listened to the end of the message three times and still couldn’t make out the phone number.

You’ve got to be kidding! What’s up with that? Do you want me to return your call or not?

I’d suggest slowing down especially when your giving your phone number. I personally make it a rule to always say my phone number twice.

Leaving a phone number twice does two things. One it naturally forces me to slow down and think about what I’m saying. And two, it gives my customer a chance to write my phone number down.

This is such a simple thing and honestly a pet peeve of mine. If you want someone to return you call leave a number they can understand.

So if you’d like to chat my number is 208-854-7963 that 208-854-7963. Thanks for calling and I look forward to doing business with you!

Happy Selling!

No matter how good you are as a sales manager you are only as good your ability to effectively manage your accounts. Account management leads to good relationships which mean additional business bothe from the customer and referrals. Unfortunately as good as you may be, you will inevitably have a customer account go south on you. Reasons vary and often are caused by at least one if not all of the following; delayed delivery, faulty product, poor customer service, no customer service and a myriad of other related reasons. While each of these reasons is slightly different they really can be summarized as unmet expectations.

Now we can debate all day whether a customer’s expectations are realistic or not. But in the end when expectations aren’t met you will eventually have one less customer.

The question is what do you do when your customer calls you and says “I’ve had enough, something has got to change!”

How you respond to this statement, this plea for help, determines whether you’re a sales amateur or a sales professional. The amateur sales person will go into panic mode, go on the defensive and assume all is lost with the account. The sales professional will recognize this as an opportunity to dig in and work for his customer.

Remember if a customer is telling you there’s problem, even a serious one, they still have confidence in you and  you can resolve the problem. How you respond is pivotal to maintaining your customer’s trust, confidence and long term relationship

A few suggestions that will help you:

  1. Listen to the customer
    The first step is to set your pride at the door and listen to your customer. Find out what the problem is. The challenge will be listening long enough to get past the frustration and get to the core of the problem.

    Remember customers will want to vent – give them enough space and then get busy helping the solve the problem. Once you identify the core problem you can find a solution.

  2. Be Proactive
    Once you’ve identified the core issue take the lead and gather every key individual in your organization that can help you resolve the issue. Customers want to see action they don’t want to hear excuses. They also don’t want to be the only one initiating calls. If you discover a problem with a customer’s account be proactive and call your customer. Inform them of the problem and more importantly have a course of action that you can share. Remember customers want solutions they don’t want problems.
  3. Talk positively and constructively
    One of the major mistakes sales people and even non-sales people make is they speak in negatives. I often hear people say “we can’t do that”, “well if you don’t do this we won’t be able to do that”. Words like “can’t” and “won’t” should be stricken from your vocabulary. Instead use phrases like “while that’s not typical let me see what I can do”, “I’m sure we can find a solution”, “Let’s identify the source of the problem and I’ll layout steps that will help us resolve the issue”.

    Do you see the difference? The language is constructive. It doesn’t mean you will do everything the customer demands but it lays the foundation for you to have a positive discussion that can potentially require action on both sides of the fence. Customers don’t want obstacles they to avenues that ultimately opens doors for them.

  4. Recognize when to pull in a manager
    Eventually you will come across a problem you can’t solve. In that instance invite the appropriate senior manager to step in and have the more difficult discussion. Senior Managers wield the position and authority to make the difficult decision for your customer, to override policy and open doors that are normally closed to you. Note that the outcome of involving a senior manager will not always be favorable for your customer. But that’s your manager’s call. He has the responsibility to make that ultimate call. This puts you in a position that you can still maintain a positive relationship with your customer while the company makes the difficult decision.
  5. Follow-up
    Once a resolution is identified make sure you follow-up with the customer. Don’t assume the support team has everything under control. Make sure you reach out and ensure all issues have been addressed. Your efforts will be noticed and your customer will recognize you are looking out for them.

I don’t know about you but I work far too hard to lose even one customer. Make sure your actively managing your accounts and you’ll avoid the difficult calls. I guarantee if you implement the above strategies you will inevitably build customer loyalty that will serve you long into the future.

Happy Hunting!

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a colleague. He had made the mistake that ALL Salespeople make at one time or another — he had underestimated the interest and viability of a potential customer. The customer obviously wasn’t pleased that their interest had be down played and by a sales person no less. He learned from our partner that they might consider a new vendor for our piece of the solution. This obviously sent him into scramble mode to salvage the opportunity.

As we discussed how to save the opportunity he made a comment, “Well maybe I should I apologize and tell her let’s set that aside so that I don’t waste your time and mine”. I asked him “what’s the problem with that statement?”

Did you catch the problem? The problem is that it’s not his time that’s being wasted it’s the customers.

Think about that for a moment. If you’re the customer and a salesperson told you…

“I’m sorry let’s set that aside so that I’m not wasting your time and mine…” versus

“Hey I messed up. I’m sorry if we’ve lost traction and maybe even wasted some of your time. Let’s start fresh and see what I can do to address your needs”

How do you think they’d respond? How would you respond?

A few key things to remember:

  1. It’s their time your spending not yours
    Even if a customer called you they’re taken time out of their normal daily activities to find you. They’ve set aside time to search for you which means they most likely set aside a to do list a mile long to talk to you. It’s also a safe bet that they’ve been tasked by someone else, usually a boss, to step away from their list of to dos to find your product which they may not have a particular interest to them
  2. Pull the right resources together.
    If a customer agrees to meet with you make sure you gather the resources from your team that can fully address a conversation. If you need technical people grab them. If you need a business analyst schedule him. Pull in your arsenal of resources to give that customer the most for the time.  This may mean scheduling an appointment for another day. That’s OK. The key is making sure that you have the right people in the room so that you can make the most of their time.
  3. Set a date and keep it
    One of the things that is crucial to your success is if you tell a customer you’ll call on Tuesday, deliver Case Studies by the end of day or send over a few recommended solutions by end of week, make sure you follow through. It may seem like a little thing but if your customer learns that he can rely on what you say they will rely on you for business.
  4. Treat every customer like he’s going to spend a quarter of a dollars with you.
    It’s easy to in a rush to make quota brush off a customer that doesn’t seem to meet your buying criteria. But I’ve found that spending a little time with every customer will cause them to refer you to others in their industry even if they didn’t buy from you. (See my previous blog article “Sell For the Future”

Generally you’re the one knocking on the door pursuing the sale. And even if a customer makes the initial contact remember either way it’s their time. They investing in you as much as you are investing in them. What are you doing to give them the most for their investment which will ultimately lead to your sell?

The question is can you respect their time long enough to make it rain?

Happy Selling!

As you know late last year we won a significant contract to develop mobile solutions for AIDS related work in African nations. My team has been working on a new task order for additional work under this contract.

The solution we have developed is incredibly dynamic and we are already reaping benefits of the system.  The solution we’ve delivered has addressed some real challenges in bridging the gap between an otherwise totally disconnected communication environment. As you can imagine this has required a great deal of team collaboration, architectural discussions and much more.  As we’ve worked together over the last 9 months I’ve realized that many times I’ve had to sell our internal development team on concepts that were just outside of the norm of our traditional model.  Selling them on the idea that while the model was different, there was a true business justification for this variance and we could fully implement the solution and all come out winners — us and the customer.

A few key thoughts as I’ve analyzed the successful outcome of this sales and product deployment win.

  1. Re-think who you sell to you.
    If you think your only selling your customers think again. Often the greatest sales job you will ever do will be internal- so hone the skills.
  2. Think out of the box
    Sometimes winning an opportunity requires you to approach business from a different direction. Are you working for your customer or just working for the sale? I guarantee that if you called a customer today and said, “Hey I’ve been working with my team to identify a better solution for your particular challenge and this is what I’ve come up with…” they will not only listen to your proposal but will remember that you went beyond the ordinary sales guy and went to work for them — not just selling them.
  3. Manage your Managers
    Often the biggest obstacles you’ll encounter is your own management team. I’ve learned that if you take a non-traditional opportunity to a Manager and propose a well thought out, well articulated solution nine times out of ten he’ll give you a nod to proceed. The key is bringing him the solution not the problem. Managers appreciate sales professional that bring solutions to the table, especially if they ultimately bring dollars to the table as well. Try it for a month and see what happens.
  4. Build a rapport with every member of the team.
    This is crucial to your success. Make sure you interface with everyone that affects your customers. This includes engineers, developers, accounting, etc. Extending your associations will enable you to get answers that otherwise would not be at your fingertips. You’ll find having these relationships will enable you to be for more effective in your dealings with the customers becuase you’ll know where to get the answers and from who to ask.
  5. Give thanks to internal team members.
    When you win a new opportunity give credit to everyone that helped you win the business. People appreciate being appreciated — send a note of thanks, give them a gift certificate for the movies or dinner at Chili’s. A little appreciation goes a long way towards the internal sale

Remember no matter how good you are as a sales professional you’re only as good as the product and people behind you. Build relationships that earn the trust of your counterparts and enable all of you to be successful. I garuntee you’ll come out the winner every time!

Happy Selling!