Most businesses have not only new customer acquisition strategies and goals, but also goals for retention and growing relationships with existing clients and customers. Many businesses rely on their “customer care” or customer service team to execute the important retention and upsell/cross sell strategies. It makes a lot of sense. If a salesperson brings in a new customer, then the people in your organization who will be spending the most amount of time with those clients going forward will be the CSR’s and support team.
However, because a CSR has high product knowledge and the right skillset to make clients happy, doesn’t always transcend into selling, problem solving and retention skills. See the following story as an example of what most business owners and executives would hope their customer service / support teams would be capable of doing:
“So,” continued Meredith on the phone, “would it be fair to say that it’s over?” “I think so,” responded Anna. “But I want you to know that I really appreciate the fact you’ve been so diligent in getting back to me the past month.” “This may sound like a dumb thing to ask, but I just want to be clear . . .” Meredith asked and waited for a response. “Go ahead, it probably isn’t dumb,” said Anna. Meredith went on, “knowing that we aren’t going to do the additional business we were talking about, I’m curious, why did you ever consider us?”
After a long uncomfortable silence, Anna said, “well, I don’t think I ever told you why I called to begin with . . . you were recommended by Martin Jefferson who leads the materials side of our business. He couldn't say enough about you and your company.”
Meredith said, “That’s interesting; We’ll have to thank him. But now there’s a problem . . . maybe you could suggest how I deal with it.” “What’s that,” asked Anna? “Well, this is kind of embarrassing for me . . . I’m going to call Martin, thank him, and then he’s probably going to ask me what happened, I’m not sure what should I tell him?”
Another uncomfortable pause of silence ensued. “Well, it seemed that we needed better credit terms than you could give our department; I don’t suppose you could help us out with that.” Meredith then asked, “By better terms, you mean?” Now reengaged, Anna said, “Well, on the large orders like we talked about, if somehow we could have . . .”
Meredith turned this “no” decision into a situation where the prospect reconsidered. In addition, she learned that Anna’s company needed more flexibility. Whether this prospect can be accommodated is something Meredith’s company will have to decide. Meredith turned a “no” into a “Let’s work on it.”
If the customer figures that the pressure for her to make a buying decision is over, just about any question you ask her at that point will be answered. Once she makes that “no” decision, she’s relieved. Once you seem to accept the “no” decision, she’s even more relieved. “Thank God that’s over with.”
Yes, it may be over. But you need to try one last time so that the “end it” decision is yours. “Why did you ever consider us?” you ask. As you saw in the story, the prospect began reciting reasons why she should be doing business with your company.
Now here’s the problem: In the story above, the customer service person would have to have a certain degree of assertiveness (NOT aggressiveness) to conjure up the guts to ask direct questions as she did. Furthermore, she would need to have the training to shift her mindset from one of “I’m not hired to sell” to one of “I have an important role in keeping and generating additional sales for my company.”
You see, for most support and customer service professionals (though they may not like to admit it), “that’s not my job” is their reaction to leadership’s urging that they take a hand in helping to grow revenues. And who could blame them.
Often, they are not, in-fact, salespeople. They should, however, be trained to have the skills to ask great questions, even the hard ones, to do their best to either preserve a relationship, grow it, or uncover enough information to be able to bring that to the attention of management to be sure that someone on the team is deployed to keep and / or grow the business.
You have nothing to lose by asking a customer, who has told you “No, thanks,” to give you one more chance to get back in and do business. Encourage your support and service team to set their comfort zone off to the side and give it a try on their next rejection conversation.
For the free whitepaper, 7 Ways to Improve Your Organization’s Customer Care, contact Bob Bolak at firstname.lastname@example.org . Bob Bolak is President/CEO of Sandler Training in the Greater Denver Area. As an accomplished leadership, management, customer service and sales consultant and trainer, he brings two and half decades of leadership, management and sales experience to the table, with a consistent track record of double and triple digit revenue and profit increases. Sandler Training has authored over two dozen books on effective leadership, management, customer service and sales.
Bob Bolak is President/CEO of Sandler Training in the Greater Denver Area. As an accomplished leadership, management, customer service and sales trainer, Bob works on revenue / business development with business owners, executives, salespeople and non-selling professionals including attorneys, accountants & CPA's, architects and engineers. He is known for triple digit revenue and profitability increases, offering clients over 25 years of sales, sales management and business development experience to achieve the same kind of growth objectives in their businesses.
Email address: email@example.com