By John Monroe
I consider myself an avid student of sales techniques. I have been selling for a living for over 35 years and still learn something new every day. With the evolution of communication and technology, I believe that today’s buyer has become much more discerning and their expectations are higher than ever before. To remain competitive sales and marketing must adopt new methodologies to exceed the high expectations of the buyer. Beware of the one-size-fits-all sales strategy as there is no perfect pitch, nor is there a magic wand that can be waved over anyone to make them the perfect salesperson.
It’s my belief that a company needs to constantly be training and coaching their people on the art of sales for their service or product. The salesperson is but one part of an effective sales strategy. There are many external factors that also affect the selling process as Michael Porter discusses in his book, The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy, but we will save those for another article. For now, I want to focus on the best practices of a salesperson.
I’m considered a “Sales Road Warrior” by the fact that I have spent over 75 percent of my working career traveling in a car or airplane and living out of a hotel to sell clients my service or product. With that much time on the road, I’ve had plenty of experience interacting with customer care representatives .
A customer care representative is the company’s salesperson. If the customer care representative gives me service above my expectation, then the company has a customer for life. But if the customer care representative gives me less than expected, I most likely will give them a poor review on social media, which can be the beginning of the end for a business. In today’s world, social media reviews can make or break a company.
The first expectation I have when encountering a customer care representative is for them to be friendly, smiling, and acting glad to see me. Then I expect them to ask several basic questions to find out who I am, why I’m in their place of business, and how they can help me. First lesson in sales: Never underestimate the first impression; it’s a lasting one. Have you ever had a waiter come to your table and not smile or act like you are bothering them? I find it especially annoying when I go to a service counter and the person, never looking up from the computer, says they’ll be with me in a few minutes. Really?!
When I’m in a restaurant I want my server to know everything about the menu, and I want them to tell me about their personal favorites, but never bad mouth any item. I want them to ask me questions about my taste for food that evening and listen intently to my response before giving limited suggestions. Have you ever had a server say, “Everything is good,” or “I don’t know, I’ve never tried any of the meals.” Second lesson in sales: Make the buyer feel like their experience with you is special, and have them looking forward to the next experience with you or your company.
An example of great customer service is when I walk up to a car rental desk and the clerk says, “We’ve been expecting you, Mr. Monroe. We see you are here on business for 3 days. Would you like to upgrade to one of our luxury cars with more leg room?” This is how to make an offer—by setting an expectation for my needs. Lesson three in sales: Offer appropriate add-ons or alternatives. Present a full package that offers something more but fits the customer’s needs. Use the assumptive selling approach.
My favorite hotels are ones where I enter the room and, uncannily, the telephone rings; it’s the front desk asking if everything is okay with the room and if there is anything else they can do for me such as set a wake-up call or order up room service. Lesson four in sales: Don’t wait for the buyer to ask for the next step. Be prepared and know your customer’s needs, or at least anticipate the next step in the sale based on what you have heard from the customer.
When you are about two-thirds finished with your meal, the server asks if you are interested in dessert or an after-dinner drink. The timing is not an accident. A good server never waits until you are full to ask for the rest of the order. Instead, they ask at the point where you are still enjoying the meal and wondering what you might want to finish off that great meal. Lesson five in sales: Value your customer’s time and let them know you are there for them even after they’ve given you an order. You want them to keep coming back.
Sales is an art that requires repetition, but it also requires learning new techniques. Good managers will have regular meetings with their sales team to review best practices and even role play. On the job, learning is crucial so travel with your salesperson and listen to their presentation, then give constructive feedback once you are together in the car. Effective sales training requires feedback from the manager and interaction with the customer. As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, told his people, “There aren’t many customers at headquarters.”
John Monroe is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Monroe is a leading expert in marketing, sales and sales management for the restoration and cleaning industries with over 30 years of experience in those fields. Through Violand, Monroe works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call 800-360-3513.