Question and Answer #47- Overcoming Negative Perception

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Overcoming negative perception

Q.  How do I overcome a customer’s negative perception of my company because of some earlier mishaps in the account?

A.  Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we didn’t have to deal with these kinds of situations?  But, of course, these problems are, in one sense, job security for us.  If there were no problems, and all the customers were easy, they wouldn’t need us.

First, let’s keep this problem in perspective.  Believe it or not, this is one of the most common problems that sales people present to me.  That says to me that you are not alone.  Almost every company messes up at some point.  So, while the customer may make you feel like your company is totally incompetent, chances are he has had similar problems with other suppliers.  So, unless it was a mistake of huge proportions, or a pattern of repetitive problems, it’s probably not as big an issue as the customer is leading you to believe.

Customers have been known to try to parlay a mishap on your part into concessions from you on price, delivery, or some other aspect of the transaction.  Over-inflating their reaction to your mishap can be an intentional strategy.  So, guard against the tendency to overreact.

Regardless, you now have to deal with it.  Let’s assume that the customer’s negative attitude is real, and not just a negotiating strategy.

Start by putting the issue on the table.  If you haven’t yet apologized for the “mishaps”, make sure that you do.  Be careful not to blame anyone, but do explain, with specific detail, what changes your company has made that are designed to prevent the mishaps from occurring again.  Give him a reason to believe that the “mishaps” were an exception, not the rule.

Having done that, you can not expect that the customer will automatically believe you and restore his confidence in you.  It is more reasonable to expect just the opposite.

Doing business with you, from the customer’s point of view, has become a greater risk for him.  What price does he pay if he trusts you again, and you again mess up?  Looking at it from his perspective, he risks more by doing business with you than he does with your competitor.  You must, therefore, methodically work at decreasing the customer’s perception of his risk.

I’d recommend that, once you’ve apologized, you don’t bring the topic up again.  You’ll just cause the customer to harden his attitude.

Take a longer term perspective.  Look for small decisions he can make.  Small volume items and things that are purchased only occasionally — the bits and pieces of his business that no one particularly wants.  Try to get the customer to take a chance with you on those items that are of low risk.  And then do it again.  One small risk, followed by another small risk, and another, will begin to incrementally change the customer’s perception.

Slowly, over time, you re-establish your reputation as a quality supplier and pick away at the customer’s negative perspective, not by what you say, but rather by what you do.  Wait to make an offer on a substantial piece of business until you feel that the customer trusts you and your company more than he does now.  At some point, if you follow this strategy, he will.

Be smart, understand the issue of risk, see it from the customer’s point of view, and dig in for the long run.  If it was easy, your company wouldn’t need you.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.

Don’t Be a Bargain Hunter When Selecting CRM Software

Free CRM - did you expect more?

The CRM sector is chock full of free and low cost solutions. Other than acting as an automated Rolodex these provide little value to your business. I suspect there are some who would argue this point, but these would be small businesses that do not fully appreciate what CRM is all about – streamlining internal business processes; automating workflow; and improving how you market, sell and provide service to your customers.  Free and low cost CRM solutions simply do not offer this. If they did they wouldn’t be free.

A recent blog article represents this quite well by asking the simple question – are you price sensitive or value sensitive? If you are looking to select CRM software it’s worth reading this article.

The message is clear. In today’s highly competitive CRM software sector the difference between a free or low cost solution that provides little value and one that can help you to improve marketing and lead generation, sales execution and deliver best in class customer service is just a few dollars more per month. In the software industry you get what you pay for. It’s OK to be price sensitive. Just do not be a bargain hunter.

Despite Limitations Salesforce.com Rated Top Pick for SMBs

An article published in Business News Daily says Salesforce.com is the top pick for small businesses, but the limitations documented in the same article present an excellent case for why it should not be. Keep reading and you be the judge.

Salesforce.com Review 2016 | BusinessNewsDaily.com

Limitations

Although Salesforce is our top pick for the best CRM software, it is by no means perfect. Small business owners told us that two of Salesforce’s biggest limitations are its complexity and its pricing models.

Yes, people consistently report how difficult the product is to use and that you are forced to select a specific edition and pay for functionality you may not be interested in. So why is this solution the top pick for small businesses?

For small businesses, Salesforce’s biggest strength is also its weakness. Because it is such a robust CRM, it’s an excellent option for most growing small businesses — but it may be overwhelming for microbusinesses that don’t need such a comprehensive software solution. This is particularly the case for really small companies that don’t have a dedicated sales team or already have their own lead-generation and sales solutions that work perfectly for them.

Yes agreed.  The article states that the product “may be overwhelming” – it is overwhelming and hard to use. So once again why is it the top pick for small businesses?

On the flip side, Salesforce is a premium, scalable solution that can grow with your business, the sales rep told us. Many small businesses use the software when they’re in the startup phase and then take advantage of its more advanced features as the business expands.

Nice story, but how many small businesses have grown into the advanced features? Many simply leave Salesforce and migrate to a less costly alternative.

Pricing may also be an issue for some small businesses. Salesforce starts at $25 per user per month, and is limited to five users. If you need more users, you’ll need to upgrade to the $65-per-user-per-month plan, which lets you add an unlimited number of users. Although these are affordable prices for small businesses, the problem lies in customizing the software and adding on third-party solutions.

Yes, once you add the sixth person you are forced to upgrade to an edition that is more than twice what you paid for the initial product. Not only is this an unethical policy that charges more for the same functionality; why does Business News Daily seem to endorse this, stating this “may also be an issue” for some small businesses?  It is an issue and $65 per user per month is not affordable for many small businesses.  In addition as stated, customization costs are indeed high. So once again how is this product the top choice for small businesses?

A big concern for small business owners is that there are additional costs associated with using Salesforce beyond its core capabilities. For instance, third-party apps that require additional licenses or accounts, such as Data.com, aren’t part of Salesforce’s pricing model. The sales rep we spoke with confirmed that you’ll need to pay for those services on top of the Salesforce subscription.

This is true of any CRM solution. You cannot be all things to all people. If you require a solution from a third party then yes you have to purchase licenses from them. I do not see how this is a limitation for Salesforce.com but I am still trying to discover how this product is the top pick for small businesses.

Moreover, if you lack the requisite skills to implement or customize the software, there are additional costs to hire developers to do it for you. Some small business owners we talked to said they were quoted hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars from developers to help them with the software.

Yes agreed, so Salesforce.com is still the top pick for smaller businesses? What!

This is one of the strangest articles I have seen in some time. It’s quite factual and states many of the reasons why Salesforce.com is clearly not the right solution for smaller businesses. There are several very good alternatives that offer comprehensive functionality, are easier to use and much less expensive than Salesforce.com. Commence CRM or Zoho’s paid version are two good places to start.

Compare Commence CRM versus Salesforce.com 2016

This report reviews two industry leaders in the CRM sector and compares several critical decision points that differentiate the products. If you are considering either of these solutions for your business, the information below may help with your decision.

crm-review-salesforce-com-vs-commence-crm

Salesforce.com is certainly a well-recognized name in the CRM industry. It’s a company with a good product that has built a reputation for addressing the requirements of enterprise level corporations. Commence Corporation has an equally impressive track record, but has spent the past two decades supporting the needs of small to mid-size businesses. With the Fortune 1000 becoming saturated, Salesforce began marketing downstream to smaller organizations where Commence CRM has been a popular choice; hence the competition.

The report compares:

  • Functionality
  • Product Platform
  • Ease of Use
  • Cost
  • System Deployment
  • Data Security
  • Customizability
  • Customer Service

Download the full report: CRM Review of Salesforce.com

There are many options in the CRM sector, but when you compare each company’s track record in the industry, scope of functionality, cloud-hosting services, customization, and quality of service, these two are among the best.

Take a moment to learn how CRM can help you to become a more efficient sales and service organization by watching our video series, talking with one of our experts, or taking a free test drive.

Struggle – On Purpose

This is a Sales Tip of the Week from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Which is more important? Selling your image or selling product.

The STORY:

Greg walked into the office of Able Manufacturing, sat down across from Harold Covill, the President, and smiled.

“Greg,” said Harold, “I know that grin.  For the past five years you’ve been selling us the lubrication oil and whenever you have that grin, you have something else to sell us.”

“I don’t know how to tell you this.  You may be upset,” responded Greg, as his grin disappeared and was replaced with a look of pain.

“What, nothing to sell me?”

“Worse.”  Looking at his left hand, Greg loosened his tie with his right.

“Worse?  You’re leaving the Linden Oil?”

“This isn’t easy for me…I wanted to put off telling you…”  Greg took a deep breath and looked up at Harold.  “They are changing the formulation of the lube oil.  In six months, all of your equipment will have to go through a three month change-over.  Or you can switch to the competition.  I’d understand.”

Greg averted his eyes and stared at the company pictures on the wall behind Harold.

“Is this new formulation any good?”

“Probably.  You know what they say…”

“Yeah, newer and better than before.”

About a minute of absolute silence ensued.  Greg fiddled with his tie, his sleeve cuff.  Then finally looked back to Harold and saw he was grinning.

“Never thought you’d be grinning about this.”

“Well,” began Harold, “I guess I shouldn’t let you keep squirming.  I appreciate that you didn’t try to sell me, but you are going to anyway.”

“Our competition has the old formulation.”

“Don’t care.  I’ve been thinking about upgrading all of the equipment, and with the new lube coming, I think I will.  I’ll get you the specs for the new units by tomorrow.”

Harold got up from behind the desk, “Stop looking pathetic, Greg.  You’ve solved my problem without even knowing what it was.”

The RESULT:

Greg made this sale because he made it “safe” for the prospect to talk. The prospect came up with the reason to buy, not Greg. Since it was the prospect’s reason, the need to buy became very important and had to be acted on as soon as possible.

DISCUSSION:

Greg has made the long journey that many salespeople never make.  When he started out in sales, he knew nothing and still made sales which he attributed to beginner’s luck.

He then journeyed on to educating himself in-depth about products.  He knew everything.  His sales went up.  Then, deciding that product knowledge was obviously the key, he spent untold hours learning every nut and bolt.  His sales then started dramatically going up, and just as dramatically, going down.  Up and down like a yo-yo.

Something wasn’t right.

So he found himself struggling to make sales and discovered a wonderful result.  Watching him struggle on purpose, the prospects told him what they needed.  His sales were higher than ever but more importantly, they were consistently higher, month in, month out.

Greg has journeyed to become a professional salesperson.

APPROACH:

The biggest difficulty a salesperson will have in trying out this approach is one of self-image.  The stereotypical salesperson is in a three-piece suit, perfectly groomed, well-spoken, has an answer for any objection that a prospect will ever voice and knows every closing line ever invented.

So you have to ask yourself, which is more important, selling your image of a salesperson or selling your product?  Don’t answer this too quickly.  Think about it.

Allowing the prospect to see you struggling, which you know you are doing on purpose, allows him to relax and open up.  He wants to help you make the sale if your product works for him.

You “struggle” by asking questions, not giving answers.  You may already know the answer, but ask the question anyway.  The prospect may surprise you.  You may find an answer you never considered.  And that new answer, which the prospect gave you, may be the one to make the sale.

Consider this for a moment, if you already know all the answers, why bother with a meeting?  Just call the prospect up, rattle off the answers and take the order.

But we know it doesn’t work that way.

THOUGHT:

It should not be the goal of the salesperson to sell his image. Selling your image doesn’t put money in the bank. Selling product does.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website to register for a FREE Sales Training Workshop. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development. Breakfast is included in this workshop.

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SALES TIP OF THE WEEK