I have great relationships with my customers

Beliefs that limit a sales person’s performance

By Dave Kahle

“I have great relationships with my customers.”  That is one of the most debilitating myths around — one that cripples the performance of the average corporate sales person.  Yet, it is endemic within the population of sales people.  I am not sure that there is a sales person anywhere who doesn’t, to some extent, believe it.

I have often heard senior sales executives, when discussing their sales force with me, allude to someone whom they hired from a competitor because “they had such great relationships with their customers that they were going to bring their business with them.”  And, almost universally, it didn’t quite happen that way.  The sales people, and their prospective employers, thought, erroneously, that the sales person had great relationships with their customers.  They subscribed to the myth.

In recent years, I have come to see the belief that a sales person has “great relationships” as something of a smoke-screen.  It’s used by the sales person to obscure a deeper issue – their lack of sales expertise.  As long as they believe that they have great relationships, then they don’t need to be competent sales people, because after all, their customers like them and will buy from them no matter how poorly executed are their sales competencies.

Here’s another problem.  Sales people who profess to have great relationships with their customers all too often limit the preponderance of their sales calls to those with whom they have these relationships.  In other words, the existence of the perceived relationship dictates their strategic decisions – they go where it is easiest, and spend time with those whom they perceive like them.

Read this article in an expanded version.  Click here.

That, by itself, is OK, as far as it goes.  The performance-hindering aspect comes in when they do that instead of going where it is smart, where there is greater potential.  Thus, they allow their perception of the relationship to influence their strategic decisions.  It ought to work the other way around.  The potential of the customer should dictate where the sales person builds relationships.

The myth that they have great relationships with their customers, then, produces two major obstacles to sales success:  it covers up the sales person’s lack of sales competencies, and it prevents them from working smart.

The best sales people make sound strategic decisions, prioritizing and targeting their accounts based on the potential, and then work at building positive business relationships with those important people.  The best sales people understand that just as important as the quality of the relationship is their ability to uncover the customer’s needs and wants at deeper levels, to position their products and services as perfect matches to the customer’s needs, to manage the project by gaining agreement at every step of the way, and to leverage those positive transactions to identify further opportunities.  In other words, the best sales people are good at selling, whereas the relationship-reliant sales people are only good at getting along with those people who get along with them.

There is a huge qualitative disparity here.  The best sales people also understand that a positive business relationship is, particularly in today’s world of unrelenting change, a necessary piece of the entire sales puzzle.  However, it is only a piece, necessary but not sufficient.   It provides access to the key people, and perhaps the preference of the customer.  It oils the gears of the transaction, and makes every step in the sales process work smoother.  But only rarely does a customer buy solely because of the relationship with the sales person.

A positive business relationship, then, is a necessary but not sufficient means to an end.  When complimented with effective sales competencies and implemented strategically, it can be a powerful asset to the sales person.

However, when sales people use the belief that they have great relationships with their customers to excuse their lack of sales competencies and to derail them from strategically focusing on the highest potential customers, it becomes one of the most debilitating beliefs.

About the Author

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com

CRM Company Leads the Way with Automated Customer Service

Share information with your customers at the speed of business | Commence CRM

Let’s face it, in today’s fast past world no one wants to wait on the telephone for service.  People want answers to their questions quickly and efficiently without having to speak to a service representative. This closely follows the booming trend in internet purchases where consumers prefer to simply order products over the internet rather than get engaged with a live sales representative.   This growth is led by companies like Amazon.com, eBay and others that have made the purchase of products quick and efficient for the consumer.

Commence Corporation, a provider of Customer Relationship Management software (CRM), is leading the way in automating how businesses can deliver high quality automated service to their customers. “People are tired of calling companies and waiting on hold forever to get answers to what are typically common questions” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation. “The experience is awful and we have developed an efficient and affordable way to address it.”

Commence CRM is traditionally used to automate and streamline internal business processes for managing customer information, sales, marketing, and projects.  This solution has now been expanded to enable Commence customers to deliver automated service to their customers.  The application offers an integrated ticketing system that captures, tracks and manages the service history of every customer. This is complemented with a web-based customer portal that provides the following services to customers;

  • Access to a Frequently Asked Questions section where customer can get answers to common questions.
  • A Knowledgebase that provides access to a wealth of information such as product specifications, installation documents, troubleshooting guides, product videos, and more…
  • A Web-Based Customer Portal – which enables customers to check on the status of an inquiry or submit a service ticket if they were unable to obtain an answer to their question.

Because Commence CRM is web based, customer access to the above is available 24/7 from anywhere and from any device via a WiFi or internet connection.  The benefits of Commence CRM to customers is substantial, offering them a quick and efficient vehicle for attaining high quality customer service without waiting on hold, leaving a voice message or calling back later.  Commence customers have also benefited in that they have realized a reduction in service calls to their support staff.

“The Customer Service module with its fully integrated FAQ, Knowledgebase, and Web Portal is a clear differentiation between Commence and competitive products” says Caretsky.  “The next step will involve adding artificial intelligence to the product.”

To learn more about Commence CRM and its Customer Portal visit commence.com/customer-portal/

Midnight Oil Doesn’t Exist

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

MYTH: The only way to succeed is to burn the midnight oil.

The STORY:

Steve got back to the office at 3:00pm on Wednesday with every intention of putting together the preliminary proposal for what could be one of the biggest clients he’d have to date.  A two-hour job at most.  He had promised to have a preliminary proposal first thing in the morning.

There, actually covering his desk, were row after row of “While You Were Out” messages.  Running down the first row of 10, Steve decided that they could all be called and dealt with within a half-hour.  Ditto for the second row of 10.  The third row of 10 had two that could be pushed off until the next day.

No problem, he thought, I’ll run right through these.  Take maybe an hour.  Tops.  That will leave me at least two hours to do the preliminary quote.  I’ve got all the time in the world.

As he dialed the first return call, Steve felt good.   If I land this account, it will mean we have a really profitable client who will spend a lot.

“Ah, yes, this is Steve; I’m returning a phone call from…”

And in a very methodical fashion, the “While You Were Out” messages disappeared.

Returning the last phone message, Steve wondered why no one was answering.  Guess he’s not in, he thought.  Never going to succeed by keeping banker’s hours.

Putting down the phone, he finally looked at his wristwatch.  6:10PM. No, thought Steve, this must be wrong.  The clock on the wall only confirmed the time.  With a loud sigh, Steve spent about 10 seconds wondering if he’d ever get home before 9 or 10 o’clock at night.  He realized he could not remember when he had had dinner at home.

“That’s the price you pay to succeed,” he said aloud to an empty office, “that’s the price.”

The RESULT:

Steve spent another night working at the office.  Perhaps the preliminary quotation would be accurate.  Perhaps, with lack of proper rest, he’d still be able to make a good presentation the following morning, but none of this had to happen.

DISCUSSION:

One of the great, and usually destructive, tales of business handed down from one business owner to another, and from older salespeople to younger salespeople, is the burning of the midnight oil.  “The only way to succeed is to burn the midnight oil.”  “The sooner you start burning the midnight oil, the sooner you will have success.”

This tale, this myth, is so powerful that many burners of the oil truly believe that long hours are really a sign of success.

So it is obvious Steve has pledged allegiance to the miraculous effects of burning that oil.  He will arrange his day to make sure that the oil will be burned.

Which of the following do you think Steve would see as a sign of hard work leading to greater success:

1.  Leave the office at 6:00 pm.

2.  Leave the office at 10:00 pm.

Time’s up.  Make your choice.

If you picked number two, you are a true believer in the curative effects of midnight oil.

APPROACH:

How could Steve have dealt with his phone calls and need to produce a preliminary quotation by 6:00 pm?  It’s as simple as a three-minute egg timer.  Here’s how it works.  Steve had 28 phone calls to return.  Of those, at least half would result in voice mail, an answering machine, or the person would not be in.  That left, at most, 14 contacts.

At the beginning of the conversation, all he had to do was state, “I’ve got three minutes to talk.  Can we take care of your concerns in that time or should we schedule a phone call for tomorrow when I’m not limited?”  Flip the egg timer over.

Steve would have spent, at most an hour on the phone.  That would have brought him to four o’clock instead of six o’clock.

The egg timer solution is not high tech; it’s not fancy; it’s not even expensive.  But it works.  And Steve could have been out of the office by six.

THOUGHT:

Burning the midnight oil produces no light and ho heat.  Why do it?

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Commence CRM Addressing the Needs of Mid-Size Businesses

Clean, Simple, Easy to Use CRM is in your Reach

Mid-size companies are struggling to find the right CRM solution for their business and here’s why.  The myriad of low cost offerings available simply do not provide the functionality and flexibility that they need for their business. Key features are often missing, there is no integration to third party programs and customization is limited to adding a few custom fields. The products that seem to have all the check marks are too expensive, too hard to use and require more onboarding and other services than anticipated.  Now what?

Well don’t give up your search just yet, because there is a company that has done an excellent job of straddling the fence. That company is Commence Corporation, manufacturers of Commence CRM.  Commence seems to get lost among the 500 plus CRM offerings, but is making headway by impressing customers with the product’s functionality, ease of use and affordability.  Customer testimonials praise the product’s capabilities and the customer service provided by Commence Corporation’s professional services staff. In fact, Capterra, a well known CRM analyst firm recently listed Commence CRM as one of the Top 20 Most Popular products for 2017.  This has bolstered the company’s popularity and visibility.

Commence is an all in one CRM solution that offers account and contact management, sales opportunity management, group calendaring, activity management, marketing, help desk ticketing, and analytical reporting.  In addition, the company just released a new fully integrated project management application. Mobile and e-mail integration is also a standard component of the product.  Commence CRM is targeted at businesses of 10 to 100 users who require more functionality and flexibility than basic out of the box CRM systems offer, but without the cost and complexity of higher end solutions.   With prices ranging from just $29 to $65 dollars per user per month, Commence CRM is affordable for both small and mid-size firms.  

To learn more visit www.commence.com  or call Commence Sales at 1-877- COMMENCE.

Best Practice – Be prepared to handle most common objections

Prepare... and you'll be equipped to respond to almost anything. Dave Kahle

Best Practice #20: Is always well prepared to handle most common objections.

This is one of those practices that truly distinguish the committed, professional sales people from those who aren’t that interested.

That’s because it takes time and effort to become well prepared at anything, much less objections. Those who are serious and committed put in the time to prepare themselves, while those who aren’t, don’t.

To keep it simple, let’s define an objection this way: You make an offer to a customer or prospect which calls for him to commit to some action, and the customer replies with something other than “yes.”

So, for example, you say something like this to the customer: “Want to get together next Tuesday?” and the customer says, “That’s not going to work.” Or, maybe you say, “Shall we go ahead with the project?” and the customer says, “No.”

Both of these are examples of “something other than yes” – or, in other words, objections.

Being well prepared to handle them means two things: One, you are prepared, behaviorally, to finesse the person, and, two, you are prepared, intellectually, to handle the idea expressed. In my seminars, I like to simplify this to: Finesse the person, and then handle the idea.

Being prepared behaviorally means that you, through your behavior, regularly take the tension out of the situation, empathize with the customer, and probe for a deeper layer of meaning. Our natural response, when we hear an objection is either to become flustered, or to become aggressive and argumentative. Neither one is effective.

Instead, we need to make the customer feel comfortable, and then understand the reason behind the objection. This is a simple to understand, three-step process. I don’t have time to go into it here, but the process is amply described in a number of my other works.

Once we’ve made the customer feel comfortable (finessing the person), then we move on to preparing intellectually or, handling the idea. Some time ago, I came across some research that indicated that if you were prepared to handle the five most common objections you hear, that you will be prepared to handle about 90 percent of your customer’s negative comments. In other words, 90 percent of the objections you hear will invariably sort themselves into five classifications. Prepare for those five, and you’ll be equipped to respond to almost anything.

Preparing for those five objections takes several steps:

1. Identify the objections. Give a title and an example of each of the five, so that you’ll know it when you hear it.

2. Think about, and outline, how you would respond to that idea. What would you say? How would you say it? I recommend a one-page, five or six-line outline. You don’t need to memorize a response, although in some cases that is an effective tactic. You should, however, think specifically about how you would respond, and you should do that thinking when you are not in the heat of the situation.

3. Collect proof. Proof is any example of someone other than yourself or your company saying something which in some way supports your point of view, i.e. articles about your company or product, independent studies, letters of recommendation, etc.

Preparation means that you have collected this proof, and that you have it with you in anticipation of the objection.

When you have created a one-page document with each of these pieces on it for the five most common objections you’ll hear, and you’ve reviewed this work and have it in the top of your mind, ready to refer to when necessary, you are prepared to handle objections.

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 ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com