Posts Tagged ‘sales’

Eye of the Storm: Sales Reps vs. Grumpy Customer

Today was horrible. I was having a personal emergency and trying desperately to balance work deadlines at the same time.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it was one of those everything-is-going-wrong, my-life-is-ruined, the-whole-world-is-against-me kind of days where your head is throbbing and your heart is racing and you just feel like you’re going to implode.

Those days happen to all of us every now and then. And even on those days, we will have to deal with solicitors, advertisers, and sales reps trying to gain our business and talking our ear off as if nothing in the world were more important to us than what they had to say, OR maybe they are taking their sweet time to respond to an email or phone call that seems like it could break your career if not handled in a timely manner.

These are the days where good customer service really matters. And I know that, for sales people, these are the days when it’s the hardest to be polite to a grumpy, hurried person over the phone or email. Sadly, today, I was this horrible person to deal with. I was short wiImageth the sales reps I spoke to, and with the marketers that called me during the very busy day.

Two interactions, though, really stood out to me. The first, with a lady from a bureaucratic institution that I called to help me resolve a personal matter. Though I tried to stay polite and calm in my state of emergency, she was immediately short with me, interrupted me often, and was quite rude. I’m sure I was cursing her in my head as soon as she started talking. My mood spiraled and if it was possible to become a tougher customer than I already was, then I did.

On the other hand, I had an urgent need to learn more about some promotional items for work. I emailed the sales rep I had talked to more than two months prior. He got back to me quickly, answered all my questions, and then followed up with a phone call. He waited by his phone as I continued to call back with more questions. Even though I was under intense pressure, I felt immediately grateful to him. I recognized that he deals with customers all the time that are probably just as picky and difficult as I was. Yet here he was, treating me as if I was his only customer. I was confident that he would handle my needs.

I hadn’t felt that way toward anyone all day.

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For a very brief few minutes, I felt as if everything was going to be OK. I was in the eye of the storm. And that moment of calm allowed me to regain my sanity and take on the rest of the day confidently.

Lesson to marketers (including myself): Because of that moment, I am about 90% morelikely to use that company in the future. And I will likely call that sales rep directly every time.

Today, the difficult, grumpy customer was me. Tomorrow, I could easily be the marketer on the other end of the phone, stuck talking to an unhappy and annoyed potential client. I hope I handle it as well as this guy did.

Have you ever talked to – or been – a disgruntled customer? How did you handle it, and what would you do differently?

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Client-based marketing: What’s in it for them?

Sometimes we all get stuck in a creative rut. With the small stresses each new day brings, it’s easy to get wrapped up in tasks and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s why every now and then, I like to refer to the “old greats” for inspiration.

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Lately I’ve been revisiting How to Win Friends and Influence People, and one principle that’s really struck a chord with me  is “Arouse in the other person an eager want.”

Hmm. That’s obviously what most marketers are aiming to do when they reach out to clients or prospects, but how many of us are actually achieving that goal?

As you may know, in January I started working as Director of Communications at an architecture firm.  I recently received an e-newletter from a vendor that went something like this:

<Vendor Name>

Check out our website!

Hello!

We have an updated website!

Our workers are very experienced and take great pride in their work. We will be happy to give you a free estimate, so feel free to call us at <phone number> to schedule a time for us to bid.

<Pricing list>

We provide our customers with innovative materials…we offer quality installations…We are committed to enhancing your ability to achieve the goal of your building project through our desire to excel…

We would love for you to stop by our showroom. <Address and hours>

Sincerely,

<Respresentative>

My first reaction was to delete this email. They were asking me to visit their website, but why would I want to take the time to do that? I am too busy trying to figure out how to drive people to my own company’s website! And what will they have to offer that others don’t?megaphone

Lots of people say they have high quality products and good customer service. These things just look like empty brags.

Finally, in the last paragraph, they mention my needs, the “ability to achieve the goal of your building project” but even that is vague and they start right back into talking about their own desires for us to come visit their showroom.

So I started thinking, what does our newsletter look like? What do our proposals communicate? What messages are we sending our clients? While I am glad to say I think our messaging focuses on answering concerns of the client, I was able to think of ways that we could be even more client-centered.

Take a step back and look at your marketing message – your e-newsletter, your flyer, your website. What message are you sending? Is it focused on your company’s desires, or your clients’ needs?

After all, as humans, we are all focused on our own needs. No one is going to use my services or go to my website just because I tell them that I want them to. What value am I really offering? How can my business make things easier or more efficient or higher quality for them?

In an effort to keep this question at the front of my mind, I printed off this label and stuck it to the top of my work laptop (sorry boss!) 😉

Have a great weekend everybody!

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The Paradox of Organic Selling

In business, we are often taught to sell, sell, sell! Promote your product, push your sale until that dollar goes from their wallet to your bank account. While we agree that your eye must always be on the bottom line, this form of selling is not always the best method. Consider social media, events, and casual meetings as organic selling opportunities:

Imagine that you are at a neighborhood block party. Everyone has brought something to contribute to the get together, such as music, a casserole, a lemonade stand or a jump castle for the kiddos. Everyone is milling around, chatting about this or that – maybe the local elementary school’s soccer game yesterday, maybe the construction that’s been going on near the highway, or maybe the newest music video from the pop music icon of the moment.

As they load up their plates with barbecue, two neighbors, Kevin and Pete, discuss the roof damage to their homes during the last storm. This leads to a conversation about how Pete wants to switch his home insurance, and Pete learns that Kevin sells insurance for a living. Kevin thoughtfully gives Pete some tips on buying insurance, but does not try to make a sale. Afterall, at a social event like this, that would be inappropriate. However, he gives Pete his card just in case he needs any help, and they move on to talk about their favorite teams in the Big 12.

Two weeks later, Pete gives Kevin a call to make the switch. Although he does not know much about insurance, Pete feels that he knows Kevin and has a positive, trusting relationship with him already. He views Kevin as an expert on insurance and, possibly more importantly, as a man similar to himself.

Now, while this kind of interaction is fairly common, would you expect it to happen at every block party? Probably not. The point of a block party is not to make a sale – although it’s easy to see that it can happen organically.

Maybe at the next Main Street event, Pete will recommend Kevin to another friend seeking insurance, or to his boss, who is not sure whether he should get renter’s insurance for the new office space.

Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in marketing, and you can’t force it. It must be earned. It must be sincere. It must be organic.

So what can you do? You can reconsider your communication strategies.

1. Find your personality. People don’t do business with companies; they do business with other people.  Don’t be afraid to show that your business has a face and a voice.

2. Focus on relationship-building in conjunction with (or possibly in place of) traditional advertising.

3. Utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Google+ to cultivate relationships with people who will be ambassadors of your brand. These platforms are a virtual block party, where your neighbors can be from any number of locations. *Like a block party, the goal of social media is not to sell; it is to connect. Our hope is that these connections will lead to sales organically.*

Do you employ these strategies already? What other strategies have worked for you in generating word-of-mouth advertising?

Allison Broyles is the social media specialist at Consumer Pulse Marketing. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in public relations.
Follow Allison on Twitter at @ABroyles.
This post was originally created for Consumer Pulse Marketing.