The Sales Blog Mailbag is a never-ending source of excellent—and difficult—questions. I could email the writer directly, but since he came here looking for the answer, there may be others who would benefit from an answer.
The question reads:
What can we do as sales executives working for small companies that are experiencing rapid growth that negatively impacts service? I try to explain to frustrated clients that a continued investment really helps us address service lags, and that we’ll reward their feedback and input. I even offer free product teasers as a “thanks for working with me.” That being said, there are many times when the clients are more than frustrated, and when the problem is beyond my control or my pay grade. I love my company and have been with them for years. I have strong relationships and have enjoyed a lot of success. Any advice on managing both client and client services needs at the same time?
The foundation of all relationships is trust, and selling is no different. If you are having growing pains, it is likely that you have something that is in demand because it creates value for your clients. The service issues may just come with the territory. If this is the case, then your first responsibility is to be honest with your client about what they can expect.
I have one client that generates amazing results for their clients, but it is very difficult to get those results. Their technology is very complicated, and it has to be integrated into their client’s existing hardware and software. It is always a bumpy ride. But, the results at the other end of that ride far outweigh the trouble it takes to generate them—even if doesn’t feel like it when everything is melting down.
You create trust, and you give you and your team a lot of breathing room, when you can set the expectations. If you let them know that their service issues are going to be challenging, that it is being worked on, that you will be there to run interference, and that it will be worth it, you will generate that trust.
But that isn’t enough by itself. You also have to work very hard to communicate what you are doing when your client has service issues. You cannot disappear. If your client doesn’t know what you are doing, they believe you are doing nothing—even if you are pulling out all of the stops.
But you need still more.
As much as it pains salespeople to hear it, you have to sell internally with every bit of grit and determination that you sell externally.
First, you have to sell your internal team on taking care of your client. If you develop the relationships, and if you do everything in your power to make it easy to help you and your client, you will get better results. Do I recommend that you bribe them with lunches, dinners, donuts, thank you cards, gift cards, and whatever? Yes, I do.
Second, and equally important, you have to sell your management team on making the improvements that will help your clients. This sometimes means that you have to sell them on making investments that they don’t want to make.
As salespeople, we are uniquely equipped to make this case, aren’t we? We can very easily calculate the money being lost by losing clients, the future cost of acquiring new clients to replace those we lost, and the future cost of the reputation damage we suffer when they tell others about the poor experience they had working with us? And then there is cost of servicing all of the complaints.
If all of this sounds difficult, that’s because it is. Making a logical case to your management team is is easy. Selling it is more difficult. You have to be as relentless as a rainstorm, all the while helping to resolve your client’s problems and communicating like crazy.
The reason free product teasers aren’t very effective is because your client hired you to manage and obtain an outcome for them. Until you achieve that level of value creation, the free product teaser is worthless. They need the result you promised and sold.
What is the salesperson’s responsibilities when it comes to setting and managing expectations?
How important is to communicate what is being done to solve your client’s service issues?
How do you sell inside to get what you need to serve you clients and obtain the outcomes you need?
Why don’t substitutes resolve your client’s dissatisfaction? What does it really take to resolve their dissatisfaction?