Archive for July, 2009

The Customer’s Language

July 21, 2009

Recently we met with a prospective client to discuss their goals for improving customer service. Their six work groups all have a different way of approaching customer service, and their executive team said, “We want a common service process for everyone.” Here are some key thoughts for anyone who might be thinking the same thing:

Serving is a Process. It is much easier for people serving others to understand how to do that if there is a process they can follow. Our process is six steps. Yours can be fewer. The key is that everyone understands that you have a service process, and they all know what the steps in the process are.

Problem Solving. Part of the process must include a way to solve the customer’s problem, if appropriate. (Not every call is a problem.) One way to find out what that problem solving process could be is to find out what your most successful customer service employees do and teach that to everyone.

People Are Different. Not everyone who comes in or calls has the same kind of personality. Help your people learn that “Different is not right or wrong — it is just different.” If I think everyone should react and act like me, I might think those who don’t are stupid. If I think that, it is likely to be communicated to the customer and will interfere with our relationship.

When these factors are part of your customer service philosophy, you create a common language, which facilitates communication about customers at all levels. Suppose I tell my supervisor, “I have a customer who is a Doer personality. We are at the ‘help’ step and I am having trouble identifying the cause of his issue.” The supervisor knows what a Doer is, knows where the help step is in the process and knows the significance of my problem in identifying the cause. What can be better than great communication with and about your customers?

Submitted by Mark Walker.

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“Cold” Calling and Getting Results

July 9, 2009

Recently I was reflecting on three occasions in my life when I began new jobs, and had no customers and no prospects. What did I do? Cold call! My process was simple. Send mail, follow up with a phone call. Based on what I learned in that phone call I had: 1) a “hot” prospect, willing to talk to me now, 2) a future prospect to follow up with later, or 3) not a prospect, which I took off my list. Using this simple method, I had profitable territories within 18 months in each case.

Today’s economy is like starting from scratch—no prospects, no customers. The good news is that most of us still have some customers, so that we are not really starting from zero. We also have many new tools to get our message out based on the Internet. But suppose we “pretend” that we are starting over from zero. Here are four books that I recommend, and from which I have learned by “going back to the basics.”

42 Rules of Cold Calling Executives by Mari Anne Vanella, SuperStar Press, Cupertino, CA 95014: The title of this new book says it all. Most of the “rules” are common sense, and you have done them before. “They worked so well, you quit doing them,” as my mentor, Ron Willingham has said. My favorite two rules are “Rule 21: Just Pick Up the Phone,” and “Rule 10: Ask Good Questions.”

That brings me to the next book, Socratic Selling: How to Ask the Questions that Get the Sale, by Kevin Daley, Irwin Professional Publishing, Chicago. First released in 1996, this book is as timely now as then. Recently Jim Giuliano published a blog, “The Biggest Complaint about Sales People.” Can you guess? It is “Salespeople who don’t listen enough and talk too much.” (Click here for the full post.) This little book is full of great ideas on how to listen by going beneath the first answer to find out what the customer’s problem really is.

How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients by Jeffrey J. Fox, Hyperion, New York. There are many great ideas in this book, but the one I like the best is to “dollarize” the customer’s problem and your solutions. I call it “monetizing” the issue. When people understand the cost of NOT solving the problem, it is easier to sell a solution.

The Inner Game of Selling: Mastering the Hidden Forces that Determine Your Success, by Ron Willingham, Free Press, New York. Success in building a business or a sales territory is more about who you are than what you know. Willingham takes us through all the ways we sabotage our own success, and shows us how to be the successful person we are born to become.

When times are tough, we should also associate with people of like mind, who will encourage us, and whom we can encourage. Well, having said all this, I have to get back to closing the prospect gap by cold calling.

Posted by J. Mark Walker