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Give The Customer What They Want – Might Not Be Great Advice

Setting mutually agreed upon expectations is the key

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Common ‘wisdom’ says that to create a happy customer you need to ‘Give the customer what they want’ and remember that ‘The customer is always right’.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t really work!

Think of it this way.  If your child came to you and said, “Mommy, I want a cookie”.  And you gave it to them, would they be happy and satisfied?  Probably not for long, as they would keep coming back whenever they wanted more.  Not only would they not be happy and satisfied, but it would not be good for their health and wellbeing.  Too many carbohydrates, too much sugar, and empty calories instead of the nutrition their growing bodies require. 

Is this new?    Not, not at all.  In fact if you research another related popular phrase on this topic, “Give Them an Inch and They Take a Mile”, you will find it first appeared in writing in John Heywood’s collection of proverbs from the year 1546.

How long would you stay in business if every time a prospect asked for a discount below your cost, or for free services, or accelerated delivery times that reduce your margin, you agreed because ‘The customer is always right”?  Not long.

Or “It’s the duty of the buyer to get the best deal possible and the job of the seller to extract the most value from the buyer.” 

Have we, as a society, created a lose-lose scenario by persisting these myths?

Science has proven that humans place more value on accomplishments based on some struggle.  An Olympic Gold Medal brings tremendous pride but is preceded by enormous effort.  Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Back to the cookie, the child values it less if they receive it every time they ask.

Similarly, your offering is devalued in the eyes of the buyer if you concede to all of their demands.  And in many cases, if the buyer feels they are winning too easily, they may not conduct business with you at all.  Their inner sense tells them there is something amiss.

There is potential damage to your organization if this behavior is not controlled.  Significant internal resources, including margin, are lost when expectations are not set properly.  Normal workflows are interrupted as you try and adapt to every request.  One of the areas experiencing the most disruption is the Customer Service department as without clear guidelines, they are shifting priorities and reassessing policies.  Without established guidelines, prospects / customers are more likely to undervalue your offering and communicate lower than optimal reviews.  Especially as it gets more difficult for your team to respond in a way the prospect believes you should.  Of course, this will affect upsell and cross sell possibilities.

The truth is that you will never be able to satisfy a prospect unless realistic expectations and a quid-pro-quo is established.  But how do you accomplish this while letting the buyer feel they are receiving a reasonable accommodation?  It starts with your communication approach and practices, from the very beginning.  The key is to determine what the buyer really needs, not just what they say.  Start to think of your selling situation from the buyer’s perspective, not yours.

Try the following 8 practices:

  • Shape your communications so they are easy to understand.  Use common language, not jargon.  Be specific in what you convey as well as what you ask. Speak to them in their terms and at their level.
  • Make your products and services easy to buy.  Look for improvement opportunities throughout the entire sales cycle.  That means pricing, terms and contracts, as well.
  • Become attuned to look for patterns in their speech and their actions.  Notice if something changes on their side. Invest some time and learn about personality types.  You do not have to be an expert, just be in-tune with your prospect.
  • Respond in a timely manner.  Remember that “timely” is determined by them.
  • Treat them the way you need to be treated.  If you set the tone of the relationship in the beginning, it is more likely they will follow.
  • Understand their corporate and departmental objectives and priorities.  How does these directly affect your prospect?
  • Ask your buyer about their personal priorities and success metrics.
  • Be aware of industry trends and changes that could impact your buyer and their organization.

Let me know if you do not realize faster sale closes, less price discounting, and happier customers.

“The customers perception is your reality. What they think about your products, MATTER. If you don’t put your customers perception first, THE GAME IS OVER.”
― Sharfaraz Ahmed

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