Turning Service into Sales

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The greatest sales tool is not your salespeople, it’s your end-to-end customer experience. The sales team might sell the first customer experience, but the entire organization sells the next and the rest.

How you manage the customer experience determines customer satisfaction. If your customers are dissatisfied with their experience, they are not going to buy again. A Bain & Company study found that customers are four to six times more likely to leave a company because of bad service rather than price or even product failure.

Granted, there will be hiccups in the customer experience. Customers understand this and are willing to look past it. For example, a study conducted by TARP Worldwide, a company that specializes in customer satisfaction, shows that customers who complain and are satisfied by the resolution of the complaint are actually 30 percent more loyal than a non-complainer. This creates a service paradox. How could a dissatisfied customer become more loyal than a satisfied customer? Service failures are service opportunities.

Customers understand that no service experience is perfect. If you address their concerns and satisfy their complaints, customers reward you with their loyalty. So when a heated customer is complaining about your products or services, it’s actually an opportunity. Never write off a customer as far gone. There is still an opportunity to gain his or her loyalty.

In Value-Added Selling, sales and service professionals learn to define value in the customer’s terms. This customer-focused approach requires a clear understanding of the buyer’s expectations through the entire experience. Too often, organizations attempt to define value in their terms, not the customer’s. This is a seller-focused approach to serving customers. It’s the customer’s definition of value that matters.

A customer-focused approach requires taking the perspective of the customer. You must view the world through the eyes of the customer. Also, you must understand the buyer’s expectations throughout the buying process. Here are some tips to help you be more customer-focused.

Delivering exceptional service throughout the end-to-end experience requires empathy. Putting yourself in the position of the buyer helps you understand his or her perspective. It provides you with a deeper level of insight.

However, empathy levels are at an all-time low. A study by Sara Konrath, from the University of Michigan, found that today’s college students are 40 percent less empathetic than students of 20-30 years ago. Taking the customer’s perspective is more challenging today, but those who empathize with buyers will out-serve the competition.

The true benchmark of customer satisfaction is customer expectations. The best sales organizations have a clear understanding of their customer’s expectation throughout the end-to-end customer experience.

The end-to-end experience has three general phases: the pre-sale phase, the implementation phase, and the post-sale usage phase. In Value-Added Selling, we refer to these phases as the Critical Buying Path®. The customer has different needs and expectations in each phase.

In the pre-sale phase, the customer’s greatest need is information. The customer might call your store, visit your website, or call you to gather this information. The buyer expects you to be their information source. Your objective at this phase is to deliver insight and educate the buyer.

In the implementation phase, the buyer’s greatest need is a smooth and seamless transition. The buyer expects you to deliver on what you promised. Often, the buyer has higher expectations of you and your company during this phase, especially if they paid a premium for your solution.

The buyer expects you to meet delivery or installation dates. They also want transparency when there are problems. If there is a hiccup, tell the buyer. The longer you wait, the more frustrated the buyer becomes.

As the buyer enters the implementation phase, review expectations. Ask the buyer, “What are your expectations as we implement this solution?” This provides you with a clear understanding of your buyer’s expectations.

In the post-sale usage phase, the buyer’s greatest need is maximum performance. During this phase, the buyer wants to make sure the solution continually meets and exceeds performance expectations. The buyer’s goal is to get the most value from his or her investment.

In this phase, the buyer relies on your company for ongoing maintenance and education. This creates an opportunity for your service team to interact with the buyer and provide maintenance tips. During this phase, provide the buyer with maintenance solutions or ongoing educational opportunities. Your goal is to help the buyer get the most value from your solution.

The post-sale usage also represents a selling opportunity. If the buyer has a positive experience, he or she will be open to your ideas. The buyer might be interested in another project or follow-up services that you provide. Creating value after the sale positions you for the next opportunity.

The post-sale usage phase represents a referral opportunity. At this point, the buyer is delighted with your solution. You have met the buyer’s expectations throughout the entire process. It’s logical to ask the buyer if he or she knows anyone else who may be interested in your solution. The Journal of Marketing Research found that one referral is worth 12 cold calls. Also, referrals tend to be less price-sensitive than a cold prospect.

Turning service into sales requires a customer-focused approach. In this customer-focused approach, you must empathize with the customer and view the world through their eyes. From this viewpoint, you have a better understanding of the buyer’s expectations. Remember, the buyer’s expectations are the true benchmarks of satisfaction.

The goal for a customer-focused organization is to support the buyer throughout the end-to-end experience called the Critical Buying Path®. Customers expect different things from you during the different phases. As a value-added sales and service professional, it’s your responsibility to understand how the buyer defines value throughout this process. After all, it’s the buyer’s definition of value that matters, not the salesperson’s.

Paul Reilly is president of Reilly Sales Training, a St. Louis-based, privately owned company that specializes in training sales professionals, sales managers, and service professionals. Reilly Sales Training offers public seminars, in-house sales training programs, and hiring and training assessments. For additional information on training programs, call or email Paul at 636.778.0175 or paul@reillysalestraining.com. You can also visit reillysalestraining.com and sign up for his free newsletter.

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