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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Service, Sales & Satisfaction

Have you ever noticed that most car dealerships always divide their dealership into three areas, the showroom, a sales area, and a service area. Sales and service are always divided, you are sold in the sales area and then serviced by others. Both departments are staffed by "professionals" and are equipped to resolve the problems you may present to them, both want you to leave with whatever they choose to sell to you, therein lies the problem.

The salesperson has a quota set by the dealership, he or she must sell cars or lose their job. The service manager also has a quota set and most upsale the service call, even a free oil change can end up costing hundreds in unexpected repairs. The dealership has lost the main idea, "the customer is the one buying."
True service knows the most important part of selling is a customer who is willing to buy. A person pressured or "convinced" to buy will be a dissatisfied and disgruntled customer. Every good salesperson knows the key to a happy customer is first to listen. How do you fill a need if you have not discovered what the need may be. Too often the salesperson wants to talk in order to get across why their product is so much better than the competitors. The customer however only wants to know why the product fills their need.
Every salesperson needs to be instructed by a good server. No server would ever tell the customer what they are going to eat, drink or how they are going to pay the bill. Yet this is the action of most salespeople. You want this car because it does all these wonderful things, the radio will get 300 satellite stations (as if anyone would listen to 300 instead of the five most people do) the GPS system are programmed with all of the 20,366 Starbucks stores in 61 countries (but somehow not the one around the corner) it can go 0-100 miles in 20 seconds (but on what road.)

The server is trained is to listen to the customer, they order a steak, they server wants to know how they like it. They order a coffee beverage, the server knows to ask how they want it, black with sugar, cream, a double double. The server just doesn't bring a dessert but they give the customer descriptive choices. They listen to what the customer desires to purchase then they do everything possible to fulfill the request. Thus no effort needed to close a sale, the customer buys exactly what they want and the server receives the commission in the form of a tip.

Sales should be exactly the same, for a salesperson is in the same industry as the server, fulfilling the needs of the customer by listening to the customer. If you sell for a living, (cars, insurance, furniture anything) the sale is made by listening first to the customer. We have often heard the expression "it's not personal, it's just business" but for the customer buying something for life's need is personal, and they want that salesperson to have a personal involvement, it is not a business to them it is very personal. The customer takes the spending of their budget very personal and they care more about receiving value of those dollars, value and   what the product can do for them. The sales professional will see to it that the customer knows that they have been listened to and their money is being spent in a manner that will improve the life they desire to have.
When was the last time you saw a waitress on the street looking for someone to serve, never right! Why, because their customers always come to them. Most salespeople miss this simple reality, the customer has come to them. Then listen to what the customer wants when they show up at the door.

Define the need, a family man with 3 kids wants a high powered sports car but needs the four door sedan, listening and defining the need will put him into a car that both his family and he will be very happy with. Attracting a potential customer is costly, but seeing them buying at the competitor next door is even more costly. You prevent this by listening and fulfilling the need, it is a very personal way to a successful business. Fulfilling the need of the customer is paramount, we need to understand his need, set aside any need of ours we may have (the final sale) and do everything in our power to meet that need of the client. Building the business is complete through building the relationship.

Too often the salesperson wants to impress the client with how much they know about the product, and yes, the client may need to know about the product. But listening to the client will tell the salesperson when to hush, and let the customer talk, ask questions or absorb the knowledge they have been given.  No client ever wants to feel they are not smart enough or intelligent enough to comprehend what they are seeking to purchase. A smart phone is not so smart to the user who doesn't understand it because the salesperson has given an over kill demonstration. Show the phone, let the customer see it will do, what they need it to, make the sell and when the customer is comfortable with what they have purchased let them know how much more it will do for them. If you overwhelm them with information then they feel inferior and will look for a way not to buy. Listening shows you when the customer is becoming uncomfortable with the conversation even though you are trying to provide information for the clients well being.

A good listener knows where to take the conversation. A good server knows that when a customer says they don't like something to ask probing questions to find a replacement for the item that is being rejected (they also know to be sure that the rejected item never comes near the diners dinner.) The salesperson should know when listening to ask the questions that will lead the conversation to the clients desired conclusion. Although the job is to make the sale creating the long term relationship by listening to the client outweighs all other concerns. Happy clients always buy, unhappy ones stop buying with you.
Stay on topic. If you take the conversation in various directions you will lose the client, this can include overselling the product. You need to explain the product to a comfortable point, when the client becomes uncomfortable is when you will lose the sale. You can only know this point by listening well to the client. If they change the topic you have lost them, getting them back on topic may not be so easy.

By listening you avoid giving the client an opportunity to shut down the conversation. Asking  questions designed to draw out a meaningful response, not a simple yes or no, gives them a true opportunity to be involved in their purchase, something they will have to live with much longer than the salesperson. They truly want to ask questions about their purchase knowing that the person providing the answer is more involved with them than with the product being offered.

Stick to the benefits, never misrepresent the product. By listening to the clients questions they will lead you to explain the benefits of their purchase. In doing so you build their confidence in their decision and you avoid the urge to discredit the competitor's product. If your product is what the client is looking for then their search is over, running down the competition only will make them curious to find out why you're insecure about your product. The only opinion that really matters is that of the client who is buying your product, double talk confuses their opinion about you and your product.

The restaurant server always offers options, but regardless of what they think the client's decision is, it is always the right one. If the client hates chocolate (who really does) the server will know not to bring something containing chocolate. The server found out by asking the right questions and listening to the customer, then offering options that fit their customers choices. No matter how great the server may love chocolate it is not open for discussion with the customer, they move on to something else (maybe strawberry.) So too the sales person must do the same, offer options.

Never, never, never ever say what someone else wants you to say. Listening must first begin within you. You must stay true to you. You will never find success or happiness if you rely upon what others say or think about you and your convictions. Great salespeople are not moved by the negative opinion of the general population, the world needs salespeople even when they don't know it. The great ones know it and fill the need, they do so by staying true to their own convictions.

As a chef I cannot lower my standards, I cannot allow others to offer less than what is very good. To do so would be to take from who I am, my convictions are that the customer deserves the finest, freshest ingredients that I can prepare, anything less is to steal from the customer and I am no thief. If my menu says I use the best then I better use the best, if not I am lying to the customer my convictions will not permit such a lie. To compromise my convictions for a temporal gain would be wrong.

Earlier in this blog I told you how a client used my name, trade name and marketed me to promote a different restaurant which I had nothing to do with and without notifying me or with my approval. They actually sold me! Yet when they were caught they were the ones who became offended, they compromised their convictions. When you compromise any standard; you offend yourself, and thus lash out at those with whom you have committed the offense against. (The lawyer is biting at the bit for this one) They make money but lie and deceive to do so, no conviction. Your convictions are a reflection of the truth as to who you are, standing for them and doing so boldly lets everyone else know your value. Your convictions must never bring harm or violate the rights of another or affect their liberty or well being, if you touch any of those then your convictions must be examined and readjusted. This restaurant group believes that because they are successful then they can continue to do what they do, lying to their customers, deceiving them as to whose reputation is on the line, that is okay to them but still wrong, anything wrong will eventually have dire consequences.

Listening to your convictions, to your clients and serving them according to both will only result in a bright future. Enjoy yours.

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