Often times in sales, you inherit an exceptionally challenging customer that had a bad experience with your company, and therefore refuses to do any new business with you. Usually, 20% of your customers will generate 80% of your revenue, so your natural tendency is to focus your time and energy on your best customers; to keep them, nourish them, and encourage them to keep buying more from you. That’s great.
Should you have a sales territory with many potential prospects, it may be okay to minimize the time you invest contacting the so called “problem customers”. However, when you have a small and finite number of customers, you will not be able to ignore any of them and will need to maximize your sales from everyone. Additionally, nobody can afford getting any negative press from customers that will complain about your company’s products or services.
A couple of years ago, I was assigned to a new account that was among the largest manufacturers of photographic and printing equipment in the world. Since they had thrown out one of our products, no one from my company had called on them in over a year! In fact, when I first got the account, a number of people laughed and one individual even said “good luck trying to sell anything to them”. As it turned out, they had been running an old release of our product and it was causing major issues for them in their new environment. As a result, they decided to switch to an alternative solution from another company which also failed. As you can imagine, the person responsible was getting a lot of grief from his management, had been blaming our company, and desperately needed another solution.
Within 90 days after meeting this customer, I was able to solve their problem by simply supplying the latest version of the same product they purchased in the past at no additional charge to them. The person I worked with, along with his management, were delighted with our efforts and the outcome, and opened up the doors to many others in the company. This in turn enabled me and my team to turn one of the worst customers in the area into one of the best who has since purchased many millions of dollars of our products and services.
If you follow these proven sales techniques and provide exceptional customer service, you will greatly improve your relationship with your worst customers, while turning many of them into your best ones.
- Get right to the heart of the problem. If you try and avoid their problem, the resentment will continue to haunt you, the problem will persist, the negativity will spread, and you will be unable to sell anything new to them. If you invest time and resources upfront and face the issue head on, you will gain respect, trust, and build credibility.
- Determine who was affected by the problem and how. By determining all of the individuals the issue impacted and how, you can address them directly, while understanding exactly how serious it was for them. Bad news travels fast, so it’s essential to get to the source and solve the problem to their satisfaction right away.
- Establish a personal win for your customer and they’ll help you sell. If you are able to provide an amicable solution, you’ll be able to turn enemies into loyal internal champions for you and your company. After I managed to solve my customers’ problem, those individuals were very happy to help me by referring me to other key buyers in their company, and we had a real world and relevant success story to share with them.
- Build trust by holding true to your word. Very simply, tell your customer what you and your team can and will do to solve their problem and just do it. Words without actions will get you nowhere and will create even more damage for you and your company.
- Promote your success to the right people. Once the issue has been resolved, be sure the good news, and how you were personally responsible for solving their problem, is communicated quickly and to the most important individuals. If not, some people will not be aware of your involvement or the solution and may continue to spin things negatively. Many times, negative perception can create more damage than the problem itself.
As you can tell, by investing a little extra time improving customer service and solving problems for those that are perceived as being your worst customers, you can significantly increase your sales results by converting them into your best ones.
How have you been burned by bad customer service? How did you turn it around? Let me know.