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Before you can sell a service, a product or an insight to the naive,
you need to sell them on being professional.
” – Seth Godin

The quote comes from Seth’s recent blog post “Naive or professional?“, where he explains the difference between a naive business person and a professional business person. Essentially the naive person is content with the way things are and when a problem occurs, blames an outside source for the diversion. The professional doesn’t let problems slip by. They analyzes them, try to understand them, and build fail safes to ensure they don’t happen again. The quote is interesting because it relates to building expectation AND good business habits.

Building your customer expectations of your product or service from the first engagement is important. Equally important is building the expectation of their involvement in the fulfillment process. This is fairly easy to do and can be chalked up to three steps.

Identifying the Problem
A few years ago, I consulted a company that sold a product on a B2B basis. The sales team was making their sales quota but the sales that were won the company had trouble retaining – about 50% of sold clients were “troublemakers”.

I analyzed the sales process; the before and after sale, the materials, the sales scripts and sat in on sales meetings. Turns out that the sales people weren’t “overselling”, which is what I expected to find, but what they weren’t doing was selling the experience. The product involved a specific amount of “homework” to be done by the customer to ensure the highest quality product and timely delivery. The issue was the sales team never mentioned or emphasized this part of fulfillment. So when it came down to the customer doing the work they needed to make the service work, they weren’t ready or willing.

Corrections and Fail Safes
We changed the sales script and developed very detailed points on what was expected of the customer when we began working with them. We also built in a touch point in the customer relations process to remind them of their “homework” and offer assistance (this only added about 30 minutes to total customer time). The result? Retention increased to 80%. Sale percentages weren’t affected.

As a professional, it is important that you constantly reevaluate your business processes. As a professional, it is also your job to ensure that your customers are ready to be professionals as well. They need to understand that they have a stake in the product or service you’re delivering and they have to be ready to learn and adjust as they engage with your company – this can be a fun process! There is no “be all, end all” solution to your customers’ problems. In a world of instant gratifications, it is your duty as a business owner to build the correct expectations of your product and of your customers.