Customers are essential for a business. Therefore, keeping the customer satisfied and happy is critical for you as a supplier. So, what does make a happy customer? Is it just about saying “yes” to all their requests? Although many salespeople seem to think that saying “yes” is the answer, the reality is quite different. Customers understand and accept “no” for an answer when they realize that they can have a better deal than “yes”.
Quite often, I have heard statements such as “we exceed our customers’ expectations” or “customer first” and I have seen that they are rather ineffective, and in some cases counterproductive, because they neither create true loyalty nor establish a respectful relationship. To me, such statements are just hollow marketing slogans that rarely serve the customer or the supplier’s business for that matter.
To make a happy customer, it does not take all that much, but there is a combination of areas that need to be covered properly.
Before even claiming that you will exceed the customer’s expectations, you need to identify and understand what the customer really wants and needs and why. To achieve this, there is this simple, yet highly effective technique that, unfortunately, many salespeople seem to ignore: LISTEN!
To me, listening is the easiest thing in the world: all you have to do is keep quiet and let the customer speak. Just moderate the conversation by asking a few relevant questions, and take notes! Another important part of listening is that it shows that you respect your customer’s knowledge of his business and of yours to some extent. Too many salespeople fail a sale because they annoy the buyer by pretending that they know everything better.
Another area that is critical to make the customer happy is to never any promise that you cannot keep. Saying yes and not delivering is probably the most effective way of destroying trust and credibility. Since they are already difficult to establish the first time, trying to gain them back is an even harder task. If in doubt, you do not have to say “no”, but tell the customer that you will do your due diligence and get back to him as soon as possible. Since this is a promise, do not forget to indeed do the thorough follow-up, unless you wish to lose your credibility. If you cannot promise this, then you must ask yourself if you really should be a businessperson at all.
If you want to establish a long-term relationship, which is what everybody claims, you also must make sure that your service or product is actually adding value to your customer. By asking and listening, you will find out where the customer has a need for added value, and you must demonstrate clearly to him/her that you indeed can help him/her build a stronger business.
Also, never forget that solid relationships can last only if there is mutual respect. You must show this to your customer, and always negotiate in a give and take approach. The best way to earn respect is to be honest and tell the truth. Saying “yes” only works for a while until the day you disappoint the customer. In my sales career, the best compliment I have had came from Marks & Spencer. My contact there told me that what they liked about our company was that, unlike many of their other suppliers, we dared to say “no”, explain why and come with a workable solution. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
Last, but not least, always remember that the customer is the one who pays for your salary, so serve him well and in a way that also supports your business. You also must not forget that to have your salary paid, your business must be profitable, so do not forget to make the customer pay a fair price to you for all the great service you deliver him as listed above!
Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.