Sales and Corporate Culture
"We consumers ... are more experienced. Our tempers are shorter, and our patience is thinner. As consumers, we are becoming aware of our power -- the power to pick up our toys and go home, or to go somewhere else to play."
“Sales” is the process of converting prospects, attracted by your marketing systems, into customers. “Old school” attitudes towards sales view this process as somewhat adversarial. The underlying implication is that sales are extracted from prospects through clever and manipulative “sales closing” techniques. This is the stereotypical image of the “used car salesman,” squeezing every penny he can out of his unsuspecting victim.
Prospects are no longer unsuspecting victims however, and sales philosophy has matured along with them. To succeed in today’s market, companies must move to the other side of the table and learn to develop healthy, supportive relationships with their prospects. They must join forces with their prospects in an effort to provide them with the best possible solutions to their needs, not try to talk them into purchases they may not need.
Hands down, the most important thing you can do to build a lasting and positive relationship with your prospect or customer is to gain their trust. Without trust, you have nothing more than a quick sale, and that’s if you are lucky. But with trust, you have the makings of a mutually beneficial, lasting relationship.
So how do you go about gaining your customers’ trust? There is really only one way. You earn it by demonstrating your integrity. In business, integrity is the commitment everyone in your organization makes to do exactly what he or she says they will, each and every time. But to really gain your customers’ trust, you need to take this one step further. Everyone in your organization must make an equally strong commitment to the promises made to your customers by anyone in your organization. In other words, if a sales representative says it will be ready by Thursday, everyone should pull together to get it ready by Thursday. Develop this type of integrity and your customers will have so much confidence in your business that they’ll never want to leave.
At a minimum, this type of commitment requires that your internal communication systems be fully developed. After all, you don’t want your sales force making promises that can’t be kept. To really be outstanding, however, look to your Corporate Culture. It is the grease that keeps your business engine running smoothly. Be sure that everything you do supports an environment where people actively work together to provide the best customer experience possible. So if a customer is waiting to be served and your sales people are busy, perhaps a manager could help them. In a customer-focused culture everyone is responsible for the well-being of each and every customer, not just the salespeople.
How might you promote a customer-focused Corporate Culture within your business? For example, you might incorporate a discussion on customer service into your quarterly general business meetings, or you might offer a prize for the best “customer service” story each month.
It's All In Your Attitude
The significant difference between the old-school, traditional approach to sales and the solutions oriented, customer relations approach is attitude. With the traditional approach, the prospect is seen as prey that must be coerced into a sale. The sales people use their skills to convince prospects to make purchases.
The customer relations approach sees prospects as potential business partners whose true needs are more important than the sale. In this case, the sales people use their knowledge base to best serve the customer. The goal is not to win a sale, but to cultivate a relationship that yields a lifelong customer.
Following is a chart that contrasts these two approaches to the sales process.
|Traditional Sales approach||Customer Relations approach|
|Company/Salesperson focused||Customer focused|
|Overcomes objections||Offers solutions to problems|
|Goal is to make a sale||Goal is to gain a long-term customer|
|Sells products and services||Helps prospects buy products and services|
|Is considered a source of products and services||Is considered a valuable resources|
|Pushes specific items||Sells only the right items|
|Is viewed with caution||Is viewed with appreciation|
|Asks leading questions||Asks probing questions|
|Identifies weaknesses||Identifies needs|
|Talks prospect into a sale||Partners with prospect to find the best solution|
|Makes acquaintance||Builds relationships|
|Never gives up on making a sale||Only sells if it is in the best interest of the prospect|
|Sees the immediate value of the sale||Sees the lifelong value of a customer|