Anticipating your customers needs – Selling without selling

This article illustrates a few main reasons why customer service is vital in any business and how most people provide poor customer service without even realising it.

I remember a time when I was only 22 years of age and found myself in the attempt to sell an advertising space to a man in charge of a multimillion pound company, leader in its market and in no need to advertise on our publication. The man, who was a very experienced, assertive and intelligent engineer on his 50s, slightly taller than I was with an average built body and rectangular glasses which he kept resting on his nose, dressed in an impeccable grey suit, told me that he knew everything about publications of the type I was representing. In fact, he knew more than I did; he told me that the reason why his company did not advertise on any of the these publications was that it did not need to do so. He also told me that he knew the life story of the specific publication I was offering to advertise on and therefore he knew that out of all publications ours was the least read of all.

“I am not going to advertise Mr Senatore and thus you can avoid going into your sales pitch as it would only cost you time. I would however like you to tell me what do you make of these political issues we are hearing about?” he said to me firmly and politely. I liked that; I mean, after 3 years of sales training and sales psychology, I have learnt to deal with most reactions and usually the reaction that I wanted my prospects to have, was either to buy or to give me a quick “no” so that I could move on to finding my next “Yes”. This one time the reaction was not influenced by me and the sentence “I am not going to advertise Mr Senatore…” seemed to be hiding an unspoken “I like your persona Mr Senatore and I would like to know more about the way you do business but I am not going to buy as, this time, you do not have the product I am interested in”.

So we talked. He lowered his confident guard and I dropped my selling weapons – or did I? We talked politics, football, food, marketing, taxes and life. When I decided that it was time for me to leave and move on to find my next “Yes”, I have said something along those lines: “Okay Mr Buyer (not his real name), it has truly been a pleasure talking with you and I will certainly remember this “non-sale” as the most productive and pleasurable “non-sale” I have ever made – or not made. I must now go however and make my next sale so that next year, when I will ring your bell to attempt another pleasurable “non-sale”, I will be able to afford an even longer chat”.

“What is your average daily contract Mr Senatore?” he asked. I thought he’d asked because of his knowledge about my industry perhaps to compare the rates with a different time and so thoughtlessly I said “820.00; it’s 820.00 thousand liras (the equivalent of £800.00 today)”. Mr Buyer then said: “How much is a quarter page?” me: “990.00” Mr Buyer: “900.00 should do the job, right?” me: “900.00 does it perfectly!” and I walked out 5 minutes later with a 900.00 contract.

What does the above story have to do with customer service? It has all to do with it. Mr Buyer was my customer from the beginning. He knew it and, although not in the way that it turned out, I knew it. That’s right. I knew that Mr Buyer was a powerful, experienced and well-connected professional who might have bought from me if I would have ever turned up with the right product or service that he could use. Mr Buyer was my client already; it was me not having the right product for him that caused him to not be interested in that specific instance.

So, since Mr Buyer was my client from the beginning, then what I was doing by talking to him about other, some more relevant than others, topics was simply what is called customer service. Part of customer service is to make the business transaction smooth, pleasurable whilst establishing trust. By sharing my views, ways of interacting, integrity to not attempt a sale pitch when specifically asked not to, did just that. It helped Mr Buyer to trust me and to want to buy from me whenever I would have offered a product or service he could use. The excellent customer service with the extra step caused Mr Buyer to feel that he really wanted to do business with me and, knowing that the 900.00 would have gone towards the tax rebate, he signed the contract. This ensured that I would have kept in touch. And so I did.

Ever picked up the phone when a sales-person tried to sell you something you did not need and the sales-person gets nasty when you say “no”? Would you buy from that person if he or she calls you back a week later with a product that you need? Of course not. You would be annoyed with the person and buy whatever you need elsewhere. After all, if he or she cannot give you customer service when you are potentially a new client, why would they give it to you a few months down the line?


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