‘Tis the season for getting inundated with fruit baskets, coffee mugs, and drab holiday cards from anyone whose customer list you’ve managed to land yourself on in the past year. In other words, ’tis the season of missed opportunities.
This year, why not wow your customers with something more human, more personal, more valuable than a no-personality, one-size-fits all gift? Why not wow them with your powerful approach and true engagement?
Sure, that might mean an actual gift, bow and all. But it’s also likely to mean a shift in the way you approach your customers in the first place. In that spirit, I’ve collected 12 holiday “gift” ideas – some physical presents, some behavioral treats you can offer up. So before you click Send on that boxed fruitcake, let’s take a look at what your customers really want.
Quick note: this is admittedly a longer post than I typically write, so consider bookmarking the page and reading a handful at a time over the next few days. Or if you have time now, go for broke and take it all in at once.
1. Be human
I am not a robot. You are not a robot. So let’s handle this relationship accordingly.
Perhaps data shows that the best time to call me is before 9 am. I may or may not agree.
Perhaps you’ve discovered that certain approaches or sales tactics work best with the majority of your customers. That may or may not include me.
Perhaps you believe that certain selling points will best resonate with someone in my line of work. That may or may not be true.
At some point, you must turn off what you “know” and tune into what you can learn about me as a person – how I want to work with you, what I want to understand, etc.
When your sales goal is looming and the pressure is high, it can be easy to lose track of this and fall victim to your script. But your script is a tool in achieving the goal. I am the gateway to the goal. And I want to deal with a human being.
2. Speak to my high attributes, not from yours
For everyone’s sake, it’s important that you tune into your customers’ high attributes and communicate in light of how they’re wired, what they care about – rather than based on what most resonates with you.
Let’s say you’re a natural people person – in the language of attributes, we refer to this as a high Relational. But in your role in medical device sales, you often deal with high Logicians – people who gravitate toward data, facts, and figures more than the emotional factors that many Relationals instinctively see.
So if you talk to me about the emotional impact that your product has on the end user or tell real-life stories from your studies and focus groups, your points may not resonate with these high Logicians. If you focus on the data and results, however, you’re likely to engage them.
But how do you know what your customers’ attributes are? Learn to listen for revelation.
When you mess up, say so.
Keep in mind that this is easy to say – even easy to agree with. You might be nodding your head right now. But in the moment when you’ve actually dropped the ball and have the option to either make excuses or take the blame and say “sorry,” you’re likely to find that the latter seems a lot harder.
But it works better.
A humble apology – “I messed up; I’m sorry; I’m doing everything I can to fix it” – goes a long way toward mending damaged bridges. But it also shows me, your customer, your true mettle. When you remember how to apologize, you provide me with actual evidence of the integrity of the person I’m either working with or considering doing business with.
That’s a powerful gift.
4. I’d rather have dinner with my wife
Here’s an actual gift idea:
Instead of inviting me out to some fancy shindig this season – instead of putting on an amicable face and pulling me through your wine-and-dine rigamarole in the new year – why not gift me a dinner out with someone of my choosing (if you’re in an industry that allows it, of course)?
Set it up for me, tell me you’re doing it so that you and I can keep our conversations on track and within my regular working hours, and then tell me to go enjoy myself with someone I truly enjoy. Because let’s be honest: no matter how great our relationship is, there’s probably someone else I’d rather spend my evening with.
Go ahead and put a punctuation mark on the gift by having a special desert sent at the end of the meal in your name, with your well wishes passed on from the server. Your thoughtfulness will not be forgotten.
5. Fix my problem, whether or not your product is involved in the fix
In other words, focus on my issue more than your sales results.
True, this approach might not win you the immediate sale. But it will help you win the relationship, which has much higher long-term value than 1 sale – both for you and your company.
Jon Westenberg provides some interesting evidence on the results of this type of approach with the 2 conflicting selling examples he shares toward the end of this article.
6. Conform to my pace, not yours
We all instinctively understand this issue, because we’ve all been on both sides of it.
Let’s say you need to buy a new cell phone today, but you’re in a huge hurry. You’re slamming a trip to the wireless store in between meetings, you know what you want, and you need to get in, buy the phone, and get out. But unfortunately, Sammy the Snail Salesman greets you at the door with a jolly, “Hello! How are you on this gorgeous day?” You tell him what you want and explain that you’re in a big hurry, but he proceeds to meander in slow motion, chit chat his way through the process, and occasionally throw in something along the lines of, “Now, I know you’re in a bit of a hurry today, but I just want to make absolutely certain that you’ve had a chance to learn about our blah-blah promotion. Let me take a few minutes to tell you about this incredible offer.”
No! Sammy might sell 1 phone that day because you’re out of options, but when you come in with 2 hours to spare and an entire family to set up with new iPads, you’re going to avoid him like the plague. He might have been pleasant, but he didn’t respect your time. He tried to bend you to his.
What if Sammy had actually started running when you told him you were in a hurry? Grabbed the phone, checked you out, said goodbye? How good are the chances you’d come back to see him again?
The inverse of this is also true: When you’re making a big purchase and you want to ask questions, discuss possibilities, and take time in considering your options, the pushy sales person will make your skin crawl.
All examples lead to the same moral: the customer’s pace should set your pace.
7. If you’re determined to buy me a thing, why not something meaningful for my kids?
…or my spouse, mother, friend, etc.? Someone we’ve discussed and whose need or desire you’re aware of?
Or what about the charity I’m deeply invested in? Rather than making a donation “in my honor” to your company’s favorite charity, why not donate to my favorite cause and show me you’ve been listening?
8. Make me laugh, smile, or care
See #1 for the reasoning behind this one
Chances are extremely high that your customers are human beings, not machines, cash dispensers, or data points. And in the language of human beings, a tone of kindness or happiness can go a long way.
In fact, one study showed that “sending a funny, inoffensive cartoon to a person you’re negotiating with generated higher levels of trust – and led to 15 percent larger profits,” as described in Lou Carlozo’s article (which might also convince you to include a pet frog in your offering).
9. Focus on my priorities
Do you ask me to play golf because you know I love golf? Or do you ask me because you like to play golf? Have you ever even bothered to ask me? Maybe I like chess.
Are you focused on your sales volume, or on my needs?
10. Don’t make false promises
If you’re in sales, chances are pretty good that you’re familiar with stories of promising more than the company can deliver.
Rule #1, of course: Don’t do this. Set clear, honest, and realistic expectations for what your customer will receive in exchange for his or her investment, and you’ll lay the foundation for a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.
Rule #2: If you mess up and promise something you can’t follow through on, don’t make excuses, change the story, or point fingers. Instead, see item #3 and apologize.
11. Follow up
This goes without saying, right? I agree. But take a look at this stat from Scott Tousley’s article: at least 44% of sales people stop following up after the first attempt, but 80% of sales require 5 follow ups.
But following up isn’t just about persistence. After all, there is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. Remember: the goal is to support your customers in easily learning more about your offering when they’re ready. So tell them you’ll follow up in 3 weeks, and give them a chance to request that you instead do so in 4 (or 2!).
Then – and here’s the clincher, folks – actually follow up when you say you will. Do that, and you’ll stand out. Because your counterparts aren’t doing it.
12. Take time for clear, personal communication
For a lot of sales folks, this is a big one. You’ve got a lot on your plate, many clients to juggle. So it’s easy to get in the habit of hitting send on that e-mail before you’ve taken the time to read it over, both for basic written quality and to ensure that it’s really getting your point across. It’s also easy to get over scheduled and convince yourself that you don’t need 5 minutes before our call to review my account, go over the details of our past conversations, and ensure that your communication is relevant and meaningful to my goals.
The power and importance of communication can’t be overstated. It’s a big part of what attributes is all about. It’s a big part of what makes your sales team – and your company – effective. And it’s a big part of your culture, so it’s essential to strong leadership.
Need further persuasion? Take a look at this recent commentary on why communication matters – a lot.
Tying it up with a bow
Do you notice a common thread in these “gift” ideas? It’s not a coincidence that we keep coming back to the central theme of shifting focus from yourself and your goals to your customers and what you can do to help and support them.
Sure, there’s an altruism therein that’s in keeping with this season. But it’s also a better and more effective approach to building great and long-lasting customer relationships.
May all your gifting be meaningful.