3 Ways to Make Certain Your Clients Love You Tomorrow

April 25, 2011 at 7:14 am | Posted in Customer Service, sales, Sales Training | 14 Comments

Listen up. You don’t want to be a one-project stand. You have to take certain steps to make sure that your clients will love you tomorrow. Really. You can’t take this for granted so pay attention and put these to work now:

Go over and beyond what they expect.
Meeting client expectations is really a big so-what. Maybe that was good enough once upon a time and maybe it is still good enough if you have absolutely no competition (and who occupies that rarified space) but for the rest of us, exceeding client expectations is the best way to ensure that you will retain your client’s business for the long haul.

Don’t nickel and dime them to death.
I don’t know about you but I loathe getting invoices that have all sorts of add-ons tacked on almost as an afterthought. You know what; it’s better to take the high road and perhaps absorb some of those fees, or perhaps add them into the base price or hourly rate, rather than risk leaving a very nasty impression.

Be proactive.
We keep hearing that clients are no longer loyal, that they’ll change “vendors” to save miniscule amounts of money. The solution? Don’t be a vendor! Vendors can be easily disposed of but business resources, well, not so easily. And what make a business resource valuable? Well, being proactive, being ahead of the situation, the challenge, the problem and being ready with a solution or options. Yep. Business resources are not so disposable.

So there you have it. Simple ways for you to avoid being part of a bad break-up. Will you still love me tomorrow?

Getting Divorced Or How I Learned That Some Clients Just Aren’t Worth It

December 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Customer Service, entrepreneurship, New York Sales Trainer, sales, Sales Training, small business | 1 Comment
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When I launched my business 23 years ago it seemed like any client was a good client or maybe even a desired client or, at least, a name to help flesh out my very thin roster of business.

Over the years my philosophy has changed and I no longer think that all clients are desired and, in fact, recognize that in some cases I am far better off getting divorced.

Divorcing a client can be painful. Oh, not as painful as divorcing a spouse but painful nonetheless. And just like divorcing a spouse can leave you in a certain amount of financial turmoil, so can shedding a client, even when you know that it is for the best in the long run.

So how do you recognize when you should (must?) divorce a client. There are several key indicators and these are:

–There is no longer a match between what the client wants/needs and what you can/will provide.
–The client is asking you to do something that is unethical. Conversely, the client themselves is doing something that is unethical.
–The client is being unreasonable in terms of their demands and despite your best attempts to negotiate and reach an understanding, they are unwilling to budge. (note: these clients usually take up a significant amount of time and your ROT {return on time} is rarely what you deserve)
–The client treats you or your staff in an abusive manner.

Clearly, no one likes to get divorced and it is in your best interests to try and retain the relationship and stay married. Still if nothing you’ve done has seemed to work, it just might be in your best interest to sever ties.

So how do you divorce a client with the minimal amount of acrimony:

–No matter how negatively you might feel you must maintain a professional demeanor. When you tell your client about your decision you don’t want to burn your bridges or make enemies.
–Don’t leave a client in the lurch. Attempt to find a replacement for the services that you provide and help to make a smooth transition.
–Give your client ample warning to make the necessary adjustments.
–Leave the door open. You never know how, if or when the situation will change
–Make certain that you have adequate business to fill the revenue gap that is precipitated by the divorce. Take steps to fill the gap BEFORE the divorce.

And, of course, make certain to explore all of the options and ask yourself if you have done everything that you could do to salvage the relationship. But, once you know it’s time to go, be strong, be confident and be ready to do the deed.

Customer Service Cred: You Either Have It Or You Don’t

September 12, 2010 at 8:55 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Customer Service, entrepreneurship | 1 Comment
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The devil is Dell Computer or so it seems after reading The Haggler column in today’s (9/12) New York Times. We’ve all been there with computer issues, deadlines looming, fear in one’s heart and a totally inept Customer Service rep on the other end of our phone.

I swear. I truly got chills when reading the article. Why can Zappos make it work and yet, according to the article, Dell cannot even take ownership of the situation and be properly contrite. Buying a Dell PC are you? Read the article.

And then there’s “A Ray of Sunshine in Every Bite” extolling the sheer unadulterated happiness that comes about when entering Blue Sky, a muffin shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The muffins sound sublime, the ambiance even more so and I have already bookmarked the store for when I am in that ‘hood.

There you have it. Dell or Blue Sky. Which sounds more like your business in terms of pure satisfaction on the part of customers?

We all hear a lot of sound bites about the importance of good customer service. What type of CS do you provide? All of us should have a good idea of what our customers think about our product AND our service.

A good way to uncover the truth: a Voice of Customer survey to learn what you are doing well and what you need to improve. Can you afford to not be interested?

PS. Dell, I AM available to discuss a Customer Service skills training program to coordinate with what you are doing in-house (and that is clearly not working as well as it should!)

The Death of Tele-prospecting…NOT!

September 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Customer Service, entrepreneurship, Marketing, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

There have been countless articles written about the death of tele-prospecting. In this era of voicemail and caller ID, the process of initiating the sales process by phone has certainly evolved. For individuals who never developed true marketing skills and simply relied on the element of surprise to get potential customers to pick up the phone, tele-prospecting is probably dead. However, for those who pay careful attention to list development, script, strategy, and execution, it remains alive and well.

If you’re finding prospecting to be increasingly challenging to accomplish on the phone, you need to evaluate your process. Here’s how you can do it well:

Pay Close Attention to Your Prospect List

Have you identified the best companies for your product or service? If you haven’t done your due diligence, you will inevitably be executing a doomed calling campaign.

Know with Whom to Speak

Finding out the name and title of the decision maker should occur in advance of the call. You MUST know who to speak with or you might inadvertently deliver your message to the wrong person rendering your call useless. Start with a list-building effort to acquire these names before you begin to make a call.

Practice What You’ll Say

Plan your words with infinite care. Be prepared for every question, objection, and stall that may arise. Practice and master what you’ll say before you dial. Your verbiage is critical to success and should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If you’re not getting the results you desire, modify it based upon the responses you’re receiving.

Quantify Everything

You won’t be able to determine your level of success without tracking the number of dialings, conversations with decision makers, messages you leave, and results of the calls. Without accurate stats, you won’t have the data you need to determine your effectiveness or evaluate your strategy.

Develop a Program and Stick with It

Tele-prospecting is a numbers game that requires ongoing, consistent effort. Make sure to establish a set number of calls that you are going to make each day or week. Ideally, allot yourself at least two hours each time you sit down to make calls. This will help you to build momentum and improve your skills.

Pay Attention to How You Sound

Your voice can literally make or break your tele-prospecting success. Tone and inflection can dramatically affect how your prospects respond. To keep your voice in check, record a sampling of calls and listen carefully. You might be surprised by what you hear, but this will enable you to determine where you can make improvements and refine your delivery.

Overcome Your Reluctance

If you have call reluctance, join the club. Tele-prospecting is not everyone’s favorite task. But, if you take the time to carefully craft your program and practice your calls, you will be prepared and positioned for success. And, if you just can’t bring yourself to making these calls, you can consider outsourcing them to a third party. However, you have to be very careful that the person or firm is on point and delivering your message in the style you want to present. If you’re not sure, monitor their calls or ask for a tape recording so you can be confident of what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.

With the benefits of voicemail and caller ID, prospects simply aren’t going to pick up the phone when they think it’s someone trying to sell them something. While that fact does change how tele-prospecting must be accomplished, it doesn’t negate its efficacy as a key sales strategy. With a well-thought out plan of action and a polished message, it can still remain the most direct and effective path to reaching the decision makers of a company.

Memo to All Professionals: Make Certain That the Person At Your Front Desk SMILES!

July 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Customer Service, sales, small business | Leave a comment

Seems pretty straightforward, huh? I mean you hired someone for your front desk and as one of their responsibilities they have to meet and greet all of the people coming into your office. Simple, yes? Even basic, like:

–Looking up when someone enters the office
–Making eye contact and smiling in a welcoming manner
–Asking if they might be able to be of assistance and asking in a pleasant and helpful tone of voice

Yes, I know—basics!

But honestly now, how many times have you entered an office (doctor, lawyer, some sort of business) and experienced just the opposite. No greeting, no smile, no eye contact. In fact you might have felt as if you were invisible.

Crazy huh. In this time of economic uncertainty and mass competition you would think that firms would pay attention and make certain that the people entering their office feel welcome and appreciated.

How does someone feel when they enter your office? Are you 100% certain that the greeting that they receive is warm, cordial and welcoming. Why not survey some of your customers and hear what they have to say. If their feedback is positive make sure to commend your staff, but if their feedback indicates that you have a problem, take immediate steps to correct the situation or you just might find yourself losing the customers you worked so hard to earn.

Some Things You Never Forget

July 8, 2010 at 11:10 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Customer Service, Marketing, sales, Sales Training | Leave a comment

My son’s birthday is coming up this Saturday and even though he’s going to be 26 years old it seems like just yesterday that I was holding an infant.

Yup. I know it’s a cliche but there are some things that you never forget.

Hopefully most of these are good things, like holding your newborn for the first time, a special event, a wedding, Paris, the Grand Canyon…well, you get the picture.

But honestly now, aren’t there some really distasteful things that you also remember. Maybe it was a company that treated you poorly; a restaurant that fell very short of the mark, a sales rep that pushed so hard you almost had to run screaming from the presentation.

Remember them? By recognizing and perhaps remembering those negative things you can help yourself to not be that person or that company that falls short, and by doing so, is surely remembered, albeit negatively.

The Way We’re “Treated” in a Doctor’s Office: Well, It’s Just Plain Wrong

June 9, 2010 at 7:14 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Customer Service | Leave a comment

I went to the doctor’s office yesterday. I was a first-time patient and yes, the “usual” transpired:

*A somewhat surly receptionist ignored me while she finished her conversation with a co-worker, then looked up and thrust the obligatory insurance forms towards me.

*I completed the paperwork, went back to the desk, handed them to her and asked her approximately how long I would be waiting. (I was 15 minutes early for the appointment as they requested on their confirmation call.) She told me that it would be 20-25 minutes and so I settled in with some work and the time passed by.

*25-30 minutes later I approached the desk and asked for an updated ETA. She told me another 5 minutes.

*15 minutes later I approached again and asked if this was “standard” for this particular doctor in the practice. Her reply: yes, always. I asked if there was another doctor for me to see as I was running out of time. The answer…you guesed it—NO!

*10 minutes later the nurse brought me into the office for my exam and treatment, which was completed in 10 minutes start to finish.

Could you run your business in this manner?

Is there another profession that can get away with such a shocking lack of customer service?

I say not. And here’s the thing. From time to time, I get phone calls from physicians querying my firm about the customer service skills training programs that we offer.

We go back and forth and then it always comes down to cost; they just don’t want to spend the money on this type of endeavor.

And I can see why. The treatment that we receive from the front desk is often a hand down from the doctors themselves. Since they don’t consider the time schedule of patients to be important, the receptionists have carte blanche to treat customers/patients in kind.

Yes I know not all doctor’s offices are the same but unfortunately I have had this experience many times.

The choice is mine. I can elect to go to another doctor next time and poerhaps I will. And with the world of managed care perhaps this doctor will get the message when I cast my vote with my business and chose to not give him mine.

No, Sales Training IS NOT an Option!

April 6, 2010 at 8:49 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Customer Service, entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Sales Training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Those that understand the importance of training absolutely know this to be a fact.  It’s not a belief or an opinion, or a preference.  It’s certainly not an attitude.  It’s a cold hard fact: training is important.

But there’s a strange problem here; and you probably know what it is, either directly or indirectly.

Many people know that training is important – because, at one time or another, and in one form or another, we’ve all been valuably trained in something, or trained someone else to do something useful – yet this basic knowledge is not widely reflected in the world of work.  It’s clear importance is not fully understood, and therefore, not fully exploited to make life easier and more profitable.

Unraveling the Strange Problem: Changing Perceptions

The core of this problem has to do with that important postmodern word: perception.

For decades now – centuries, arguably – training has been seen as something that supports the workforce.  This position stems largely from the perception that training is an extension of education.  Since education has been traditionally viewed as a system of supporting human growth and development, workforce training has slid conveniently, some might say logically, into this existing groove of thinking.

So why is this a problem of perception?

Because in the modern workforce – and that of the foreseeable future – the idea that workforce training exists as a support system is dangerously outdated.  The notion of support implies that something is important; but not necessarily vital, and certainly not essential.  And it’s because of this view that in many workplaces, training is viewed as an enhancer; something valuable, yes, but ultimately optional.  Something to invest in or focus upon if revenues support it, or if time permits it.  But certainly nothing essential.

This perception is utterly out of date!

Training is no longer optional.  It’s not an enhancer, a supporter, or a nice to have thing.  In the 21st century, an organization’s capacity to effectively train its people is part of its ability to survive.  And if that capacity isn’t there – or if it’s defective – then the organization itself will reveal that flaw in a number of destructive ways, including loss of bottom line profits.

It’s a misnomer to think that so-called skilled workers are those human beings who emerge from university or college and bring with them some kind of technical or practical acumen.  That may have been true a few decades ago; but no longer, and never again.

In today’s world, everyone is a skilled worker.  From the receptionist with the high school education to the CFO with an MBA, the entire workforce has become a skilled landscape; and that means that there is arguably no position that isn’t in need of continuous training.

Each member of a team, a unit, and a company can no longer be viewed as individual silos focusing on their singular task within a limited sphere of activities.  Rather, today, each person is a part of a skilled workforce; and if there are gaps or lacks in any area, the entire workforce will suffer.  And make no mistake: this suffering isn’t merely emotional or cultural (though that is a part of it).  This suffering is financial.

Training = Profit

When there are gaps in the skilled workforce – gaps caused by lack of training – then, automatically, work become inefficient and money is lost.

How much money is lost depends on the type of gap and how it manifests; but without doubt, regardless of whether a company sells flowers or microchips, a gap in the skilled workforce costs money.

In the past, this gap was typically seen only in terms of sales, such as whether a lack of training caused a sale to be lost.  Now, however, we know without any economic doubt that the costs of ineffective or non-existent training gaps go far beyond lost sales.  These additional financial costs include: rework, missed profits (smaller profits due to inefficiency), and misallocated resources (money spent trying to fix a gap could be better spent elsewhere).  There’s also lost market share, lost potential word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied (or merely served) customers, and the list goes on.

Understanding Why Training is Important

It bears repeating: training can no longer be viewed as a support system, like a good benefits program or a leading-edge technical infrastructure.  In the skilled workforce of the 21st century, training is essential.  It is the core engine of a company, because it supports the entire skilled workforce.  And, frankly, there is no other way – whatsoever – for a company to comply with this paradigm shift than to understand that training is important.  Or rather, that it’s essential.

Not All Training is Created Equally

A typical and rational concern here might be that not all types of workers require the same training.  Actually, this is perfectly true, and not a concern; it’s just a basic fact of the new world of work.

Absolutely: your sales team will not require the same training as your customer service people.  While there might be elements that apply to both – negotiation skills and cultural awareness spring to mind – there is no need to envision a cookie-cutter approach to training.  In fact, the old model of training – the one where static, one-size-fits-all training was rolled-out through a company from CEO to Intern is tragically (and again, dangerously) out of date.  Successful training – the kind that retains profit and creates more profit – must reflect the needs of a particular team or function within a company.

This may sound expensive; and in fact, one of the big reason that old-fashioned roll-out training has been relied upon is because it’s seemingly easy to administrate, and even easier to predict costs (as needlessly high as they may be).

Yet as economists are clearly pointing out – without emotion, without bias, in the great way that economists point things out – this old-fashioned training approach is more expensive than the new, customized skilled workforce training.  This is because focused training can be measured and tracked much more practically than generic company-wide training.  Furthermore, this customization allows training to be tweaked and adjusted as business needs and market conditions require.

A Final Word…

Keep in mind that the key argument here isn’t that training is good.  This isn’t pro-training boosterism; and it’s certainly not a lobbying effort on behalf of financially neglected Training and Development professionals across the globe.  The perception that training is essential is sourced in the emergence of the most powerful, and possibly most dynamic, labor market concept in history: the skilled workforce.

And the message that it’s telling us?  Clear and simple: training is not an option.

You Had Me At Hello

February 19, 2010 at 8:04 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Customer Service, Marketing, Networking, sales, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

It’s a fact of life for almost every sales professional that a large portion of business is conducted over the telephone.  Unfortunately, without the ability to gauge body language and other visual cues, as well as not being able to have eye contact, it can certainly be a challenge to engage a potential or even a current customer over the phone.

You’re certainly not alone if you dread making customer calls. Practically every salesperson has had their fair share of unproductive phone conversations. But, this article isn’t all doom and gloom- quite the contrary. Rather, the good news is that there are simple techniques that you can use to greatly improve your chances of grabbing a lead or customer’s attention and hopefully making a sale – all with a telephone call. Pardon the pun, but here’s the “411” on successful business telephone communication:

Your hello is the handshake that starts the dialogue.

People will make up their minds about the rest of the conversation within the first few seconds based upon your tone, manner, and inflection. Perhaps, you can change their impression, but isn’t it simply easier to make a good impression right from the beginning?

Plan what you’ll say before you make the call.

Don’t dial that phone number until you are certain about why you are calling and how you will say it. Nothing is more embarrassing and less professional than getting “brain freeze” just when someone picks up their phone. Don’t start the conversation sounding unprepared. If necessary, sketch out what you want to say before you call to help you through the process.

Recognize the need to control the dialogue.

You’re the one making the call. Be proactive, not reactive. Don’t expect the person on the other end of the line to do the work for you.

Have a fallback position.

Not every phone conversation will go the way you want it. That’s ok. But, make sure that you are prepared to gracefully change the direction of your conversation, if necessary.

Smile, smile, smile.

Don’t discount the importance of smiling while speaking on the phone. Your enthusiasm will come through, and you simply can’t sound bored or disengaged if you are smiling.

Sales Effectiveness: 3 Ways to Gain on the Competition

July 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Customer Service, entrepreneurship, sales, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

While the economy certainly has taken its toll on almost all of us, smart salespeople are using these recessionary times to deliver a higher level of service to gain on their competition. There is definitely a shakedown of sorts currently underway in many industries. Complacent companies and their representatives are finding it difficult to stay afloat using worn out strategies that no longer work. Up-and-coming businesses and forward-thinking sales professionals are seizing the opportunity to capture increased market share through a “more, faster, better” approach that attracts customers even during this extended downturn.

The silver lining of this recession is that fast-thinking, savvy, and smart salespeople are getting the opportunity to grow their businesses by gaining on their slow-moving, bloated, and unfocused competition. More than ever, prospects and clients are demanding service and value and will quickly shift loyalties away from those who don’t deliver – even if they’ve been tried and true vendors. Here’s what you need to do to gain on the competition and position yourself for increased success as the “green shoots” that signal the end of the recession begin to appear.

Be More Service Driven
Customers are less tolerant of poor service than ever before. They know that times are tough and expect salespeople to work for a sale. Those that don’t can be easily replaced by another individual or company willing and able to offer quality service.

By focusing on providing personalized, proactive service, you’ll not only win customers, you’ll also retain them and develop a reputation that will generate even more customers that come through referral. When possible, learn what service strategies that your competition is using, and then expand on those to create the maximum service-driven approach to growing and keeping your customer base.

Be Faster and First in Your Category
Does it take a week for your competition to generate a proposal, or a month to deliver an order? Can you improve upon their times? If so, it might be your ticket to taking customers away from your competition. If you are the first to offer a new product, on the cutting-edge of new technology, or just faster than the other players in the market, make it known. Speed and timeliness are qualities that customers particularly appreciate in this current market.

Be a Better Resource
Customers stick with valued advisors and resources even in difficult economies. Position yourself as an expert and offer the value-added service of being the go-to person when your customers need insight and information.

The economy is beginning to show signs of a recovery, and the time is right for salespeople to ramp up their efforts to attract new business. By using these three techniques, you’ll discover the right mix you need to not only gain on your competition but pass them on the road to sales success.

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