Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Under Promise & Over Deliver!

Salespeople often get a reputation for being less than truthful and for the most part, it’s because they are promising the prospect something their company can’t deliver. I’ve heard salespeople and executives of companies say: “just get the business and we’ll figure out how to deliver the product.” In my opinion, this is just the kind of attitude that negates any kind of future success for the company. It means that the company will settle for dollars over quality and that can only lead to poor quality in the long run.

Anyone can promise a product or service and then go buy it from someone else to resell. However, if you haven’t planned for providing high quality, you will surely get caught by the little details that become so important when trying to deliver. You’ll miss some costs or forget a timetable or drop a critical piece of the installation process. Without proper planning, you are doomed to failure sooner or later.

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP
As a salesperson, if you want to be able to effectively deal with product delivery issues and set realistic customer expectations, you must become a student of your company's delivery processes and procedures. It is also imperative that you study your competitors’ products and how they deliver them. That way you'll know how you stack up against them and be ready to deal with any unrealistic expectations they have set.

If your company has a set of written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), it is incumbent upon you to read and understand them. Very often there are separate SOPs for many functions within a company, but there is just as often, no SOP for the entire chain of events necessary to deliver a product to the customer. Also, things change and SOPs that have been very effective in the past, but aren't kept current, can lead you down the wrong delivery path. This is why you must also do some walking-around research and get the real skinny on all of the processes and procedures involved, including the unwritten and untold ones. It is very important to find out how your company successfully delivers the product, but it is just as important to find out where the problems arise in these processes and be prepared to deal with them with your customer ahead of time, if possible.

OK, how do you under promise and over deliver? Now that you understand the real operating procedures utilized by your company, you know what you can and cannot truthfully promise. For instance; your company's stated installation interval is 30 days, but you know from your experience and the research you've done that it could take as long as 45 days. Well, you give your prospect the 45 day interval instead of 30. Now, if the company achieves delivery in less than 45 days, you have under-promised and over-delivered and you have protected your company's operational reputation. Another example is; the customer's expectation is that your support organization will get in touch with them via email to inform them of the next steps. So instead, you set up a meeting and hand deliver the set of instructions, timetable, escalation list, company contacts, etc. to your customer, thereby going the extra mile. It is all about exceeding expectations and it takes some effort, but your customer will appreciate it and become a great reference for you.

If your product does not meet expectations as you have sold it, you will only have to spend time fixing the problems and lose time doing what you are there for. It is better to tell the customer the real truth so you don’t have to deal with the problems later. The power of “No” is quite liberating, but that’s another blog!

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Mike Feeley

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Don't Pay You All of That Money to Juggle One Ball!

As a high-tech salesperson, you think to yourself and maybe occasionally even utter out loud; What if all I had to do was just sell my product? Wouldn't that be great? But as reality sets in, you must admit that if you don't bird-dog that new customer relationship from start to finish, you'll most assuredly have to fix something later and possibly compromise the relationship you have worked so hard to establish. While it is said that problems are opportunities, you don't really want to create or have someone else create problems for you just so you can have those kinds of opportunities. Bigger and better opportunities emerge from successfully nurturing a new customer relationship; then they tell their friends and colleagues what a great experience it is to work with you.
Click to Enlarge - Sales & Mktg Cycle

Think about all of the people in your company that have to be involved in the capture of a new customer and delivery of the product. It starts with Marketing; then hands off to Sales;  then to Sales Support; possibly to Legal; to Operations; to Customer Service; to Accounting and back to Sales for referrals. How many things can go wrong with all of those people touching the customer in one way or another? And, who's going to straighten out the problems if and when they occur? You guessed it, You, the salesperson, the face of the company for the customer.

What does this mean to you? It means it is critical that you know your company's process for on-boarding a customer, and additionally, how your client's company wishes to be interacted with during that process. It may not be up to you to manage the actual work necessary to assure a smooth delivery, but you'll need to be involved in tracking it, at the very least. Otherwise you might see someone with less interest in a successful turn-up drop the ball and neglect to inform anyone about it. It could happen in the customer's organization or yours, or both.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems attempt to eliminate the need for "walking around" tracking and they do a decent job of it. However, CRM systems won't automatically keep everything on-track or in line for the whole process because people are involved. That is why to assure your customer is brought on-board smoothly and happily, you are going to have to juggle a few balls. It may cause you to lose a little selling time, but it is easier to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one. 

So, bite the bullet and ride shotgun on your customer's installation because they could end up being your best customer, your best lead source and your best referral. After all, isn’t it about people buying from people they like? Yes it is, but that’s another blog.

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Mike Feeley

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