The Entrepreneur's Search for Lifetime Customers
Four Principles That Form a Foundation for Client Satisfaction
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Anyone who has spent more than a month in a customer-facing role has had to deal with a not-so-happy customer. According to my research, it is the #1 reason that people move out of such roles and into the comfort of the back office.
Just last week, I had coffee with an entrepreneur who was having a rough week dealing with a not-so-satisfied “difficult” customer. The situation had gotten to the point where it was affecting not only her morale but the morale of her start-up’s entire team.
There’s no magic bullet to resolve all difficult client interactions. However, there are a few principles that can form a solid foundation for client satisfaction. Here are the four principles that I shared with that entrepreneur:
Download a cheatsheet PDF to serve as a daily reminder:
1. Avoid the temptation to oversell
Overselling does not happen to only the most extroverted of us. The reality is that the tendency toward overselling is quite natural. We live and breathe our products or services day in and day out. We believe in them so much that, oftentimes, when we get an opening we flood our prospective clients with too much information. This may come in the form of throwing out every feature and benefit of the product or service, providing a bulletproof answer to every objection, cutting price to seal the deal, bad-mouthing the competition, and so on. Taking any of these things too far is overselling, and overselling is bound to come back to haunt you. A calm and cool approach, in which the client knows you want their business but knows you don’t need their business to survive, is best. Having the guts to take such an approach requires that you be serious about your business development activity and always have a steady stream of prospective clients in your pipeline.
A calm and cool approach, in which the client knows you want their business but knows you don’t need their business to survive, is best.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
In survival mode, landing a customer and then immediately moving on to the next is easy. And, to some extent, it is necessary. However, you should scale in such a way that you ensure consistent dialogue with your existing customers. Be there to raise the questions that they may have before they even realize that they have them. Set the expectation that you’ll be there to work through any issues that may arise. Be there to ensure that your product solves the problem it’s designed to fix. Too many sales professionals get the client’s signature and then disappear. This gives the sales profession a bad rap, and the compounding effect of it is astronomical.
Scale in such a way that you ensure consistent dialogue with your existing customers.
3. Be up front
This tip is closely linked to tip #2, but the timing is critical. Honesty and integrity are the key ingredients for a successful client relationship. In my experience, if the first person you call when you see an issue is your client, by and large it will work in your favor. If within your control, do not let things escalate to the point that the client is calling you to tell you about issues. Nip issues in the bud.
Honesty and integrity are the key ingredients for a successful client relationship.
4. I’m as good as you, and you’re as good as me
Recognize that fear and creativity are mutually incompatible. The only way to achieve maximum results in any relationship is for both parties to feel free and equal. Those are two powerful words: free and equal. Master-slave relationships do not work. The objective of any entrepreneur or sales professional in dealing with his or her clients should be to achieve a relationship in which both parties feel free and equal—in which the client is obtaining maximum benefit and the entrepreneur is rewarded for providing that benefit. This all goes back to laying a proper foundation. The best sales professionals are good at creating free and equal relationships with clients. Those relationships can be created only when the sales professional takes to heart the best interests of the clients rather than trying to one-up them.
Fear and creativity are mutually incompatible.
I ended my previous article with the following:
This is not rocket science. However, there is a lot of gold in the obvious, because most people overlook it. - Chris Spurvey
I think that is a perfect ending to this article, too.
Do you have any suggestions for dealing with “difficult” clients? I welcome them in the comments below.