In my last three articles, I’ve written on various sales axioms I’ve learned over the years. Here’s another important one you should take to heart: How you interact with the customer is more important than what you sell.
Every customer interaction is an opportunity to sell—not your product or service—but yourself. Here’s an example of how not to do it.
Please Stop Trying So Hard
We’re launching some new product offerings that require both in-house and outsourced fulfillment, so I’ve been speaking with potential vendors who could provide us with white-label web services. To use an analogy, I’m building a roof and I need shingles. But one vendor doesn’t seem to get that. Not only is she pushing to build the entire roof, she also wants to install windows, siding, and doors. Thinking she was being helpful, she proudly announced she could train our reps on how to sell these new offerings.
Bad move. Didn’t she know I’m the sales trainer? Of course not; she never asked.
Selling yourself needn’t be overly-aggressive or self-aggrandizing. The bottom line is you sell yourself or fail to sell yourself in every interaction you have with a prospective client.
Will the Real Salesperson Please Stand Up?
I wish retail merchants would realize that the person answering the phone is “selling” that business to each and every caller. Over the weekend, I phoned a local lawn mower repair shop because the last time I used my mower, it wouldn’t shut off. Since I’d never dealt with this shop before, I was concerned about being ripped off or overcharged.
Remember—how you interact with the customer is more important than what you sell. There are at least a half-dozen lawn mower repair shops in town, so I need to feel comfortable about this one before I bring them mine. I need to be “sold,” don’t I? Not on the service, which is more or less a commodity, but on the business itself. The owner did so by reassuring me that the shut-off problem was minor and gave me a likely price range I could expect to pay. Job well done.
How to Improve Your Client Interactions
Every prospect that comes to you will have unspoken concerns about the service itself, your competency, or both. A potential SEO client, for instance, may be concerned about SEO in general and your ability to perform it. You must be skilled in both uncovering and alleviating those concerns.
Uncovering Client Concerns
Uncovering concerns starts with fact-finding or needs analysis. Simply put, how do you know the prospect’s concerns unless you ask?
I’ve already written about uncovering needs as part of the sales process, so I won’t rehash it here. If you don’t have my free guide, 27.5 Must-Ask Questions for Consultative Selling, just follow me on Twitter, and I’ll send you a link.
Alleviating Client Concerns
Unless you come highly recommended from an existing client, it’s a given that a prospect will wonder whether or not you can do the job. Here’s a simple way to alleviate that concern.
Use a confident tone of voice.
The first place to start is your voice mail recording. Speaking in a monotone makes you sound uncertain, and that’s the first impression you’ll leave. I’ve been calling a number roofing contractors over the past few weeks, and the deadpan outbound voice mail recordings I’ve heard leave me with the feeling that this person doesn’t know what he’s doing. I wasn’t until I reached one whose voice sounded confident and self-assured that I even realized my unconscious thought process. Logical? No. Human nature? Absolutely!
I’m not saying your tone of voice is the silver bullet that instantly creates confidence in your abilities, but it’s a start.
Use Your Secret Sauce
When it comes to selling yourself, everyone has their very own secret sauce. Mine is I’m a good listener.
In high school, being a good listener meant getting relegated to the “friend” rather than the “boyfriend” category with most girls I met. But as a web consultant, it’s my strongest asset. Listening and being truly concerned (not just pretending to be) has allowed me to build trust and create empathy with potential clients. It’s how I interact with the customer—and how I interact with the customer is more important than what I sell.
The more commoditized the industry, the truer this axiom becomes. If people buy on emotion and justify it with logic, then your secret sauce is what unlocks the intangible, emotional reasons for your prospect to hire you.
Last I checked, trust and empathy are emotions. So ask yourself, “How do I want my clients to feel after they’ve bought this?” And since what we sell is a process rather than a one-time transaction, the question becomes, how do I want my prospect or client to feel each time he or she interacts with me?
When it’s all said and done, what the client walks away with is the commodity. But how he or she feels about your business is what you’re actually selling. That’s why how you interact with the customer is more important than what you sell.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.