By Andrew Neitlich

The story of a remarkable business turnaround

By Andrew Neitlich

My brother-in-law (call him Bill) moved down to Florida this year, and took a job managing a local auto parts dealer. Within a few months, he had increased sales by over 25%. He is not a natural sales person. He’s just a nice, ordinary guy.

His approach is applicable to selling web services:

1. The former manager was grumpy to customers. Bill was friendly. He welcomed phone calls with a friendly greeting. He spent time asking customers about how things were going, and listening. He worked hard to find the part the customer needed, while the former manager had a “take it or leave it” attitude.


2. The former manager didn’t learn his products. Bill knew his products cold and knows how to talk about them in layman’s terms. He is also good at explaining, in clear language, the benefits his products offer.

3. Bill charges for things that the manager was uncomfortable charging for, but which cost the company money. For instance, he charges for shipping/freight.

4. Bill provides exemplary service. For instance, he takes back parts without question — knowing that clients will come back for more sales. The former manager put up a fight with returns.

5. He is always thinking about other things to sell customers — not for the sake of it, but because these additional products will add value.

6. He has a passion for auto parts. I take him to the occasional arena football or ball game, and a quarter of our conversation is about auto parts. He lives and breathes this stuff.

Overall, he has a down-home, positive, professional attitude and genuinely likes helping people. He also knows his products. Finally, he has the self-esteem needed to charge customers what’s needed to earn a profit.

It’s not hard, and yet we all know plenty of professionals who are grumpy, think about themselves first, are not very approachable, and can’t speak in common language or step in the other person’s shoes to explain the benefits of a product/service.

  • It’s definitely true that your passion about what you do can have a major positive impact on your work, customers, and life in general. Similarly, not enjoying what you do can have adverse effects. If you truly love what you do, people know. I frequently get asked about what I do, about how things are going. I go on and on about how happy we are and how business is excellent until they have to tell me to stop!

    I honestly don’t know how I could work 10-12 hours a day doing something I didn’t love. I would be so miserable!!

    Anyway, glad you’re back and blogging again. Hopefully you won’t leave us for another month or two without a post!

  • ikeo

    I’ve got to agree … and I have to say that I used to find myself acting the ex-manager guy from time to time …

    I’d get irritated over having to do re-do a layout or adding some small detail that wasn’t in the original application spec and it would come across in my conversation with clients (very bad).

    My solution … raise my rates and find better clients. I find that when I’m charging properly for my time then I am more giving of it and generally more personable. I don’t mind hanging on the phone that extra 15 minutes just chatting with the client about the days events etc

    Weirdly enough, I’ve found that that good clients/folks with money just don’t sweat the small stuff … they usually just say … “Bill me”.

  • old_expat

    It’s not hard, and yet we all know plenty of professionals who are grumpy, think about themselves first, are not very approachable, and can’t speak in common language or step in the other person’s shoes to explain the benefits of a product/service.

    I see a lot of this attitude in forum discussions among designers .. and shudder to think about what doing business with them might be like.

  • vworld

    Great article, its so important to charge a fair rate, i.e., to make a profit for your services. And ikeo, I agree with you a 100%, I’ve recently done the same things and it does make a difference because you get a different type of client. :)

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  • Andrew,
    Also very glad to see you back on the scene. I am going to print this entry for my boss. I think that may be him!

  • Gator99

    Does Bill know anything about web design?

  • aneitlich

    Gator99: His only experience with the Internet right now is online dating. He just moved here, and needs some company besides me, my wife, and our two kids!

  • WarpNacelle

    It’s not really rocket science is it. :)
    Value your customer and they will value you.

  • hdsol

    One more thing that goes well with the items mentioned here is to educate the customer in a positive friendly way. Do this even if you may not get the sale right away. I once had a jeweler spend over an hour teaching me about diamonds. He did this even though I was “just looking” and his store was packed with other customers. When I went to other stores to look for engagment rings, I used my new learned knowledge. I ended up buying from this first store because he was friendly and invested his time and efforts in to me. His price was a little higher but he delivered my a great product. Over ten years and 2 wives later, I still use him. I also use this same sales technique in my business. You can eliminate a lot of your lowball compitition when you educate people about value and the various ways that some scammers degrade our business.

    BTW: I am still married to #2 with 4 kids.

  • 3PointRoss

    I agree completely,

    It is very important to look at your customers as more than just customers. Many times when I am having a bad day, I constantly remind myself to make sure I am cheery and interested when ever talking to a customer. I want them to have no problem calling and chatting with me, not worrying that I might be grumpy on a specific day.

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