A few nights ago, I had what is called a “sleep study.” For those who haven’t had it, this is a tool for diagnosing issues such as sleep apnea (which I’m pretty sure I have). It’s, um, an interesting experience. They hook about 25 wires to you (I lost count at 20 but there weren’t many more, and these wires are TINY) and then tell you, “Okay, go to sleep.” Yeah….I got right on that. Without getting into detail, it was not an overly comfortable experience but hopefully a productive one.
In the morning, the tech came in, unhooked me, handed me a clipboard, and said, “As soon as you fill this out and leave payment for your copay, you’re free to go. There’s a shower and bathroom if you’d like to shower up before you leave (I did, the great gobs of adhesive in my hair used to attach the wires took about 20 minutes to wash out).” But….that was it. No guidance on what happens next. And here is the lesson for salespeople and business owners.
After a couple of days of hearing nothing, I emailed the person at the sleep institute to ask what happened next, and he replied that someone would be getting ahold of me soon; it typically takes around 7 days to process the sleep study. That’s good to know, but frankly I would have been much happier to know that the morning after – or even the evening before – the study.
My mantra, as you know, is “Comfortable Customers Buy.” It’s a truth in any business. The more you throw customers off-kilter, the more reluctant they are to buy. In my case, of course, NOT buying wasn’t an option. I suppose I could have run for my life when she got the wires out, but that’s what I was there for.
Your customers, however, have the right and ability to run for their lives – and sometimes they do, when they get uncomfortable. Salespeople, of course, have many hackneyed old techniques for making them uncomfortable, but if you read my articles often, you know how to avoid those.
The best way to keep your customers comfortable is this: Tell them what you’re going to do with them. Give them a road map of what lies ahead. The most vulnerable a customer can feel is that moment when they have given commitment and/or payment for a service that’s about to be rendered. That’s where buyer’s remorse sets in. You can nip buyer’s remorse in the bud by telling the customer, step by step, what happens next, how it happens, and who is responsible. You already have these processes in place; why not share them with your customer?
Want to REALLY get brave? Share your sales process. (I can hear people fainting all over the country right now.) Yes, I know, your sales process is a carefully guarded secret, and customers aren’t supposed to know that they’re in a sales process.
Helpful hint – THEY KNOW. When you start selling to them, they know they’re in a sales process. But, what if instead of making them guess, you opened a sales call like this:
“Mr. Customer, thank you for meeting with me. I’m here to establish if there is a fit and a mutual win from us doing business together. I’m sure you’ve already figured that out. Just so you know what I’m doing and there aren’t any secrets between us, I’m going to start out by asking you questions to gather information to see if we can help you score a win by doing business with us.”
“Assuming that there is a win, I’ll make a recommendation (or set of recommendations) of how we can create that win for you. On the other hand, if we can’t help you, I’ll tell you that, too, and we will shake hands and part as friends. If you like our solution, I’ll need to develop a proposal for you (or quote price on the spot, however it works in your company), and if you like the proposal, I’ll ask you to go ahead and do business with us. That said, here’s my promise to you – I’ll ONLY ask you for your business if the purchase really does help you and really does create value. And either one of us can stop this process at any time if we wish. Shall we get started?”
By the way, there is an old technique called the “Up Front Contract” that, if you know it, you may see some similarities to. It goes like this (highly simplified version): “Mr. Customer, I’ll be asking you questions and presenting some solutions. If you like the solutions, and the price, you’re prepared to go forward with a purchase, aren’t you?” (The wording is different from trainer to trainer, but the intent is the same.) The key difference here is that the old “Up Front Contract” asks the customer for a commitment BEFORE they have heard anything you have to offer. To me, that’s not customer-friendly and it’s designed to start down a path of entrapping the customer into a buying situation while keeping as much of the sales process a secret as possible.
The road map just tells them what your steps are and how you plan to accomplish them. You can even couple them with a timeline; for instance, if this process requires multiple meetings, you might give an idea of how many meetings it will take and how long between meetings. You might need to include steps like plant tours, on-site or online demos, etc. The road map gives a customer a feeling of security and comfort from the start; the up front contract puts them on edge and has them preparing their defenses from the start. See the difference?
The road map also helps manage customer expectations, particularly if you couple it with a timeline. Explain to the customer BEFOREHAND that it takes two weeks to get the product in after you order it, and you won’t have an impatient customer.
The truth is that I’m still not comfortable with the sleep institute. I just know that I might be getting a call in about 4-5 more days, and maybe I’ll talk to a doctor, perhaps there’s surgery, or CPAP, or God knows what else. I have done some research, but my time to do so is limited – and they are the ones getting paid.
Don’t leave your customers uncomfortable. Share your road maps. Tell them what’s happening – before, during, and after the sale. You’ll bring on more new business. You’ll build stronger, longer lasting relationships. You’ll get more testimonials and referrals. It’s nothing but a win for you.