“There is no industry I can think of where the customer just didn’t matter,” says internationally acclaimed customer service innovator Ron Kaufman. “Nowadays, everybody is just competing based on price; but if I were a customer, I would want to buy from companies which are pleasant to do business with, have nice people, somebody who went the extra mile the last time, and somebody when there was a mistake, the one who fixed the mistake.”
[related|post]To increase your sales, Kaufman suggests you look into the four stages that comprise a sales transaction:
Stage I: Exploration Stage
This is where you and your customers assess the possibility of doing business with each other. The key here is to listen, understand, and build rapport. Traditionally, says Kaufman, this is the domain of marketing and research; but more than doing an elaborate research, he suggests listening to your customers’ needs, wants, and concerns. Ask them the following questions:
- What would you like us to do more of?
- What would you like us to do less of?
- What would you like us to start doing?
- What would you like us to stop doing?
Do you meet prospects and customers regularly just to share ideas—or do you contact them only after they call or after something has broken down? On the other hand, how easy is it for customers to know more about you? Can prospects learn quickly and thoroughly about your products, competencies, capacity, and directions for growth?
Doing well in this stage will open up the horizon for long-term partnerships. If you don’t explore well, you develop a reputation as a mere “order taker,” says Kaufman, author of the best-selling book Up Your Service.
Stage II: Agreement Stage
This is where you present all your initial proposals and offers. Kaufman says all your business agreements should be clearly documented, with a detailed listing of specifications and expectations, quantities, schedules, prices, service levels, and warranties. How smoothly and thoroughly do you forge your agreements? Do customers praise how easy it is to do business with you, or do they complain about your bureaucratic systems? Do they thank you for your flexibility and understanding, or are they left cold by your rigid “one-size-fits-all” products, pricing, and conditions?