I recently had a query about an interest charge on my bank account and phoned directly to my branch. They initially couldn’t explain it, and asked if they could put me on hold while they investigated. They came back to say they needed to speak to someone else – at which point I suggested they call me back.  Well within their stated two hour window they did indeed phone – and they still didn’t know why I was charged this amount.  The case needed to be referred to Head Office and I would get a reply within five days. Five days!!  (That’s around 37.5 hours to look at my previous month’s account balance, check the rate I should be charged and get the calculator out.)

I was still reeling when they then asked if I would like to speak to one of their experts about a loan. Apparently he could talk to me straight away.  It wasn’t what I needed or wanted plus I was going to be busy for the next five days waiting for an answer so I declined. Surely they could deploy this expert resource on calculating the interest that was really due on my account?

What struck me forcibly about this experience was the misplaced emphasis on trying to sell me something new without resolving my current issue. The service was undeniably friendly but that’s not enough. In the sales environment today, with savvy buyers and easily accessible information at the customer’s click of a mouse, sales people need to be brilliant at solving problems and delivering the solutions. And they need to do this better than their competitors. That’s the value they add. To be able to put themselves into the shoes of the customer, show that they have the customer’s interests at heart and make things better than they were before is fundamental. Without these basic foundations – trust and confidence – most attempts at selling are likely to fail.

Traditionally in sales there has been an emphasis in finding the quickest route to ‘getting to yes’. Historically – and even not so historically in many businesses – this is re-enforced by Sales Managers piling on pressure to get the deal done. I’m not automatically advocating a tortoise approach but what is important is understanding and acknowledging the customer’s priorities and what they need from you. You won’t get this information by pitching. The prize for delivering this sort of service is not always immediate but can often be more valuable – a customer advocate who will not only keep buying your services but who will recommend them to others.  So take a moment and think – just what are your sales priorities?

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