Business Brain: Make your own rules if you want customers' respect
AFTER completing a highly dangerous tightrope walk, in appalling wind and rain, over Snake River in Idaho, The Great Maldini was met by an enthusiastic fan, who urged him to make a return trip, this time pushing a wheelbarrow, which the spectator had thoughtfully brought along.
The Great Maldini was not very keen on the idea, given the terrible conditions, but the supporter pressed him: "You can do it -- I know you can," he urged.
"You really believe I can do it?" asked Maldini.
"Yes, definitely, you can do it, I know you can do it," the supporter gushed.
"Okay," said Maldini, "get in the wheelbarrow..."
Maybe you have your very own enthusiastic supporters? Enthusiastic customers and prospective clients who encourage and cajole you with all the right words, but do not back them up with action.
•Perhaps you have clients who think nothing of asking you to spend days writing a proposal that they have little intention of reading?
•Possibly you have customers who expect you to travel miles to their office and then cancel at the last moment?
•Conceivably you have prospects who promise they'll get back to you and then you never hear from them again?
"Ah yes," you say, but that's what clients do. They're the rules of the game. The customer is always right. Really? Who wrote the rules? My suspicion is those rules were written by a customer -- a rather selfish and inconsiderate one. Who said that we can't have different rules?
Has your product or service such little value? Have your time, knowledge, experience and insights no worth?
If these people see your efforts, your product and your schedule as something so unimportant they can discard you, it means two things: one, they don't value you and what you have to offer; two, they'll do it again.
Ask yourself. When you make a sale, what sort of return on investment does your customer receive? Unless you're selling snake oil, your customers are getting a return on investment several times what they paid. So what gives them the right to treat you like dirt? Who trains them?
Newsflash -- you do!
Every time you agree to write a proposal without a clear commitment as to what happens next, you devalue your expertise and you send a clear message to your prospects that it's okay not to give commitments
Every time you show up on a prospect's premises without a clear agenda, you are teaching the prospect that your time has little value. Like you had nothing else to do.
Every time you discount your price, you teach the prospect that pressure gets rewarded. If you yielded last time, what's to say you won't yield again next time?
It's just as David Sandler says: "You cannot get mad at a prospect for doing something you didn't tell him he couldn't do."
If you want to be treated like a run-ragged, low margin, subservient vendor, it's simple -- act like one. Do whatever your prospect tells you to do and never ask for a commitment in return.
If, on the other hand, you want your prospect to treat you like a valued business partner, the answer is simple -- act like one.
Play a little "hard-to-get" and see where it gets you. If your prospects see you as someone who is in demand and who is respected, they will be drawn to you.
Again, it's human nature. People are attracted to people who are popular -- they don't want to be left out.
In a way, any sales negotiation is a bit of a balancing act. Oversell and you put them off, undersell and they miss the benefits.
Just remember you're not on your own, your prospect is balancing too. But remember, they mightn't know, so it's your job to tell them to "get in the wheelbarrow" -- they're not going to volunteer to get in.
Paul Lanigan is the head of the Sandler Sales Institute in Ireland. Previously, he built and successfully led a pan-European sales team for Motorola with over $50m in annual revenues