I get the need to deliberate, review and consider decisions. Its an important activity to carefully weigh decisions of all sorts. But there comes a time where you just have to make one and no amount of additional information will be any different.
In our roles when supporting our customers we can be overly nice in their decision process. In fact so nice that we can allow them to make a decision agreed to be made in two weeks happen over 3 months. Most of us have gone through it. The sale that should've been made months ago drags along.
Like you I have had literally thousands of customer interactions over my sales career. I've come to realise that most customer decisions take longer not because they have a super complex decision making process but because of three things.
- You haven't understood their urgency triggers/buying motives to why they should buy now.
- You haven't made the offer clear and compelling enough for the business to easily make the choice to say yes.
- You haven't set clear enough expectations for decisions and held them to their word.
I want to highlight one of these three that gets little press and its the challenge we often have of getting customer decisions to happen in a reasonable time.
We hold ourselves to a standard of service, delivery and results for our customers. What standard do you hold your customers to?
I mentioned in a former post a few weeks ago and wrote about knowing what you stand for with your customers "When you stand for something you set the standard for how you and your customers stand together."
This has the same level of impact when it comes to helping your customers make decisions today. I'm not talking about making ultimatums like I've heard some do which is not a great tactic or the need to bribe your customer with discounts for early purchase.
I'm talking about getting clear with your customers and setting a standard for how you work together. If it were reversed there is no way your customer would sit around waiting a month for you to come back with an answer to something. They have a level of expectation based on their service agreement with you.
Some decisions will just take longer than others, but if you never talk about how you do business together with your customers when making decisions then it's likely you'll be caught in the same frustrating decision loop.
You may be thinking, 'I don't know where to start to get tough with my customers' or 'what does getting tough mean?' 'decisions just take longer in my industry'.
Getting tough with your customers is not about being aggressive it's about valuing the relationship enough to let them know that its a two way exchange.
If you're in a customer relationship and constantly having to ask 4/5 times for an answer. No one gets back to you but your expected to get back at a moments notice. Sorry to say you're not in a relationship with your customer and it has nothing to do with industry, personality, history or product. It's about what value you put on yourself, your business and relationship.
It may sound scary but just think about any other relationship you have. Wouldn't you let the person know if something wasn't quite right? I'd hope so or it'd be an unhealthy one.
Setting the expectation of decisions with your customers can be done and believe me it will change the whole dynamic positively in your relationship. We have to get comfortable with holding tension in our customer relationships...
...It's creating a space to get personal, to be bold, to push the boundaries for all the right reasons and to create change in our client's worlds. Bernadette McClelland
Here are five things you can do this week to prepare for your customer conversation. Your relationship to date with your customer will make a difference to the approach you might take but not to the process below.
- First get to know what your customer expectations are of you and be clear on what you're looking for from the relationship. You may need to go back to existing agreements you have together and evaluate what they've asked of you and you of them. Write this down.
- Be clear on any specific implications to your business on delayed decisions by the client if relevant. Write those down.
- Also write down the benefits to your client on making decisions that are timely to the results important to them. Only if relevant.
- Before your next customer conversation role play with a manager, colleague or peer. Mention that you'd like to get much clearer on how you make decisions with your customer and you want to have an honest and transparent conversation around this.
- Set up a face to face meeting ideally if not then a call with a clear agenda of 3-4 items you'd like to discuss. Have two items on positive feedback, one insight and then one on the relationship. You want to lead them into a positive framed conversation. Position this as a conversation to improve how you deliver for them and that means getting clearer on how you work together. Be honest and ensure you leave with specific actions you'll both take at the end based on the new framework of expectations you've set together.
If you're in a situation where you find it very difficult where decisions run on and on. I'd love to hear from you directly.
If you're a key account manager, sales leader of consultant responsible for and concerned with existing customer retention and key customer growth send me a LinkedIn request and get connected to my customer growth email series and mailing list HERE. You can start the process of learning a new framework of thinking to customer growth today. www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.