"My customers don't have
as much time to spend with me as they used to." That's a comment I'm hearing
more frequently in my sales seminars. It's a growing phenomena. Your customers
used to be able to spend more time with you. But lately, it seems like they
are on tighter schedules and are harder to see. You just can't spend as much
time with them as you'd like, because they're pressuring you to move on.
This is a real information-age
issue. You know how confused and pressured you feel these days. Your customers
feel the same way. As pressures brought on by rapid change, growing competition
and the need for every organization to become more streamlined and efficient
have hit your customers, many of them have reacted by trying to make everyone
more productive. As a result, your customers have too much to do and not enough
time in which to do it, just like you. Some of your customers are walking around
with day-planners under their arms today, when, just a couple of years ago,
they didn't know what one was. Time, more than money, is the precious commodity
of the Information Age.
It's not that your customers
don't like you, (although they may not) nor that they are not interested in
your products and services. It's just that they have too much to do, and simply
don't have as much time to spend with you as you'd like.
This development is truly
ominous because the implications strike to the heart of your ability to perform
for your company. Let's think for a minute about the value you bring your company.
Why do they employ you? What do they really need you and other salespeople to
do? If you were to boil it down to its most fundamental level, you'd probably
say that your company needs you to create relationships and spend face-to-face
time with your customers.
Here's another way of looking
at it. Suppose you were to make a list of all the things you do in the course
of a week. Then look at the list, and ask yourself this question, "How many
of those things can be done better or cheaper by someone else within my company?"
If you answer honestly, most items on the list can probably be handled more
effectively or efficiently by someone else.
But, the one thing that
you do that no one else can do as effectively as you is interact with your customers.
It's the face-to-face, person-to-person interaction with your customer that
is the heart of your job, the core of the value you bring your company.
That's what makes this challenge
ominous. If you can't spend quality time in front of the customer, your days
as a successful salesperson are numbered.
Here's how to attack
First, remember to respect
your customers' time constraints. If you try to overstay your welcome, you'll
only succeed in making him/her more irritated with you. Do unto him as you would
have him do unto you, if you were in his place. Protect the relationship.
Then, focus on making the
time that you do have with him more productive for both of you. Think of the
issue being quality time, not quantity time. Here are three strategies that
will work for you.
1. Focus on the quality
of the time you have with your customer.
If you're not going to
have as much time in front of the customer as you'd like, then you must concentrate
on making the time that you do have as valuable and productive as possible.
That requires you to spend more time planning and preparing for each sales call.
Gone are the days when you
could just "stop in." Rather, make sure that you have at least three things
prepared for every sales call:
- a specific objective
-- what do you want to accomplish in this call?
- an outline of how you're
going to accomplish that objective, and
- all the necessary tools
you'll need to do it.
That way, the actual time
that you spend with your customers will be more productive. Your customer will
appreciate your organization and your respect of his time, too.
2. Set an agenda --
talk in terms of your customer's needs.
Begin every sales call
with an agenda. Tell your customer what you want to cover and how you're going
to proceed. Mention the needs and objectives in which he is interested, and
explain how you're going to address them. This will relieve him of the worry
that you're going to appropriate his time unnecessarily, and will allow him
to focus on you.
For example, at the beginning
of your sales call, you could say something like this:
"John I know you're interested
in the cost payback of a possible investment in a new telephone system. I'd
like to share with you some of the numbers that others have used to investigate
this kind of purchase. After we go through these, I'll address any other questions
you may have, and then we'll talk about the next step in this process. Does
that sound reasonable?"