By Frances Pratt
As a business owner, there are no two ways around it; you have to be the Sales Champion! What does that mean? Here are my thoughts …
In mediaeval days the champion won tournament prizes and vied for the ‘lady’s favour’. Some things don’t change. In today’s world we all know that we are in business to make money but often the way that we do this is to champion our passion and our customer. In your business, you need to be the white knight of what is right for your customer and for your business. Sometimes this means protecting your customer from your business and the processes that have been put into place.
Let me give you an example. You have rules and processes in your business so that things run smoothly. I once worked with a business who wouldn’t give me an invoice before I got the deposit from the customer. Their reasoning for that was that they wanted to know the customer was committed, and 90% of customers had no issue with this request, albeit some raised eyebrows. One day I had a customer ready to sign up with us, in order to pay for the services, their rules were that there had to be an invoice. An impasse! After some discussion I was able to persuade our accounts team to give me an invoice so I could organise payment, but this meant being flexible on our rules.
Rules plus common sense. Yes we need rules, but when they get in the way of a customer legitimately starting or continuing a relationship with us, then common sense should prevail. After all we are in business to serve our customers, and our procedures should serve them too.
Equally, sometimes you have to protect the company (and its employees) from your customers. Our team are there to serve our customers, but not at all costs. When I worked for the Ritz Carlton (many years ago) we had a saying ‘We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.’ If a customer behaves badly, or is making decisions that negatively impact your business, then you need to discuss this with them. Like any robust relationship there needs to be a dose of tough love, of telling the truth and building mutual respect!
One thing I learned very early on in my sales career was that I couldn’t look after the customer unless I took the team with me. This rule is applied in a number of ways. If I am going to promise something to a client, then I need to know that the team behind me can deliver. This means checking with them that they have the time, the information and the right tools to get the job done. It also means helping them overcome hurdles if they arise by helping them lobby for what they need or in communicating with the client. So in essence they use their skills to help me craft the product or service to sell and I use my skills to help them get what they need both internally and with the client.
A great company “continually refines the path to greatness with the brutal facts of reality (Jim Collins, ‘Good to Great’). You built a business because you wanted to achieve something, for your clients for your staff and for you. As a business owner, there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you achieve this. It is great to celebrate these successes, but then also to remember that they are borne form your diligence and your focus on the ‘brutal facts of reality’. Sales, as an important cog in your business, is no different and the brutal facts of reality are delivered from the mouths of your customers.