A good customer is like innocence – once you’ve lost it, it’s probably gone forever. That’s why the most important part of dealing with customers is not finding them but holding on to them.
If this was easy to do, then salesmanship would be a piece of cake. But you’d be surprised at how frequently I see sales – and business people make critical mistakes when dealing with their customers – the kind of mistakes which often lead to the customers’ disappearance in a heartbeat.
First impressions can often be lasting ones. And nowhere is this more the case than in customer relations.
What happens in the first five minutes of a customer encounter often defines the success or failure of the relationship.
Unfortunately there are probably more ways to mess up those first five minutes than to make them work for you. But if you know what to watch out for, you can avoid falling into some all-too-familiar traps.
Here are five of the most common things I’ve seen business people do to lose their customers very quickly:
1. Do all the talking.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you meet someone for the first time and that person monopolizes the conversation, how would that make you feel? Most likely it would make you think that the other person doesn’t really care what you have to say. And if the person doesn’t care what you have to say, then how is s/he going to have any clue as to what you really want or need?
Listening is the most important element of communication. A salesperson who knows what s/he is doing will make sure that the customer does most of the talking. This is the only way to find out and really understand where the customer is coming from.
In addition, a customer who sees an employee listening to what he is saying begins to feel valued as both a client and a person.
Bottom line: If you want to show your customer that you have a real interest in him and care about his situation, then do a lot of listening.
2. Show no enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is infectious. When an employee is enthusiastic, it reflects on the product, the service, and the business itself. It conveys a strong feeling that the company is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to make the service experience a terrific one. It also communicates to the customer that the employee takes pride in her work and wants to do her job right.
On the other hand, a customer who is greeted by a sullen face and an uncaring “one moment please” is immediately put on the defensive and instantly begins to lose hope that the upcoming experience has any chance of being a pleasant one.
3. Ignore them.
How often have you walked into a store only to find two salespeople yakking it up with each other while you are standing only a few feet away being completely ignored? It’s not a very pleasant feeling.
And if you want to see your customers walking out your door and across the street to your competitor, ignoring them is one of the most reliable ways of making it happen.
4. Try to sell them what you want to sell instead of what they want to buy.
You can talk a blue streak about how good your product is, but if you can’t show your customers why they need it, it won’t matter. Many employees focus on trying to sell only those products they are most comfortable or familiar with, instead of taking the time to learn about other products and taking the trouble to find out what the customer really needs or wants.
5. Come across as unprofessional.
A calm and courteous demeanor goes a long way towards making customers feel good about the company they are dealing with and putting them at ease. It also reassures them that you are going to treat them the right way if they come back to you with problems later.
However, if they see you acting unprofessionally or flying off the handle about something, their state of mind will become agitated and/or uneasy and you are more than likely to lose their business.
Finding new customers is great. But the most important part is what happens afterward-during those initial moments after you’ve found them. You want to make sure your new customer doesn’t soon become your competitor’s new customer. And the best way to ensure this is to know what mistakes to avoid.
You can never recapture your innocence, but you can always capture new customers – and when you capture them, make sure you don’t let them go.
More from Women Grow Business:
- Finding the differentiating factor for your business, by Stella Fayman
- How to give or get meaningful testimonials, by Lori Saitz
- Is it easy to do business with your company? by Joanna Pineda
Image: mlibrarianus via Flickr, Creative Commons