Its a bit of a problem when your customers don’t seem to want to spend time with you. If you struggle with getting face time with your customers then read on……
One of the participants on my Sales Ninja programme is an Account Manager responsible for keeping and growing the revenue of about forty of the companies larger customers. As I am sure you can imagine it is a bit of a problem when some of them don’t want to see him.
It is not every customer. In fact there are about five who constantly seek him out for advise and ideas. But the other thirty five are more challenging. It was this that led him to our conversation. He outlined the problem to me using very short sentences and I noticed he was shuffling uncomfortably and avoiding eye contact with me. I had an idea. Perhaps some of his customers didn’t want to see him because he was boring!!
Of course I am a nice guy so I didn’t directly share this idea with him. Instead we talked around why this might be happening.
You see I have some personal experience of being in his customers shoes.
When I was a Director at Orange I was responsible for a large budget. This meant there was a never ending stream of suppliers (and would-be suppliers) looking to relieve me of a chunk of that budget. Meetings with these people had to be fitted around the day to day challenges that came with running a complicated operation and managing five hundred people.
The responsibility for diary defence was with my brilliant PA Sam. She was the gatekeeper and was at the top of her game. Yet, there were some people who always got diary time with me when they asked for it. To join this elite group you had to fulfil two simple conditions.
1: You needed to be interesting
I didn’t have time to waste but I always had time for people who brought information or ideas that could be valuable to me. By value I mean things that would improve the company operations (by making them better, faster or cheaper) and even more importantly things that would make me look good.
2: I needed to like you
You may have had the most game changing solutions to my problems but if I didn’t like you I would not choose to spend time around you. Instead I would divert you to one of my management team. Now lets not get confused by what I mean by ‘like’. Again I didn’t have time to waste even if I liked chatting to you that wasn’t enough. When I had my business hat on you would have to show up authentically (I can smell bullshit or uncertainty a mile off), challenge how I saw things and then get me to think differently. Then I would like you.
So with this is my I then asked my client to tell me about the relationship he had with the five customers who he had great relationships with.In these cases they actively sought out his advice and counsel when they needed it. He didn’t have to wait for permission or try to out fox a gatekeeper to make an appointment. He had transcended the role of Account Manager and achieved the status of trusted adviser.
So here are a few ideas that came from the conversation
1: Don’t take it personally
You don’t know what challenges people are facing at the very moment you try to get in their diary. It may not be that they don’t want to see you. Your sales target is not their problem. Instead of trying to force your way into the diary spend some time trying to understand what their challenges are and see if there is something you can provide that might help them
2: Be honest about the level of connection you have
If the relationship is not working be honest and accept that as your starting point. Then you can figure out how you to improve the connection you have with them. Connecting with another human being is very difficult when you have a motive (hitting your target or achieving your meeting quota) because you do not show up as your best. Make you relationship about how you can serve and help them.
3: Be valuable
What information or insights could you gather together that would help your customer be more successful? Perhaps you can prepare some analysis of the results they are getting from your product/service. Maybe you could brainstorm some improvement ideas or even give some insights into the successes some of your other clients may be having (people like to hear stories about others who are like them).
So in summary if you are struggling to get in your customers diary, stop putting the blame on them, take responsibility for the relationship and set a new standard of value that you will bring to the table in every interaction with them.
If you want to improve your relationships with prospects and customers make sure you register for the next free Sales Ninja webinar “Sales through service. The art of selling without selling”. You can find all the details and register here.