Want a Better Business? It All Stems from Workable Relationships

November 29, 2017
Want a Better Business? It All Stems from Workable Relationships

Are you looking to create a better business? One where people love to work, and where clients love to do business?

At CFS, we believe that better business begins with workable relationships. For more on workability, check out my blog article here. But for now, let’s focus a bit on what sabotages workable relationships so we can avoid it moving forward.

Let’s explore more and build a better business together.

When Your Salespeople Undermine Workable Client Relationships and What to Do About It

Whether it’s because they’re under pressure or concern for making quota, many salespeople unwittingly sabotage their client relationships.

Coach your salespeople to stay focused on their goals, while at the same time serving their clients well. Make sure they’re providing clear and fair pricing and are sensitive to their client’s internal culture.

It’s also important for them to show how much they appreciate the business and the relationships they have with their clients. Appreciation leads to a better business every single time!

The examples below represent common behaviors that you should watch for and correct before they undermine workable client relationships.

The Low-Ball


Your salesperson holds back because they’re afraid of blowing the sale. They don’t point out the fine print. They’re in a competitive situation, and so, they low-ball. They hope that when the decision to move forward leans in their favor they’ll reintroduce the items that were left out. It’s a classic bait and switch.

What to do

  • Coach your sales team to be up front. Insist on honesty and tell them to let their clients and prospects know that they don’t play pricing games. Make sure they believe that your pricing is fair for the services provided.
  • Ask clients up front how price sensitive they are and let them know where there is flexibility to adjust the scope of the deliverable. Be clear about what they gain or lose by including or removing certain options.
  • Tell third party horror stories, whereby competitors came in and low-balled, only for clients to receive unwelcome surprises down the road.

The Client Bypass


It’s the last week of the month and a few of your salespeople are short on their numbers. Their clients are dragging their feet in submitting their approval. To move things along, they bypass the client and go directly to the decision maker. The prospective client learns of this and becomes upset. Not a smart move.

What to do

  • Resist the temptation to jump the gun. Get more information. Find out why the client isn’t responding quickly enough. Perhaps something critical is going on in their world and your order isn’t a high enough priority.
  • Ask your salesperson to be assertive, but diplomatic at the same time. Can they make an agreement with the client for a specific deadline for the paperwork?
  • Does the client share the same sense of urgency? Is there anything that can be done to help accelerate the process?
  • Determine if it’s appropriate for you, the salesperson’s supervisor, to talk with the client’s boss.

The Arrogant Expert


Your salesperson makes the mistake of assuming the client doesn’t know what they’re doing.  Why? Because they’ve asked for help, right? So, the client isn’t offered the opportunity to collaborate in the proposed solution. The deal is won and then the client realizes that your team’s assumptions were way off the mark and now there’s a mad scramble to realign.

What to do

  • Always operate as if the client is the expert and you and your team provide expertise. Ask your client up front to get involved in scoping out your solution. Even if this involvement simply means giving feedback along the way. Remember that you’re a feedback organization, after all!
  • Assume that clients want to be involved in the proposal formulation process. Tell them early on what’s needed from them. Perhaps it’s providing existing material, or making others in the client’s organization available for additional meetings.

The Nonchalant Thanks


Aside from the initial “thanks for the opportunity,” your salesperson didn’t make a point of showing how much this deal really means to them and to the organization. The client is wondering if their business is taken for granted. They may be concerned that your company won’t give them great service because their business doesn’t mean that much to you.

What to do

  • Have your salesperson say, in a genuine way, how grateful they are for their client’s business.
  • Visit the client in person and thank them on behalf of the entire organization. This is a good time to offer a direct channel to you. Your salesperson should be grateful for your involvement.
  • Pledge your support to do whatever you can to make sure that the solution that your client bought is implemented successfully.

When Your Clients Undermine Workable Relationships and What to Do About It

Many clients unwittingly sabotage a workable relationship. Coach your salespeople to appropriately call out client behavior that demonstrates a lack of respect. Make sure they help their prospects and clients stay focused in sales meetings. Ask your salespeople to make requests for timely feedback, especially after they present a proposal.

The examples below represent common behaviors that undermine workable relationships between a client and their salesperson.

No Time and No Respect


Your salesperson walks into a prospect’s office and sits down for a meeting. The prospect says they only have 15 minutes, which is about 25% of the time that was originally agreed to when the appointment was made.

During the meeting, the prospect keeps checking messages on their smartphone. Then they take a non-urgent call and talk endlessly, while your salesperson stares at the wall.

Coach your salesperson to:

  • Ask up front how much time the prospect has. If it’s significantly less than the time agreed to, then by all means take the time they give. But ask if it’s appropriate to schedule a follow up meeting before leaving. This is done only if the prospect agrees that it makes sense to continue to explore the possibility of working together.
  • Ask if the prospect anticipates any interruptions. This plants a seed in the meeting that they want their prospect’s undivided attention. Suggest that your salesperson set an example by making a point of putting their own phone away, explaining that they want to make sure they give their prospect their undivided attention.

Showing Up Late


Your salesperson scheduled a call and their client shows up 10 minutes late.

Coach your salesperson to:

  • Five minutes into the meeting, send the absentees an email or text message stating that the salesperson is on the line.
  • Email an agenda ahead of time. In the same email, include some specific questions they intend to ask in the meeting. This serves as a reminder and also establishes a purpose in advance. People are more likely to show up on time when the meeting’s purpose and agenda are clear.

All Over the Place


Your salesperson’s prospect wants to meet to discuss an opportunity to work together. Then they ask a lot of irrelevant questions and talk about topics that are unrelated to business. They also cannot clearly describe their goals and concerns.

Coach your salesperson to:

  • Make it their responsibility to run a well-organized meeting. Train you sales team on how to do this.
  • Spend approximately fifty percent of the time in a sales call asking good, problem-probing questions.
  • Tell short success stories when demonstrating solutions.

When Prospects Go “Radio Silent”


The prospect asks your salesperson for a proposal, so they dutifully send a proposal via email. Then they wait and wait and get no response. They follow up with another email asking if they got the previous email. Still nothing. They call, leave voicemails, and get no calls back.

Coach your salesperson to:

  • During the meeting, early on, make a promise to send a follow up email, summarizing the prospect’s key goals, what’s requested from them, what your organization is committing to, and a way for the prospect to determine if there is a good fit. They are less likely to ignore your salesperson when the follow up is clear and action-oriented.
  • During the meeting commit to sending a proposal, and at the same time, request timely feedback. Ideally a specific time to review the proposal in person is scheduled.
  • After two weeks has passed, suggest that your salesperson send an email that this opportunity won’t be pursued any further unless they hear back by a specific date. Make it sound polite, but firm.

Story: I’m sorry for being late

A client recently arrived at a meeting 20 minutes late, and before sitting down she apologized for being late. Although she was delayed by circumstances beyond her control, she made a point of taking responsibility. I mentioned how much I appreciated her apology.

This was a good example of workability.

Better Communication = Better Business

When it comes down to it, better business is all about better communication. It’s about workability. And being intuitive.

I hope these examples help as you work to build a better business. For more tips on developing strong business relationships, check out our free eBook—Making Client Relationships Work.

Free Resource: Making Client Relationships Work: A Guide for Sales Leaders

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