Vapor trail: The result of consistently choosing to ignore the wishes of today’s customers, instead forcing them to continue interacting with you within the traditional sales model.
You’re a quota-based sales rep who needs numbers. A couple we’ll call John and Mary are two of your best customers who agree to meet after three weeks of late call nights. Your diligent follow-up efforts have paid off! Contacting them twice a day refusing at take “No” for an answer finally broke them.
John and Mary are the parents of two children, so their schedule is insane no matter what day it is. You prepare for the meeting with great anticipation as this is your big chance to meet your sales quota for the year. You go through every feature and benefit perfectly, just like you were taught, and John and Mary are nodding through the entire presentation. Finally, the moment of truth comes: The close. “So, does this sound like a solution that would serve your family well?”
“Well, yes, we think this sounds like something we need.”
Then John says: “Do you mind if I ask you something? You were very persistent in getting us in today, and we do know it’s for the best. However, I’m curious as to whether we’re getting the whole picture. We understand and agree that you are compensated by commission, but is there anything more to it than that?”
How you respond will set the tone for the relationship for the rest of your time together, will it not? Do you tell them the truth and inform them of the incentive plan, or do you answer, “No, John, there’s nothing else”…and then let them find out from your team members that you’re on rewards vacation?
Either way, you may very well get a vapor trail out the front door. Today’s customers are extremely knowledgeable. Very few things (besides trade secret information) are NOT found somewhere on the internet, especially when matters of trust are at risk. This particular scenario puts you between a rock a hard place: Tell the truth, and you’re potentially seen as putting their own needs before theirs. Lie, and, well, why should anyone trust you in the future? In either case, John and Mary are at risk for not only never coming back, they may quite possibly never speak to you again. Not exactly the kind of word-of-mouth that is necessary to BUILD a business.
John and Mary have passively asked about your brand’s helpful time-saving technology as it has been introduced, and you have educated them by sending links to information you believe they would find interesting. Their friends have also been talking about the solutions your brand provides and how much their own families have benefited from them.
One day, Mary sends you an e-mail asking for your input and professional insights. The request and related documentation is also forwarded to your CRM platform. This enables you to see exactly what they are thinking and review their concerns in advance. After a thoughtful analysis of their ideas, you send them your feedback and extend an invitation to meet on their schedule. They are impressed with your promptness and professionalism, and ask to get together on Saturday morning in two weeks to finalize their purchase. Mary’s parents are coming to see the kids, so it’s not a problem to get away for a while.
The couple arrives early for the appointment. They’ve already decided this is the perfect solution. As you are preparing to get their signatures, John asks, “Do you mind if I ask you something? There’s a lot of information on the internet about incentives in many different businesses. Does any of that information apply to this one?”
You look away from your computer screen and focus your attention directly on John.
“Yes, John, I’m glad you asked. My company offers incentives based on how many people I serve. This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to help a lot of people just like you. So many, in fact, that your request for my help will qualify my wife and I for a vacation next spring. It’s not something I usually tell people, but I don’t hide it when asked, either. Now that you know, do I still have your permission to continue?”
“Of course! If you’ve helped THAT many people, you deserve to be rewarded. Working with you has been the greatest experience we could have asked for. We never felt like we were being ‘sold’ anything. You supported and educated us through the process and never seemed ‘pushy’.”
“Thank you, John. I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve you.”
In this scenario, “silent” represents the approach you took to serve your customers. “Deadly” is what this process is to your competitors. I also call it “flying under the radar.” You’re in and out before anyone realizes what happened…and THEIR customers have left with YOU.