Sales are the lifeblood of a company. The main artery to keep the blood flowing is repeat business and referrals. It takes a lot of effort or sometimes a little blind, very good, luck to land a client who trusts you enough to give you their money. And when you can meet their expectations its all good. But what do we do when you don’t?
Step 1: Admit first to yourself what part you played in their disappointment.
Did you take an order for something you cannot deliver? Was the service not at the level the client expected? Did you completely miss what they asked for and totally miss-deliver? Or worse, perhaps you were so desperate for ‘ an order’ you said ‘Yes, I can’ when really you could not and you made a mess for the client because of your learning curve.
When you take a major spill or even a minor one with a client, you need to recognize that the situation you have left them in has eroded their trust. No one likes to spend money and receive little to no value.
Step 2: Don’t let the situation go even though it feels better for you to.
If you ever want that client to come back to you with any more business, you need to decide how to address the situation with your now unhappy client in a meaningful way. Sweeping it under the rug won’t work. While you might feel better if you do, the client will not forget what happened and if you don’t, they will never come back to you.
So the question is what will be the most helpful to putting the first bandaid on the relationship?
- Do you need to refund them?
- Do you need to give them more services or product for free or at a way reduced cost?
- Do you need to do something for them in the future that they need and not charge them?
- Do you need to apologize?
What do you need to do?
When you have let your client down, your job is to figure out how to approach them and acknowledge what happened and offer to do something they will value for them. You can choose to do it immediately or later, depending on what you think your client is most likely to respond to. You know them best. But failing to do anything will only make it fester on their end for sure.
I remember not too long ago spending a lot of money, for me, on some legal advice for negotiating a contract with a university. The attorney I engaged recently had gone off on their own to build a solo practice. I went to them because they asked for the business and told me they could handle the job. They also had a resume that reflected a fairly broad range of services, some of which where close to the education space. Their rates also seemed more affordable. But undetected on my part, they actually did not know how to write an education contract and charged me 5K+ anyway. The deal with the university fell apart for a variety of reasons but one of them, for sure, was I did not have good legal council and they knew it because the contract made no sense to them in a space they knew well. It was embarrassing for me and also certainly made me gun-shy to go back and use that individuals services again. While legal issues often require research, my paying for their learning curve was not ok to me. Had they been transparent and told me that they would only charge me a success fee or charged me a significantly reduced price for their learning curve, that would have been a different story to me. But all they offered was an apology.
18 months later, when I needed a small legal favor ironically I found myself networked right back in front of them. When I ask them for the help, hoping they would right the wrong, I was instead offered to pay a retainer. I passed.
Step 3: You hope the best of people but when you wonder why your sales are lackluster, failing to right a wrong can one that is infrequently talked about, but can be a big one.
Had this attorney acted on my ‘small legal favor’ request, the relationship would have had a real chance of recovery. As their former client, it is rare that the client would even try again to give you that chance, like I did. But instead by asking to be paid again upfront, they made their priorities clear. It’s no wonder to me this attorney struggles to find business in the market they claim to want to serve.
Step 4: Remember repeat sales is about filling needs satisfactorily.
You have to decide who your target market is and who it is that you want to serve. You cannot serve everyone and meet all needs. But you can differentiate yourself by choosing the target market you are able to deliver great services to, and then devoting your area of expertise to becoming the expert of the products and services that fulfill those needs.
There is no doubt building a pipeline of happy customers who will bring you referrals requires few if any mistakes. But when they occur, you are being presented with an opportunity to grow and learn how to either satisfy that client or recognize why that kind of client is one you cannot work for again because they don’t align with who you are most capable of successfully serving.
Step 5: The lesson will repeat itself until you learn it.
If you continue to accept the wrong client work, say yes when you should be saying ‘no’, and deliver the wrong product and services you will find yourself going in circle in your business. Somewhere between constantly trying to plug holes and peddling faster to not take on water, isn’t a happy place to live and does not produce client satisfaction. The faster you define your target market, accept the mistake you make with clients as your own responsibility to rectify, if you want them to do business with you again, and right your wrongs transparently, the more likely you are to start, in a meaningful way, moving forward mistake free.
To your highest purpose and best self friends.
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