It started out just like every other coaching call I’ve ever done. My client described an account, giving me background and his plans for next steps. He spoke confidently of his relationship with various contacts within the company. He gave me several examples of successful jobs that had been printed. I listened for a while and then asked a question that stopped him cold:
“Could you survive a meltdown at this account?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“What if,” I continued, “a job went horribly wrong. Imagine if Murphy’s Law occurred at its absolute worst: the prepress guy, Bill Murphy, paginated the job wrong and no one noticed. The hiccuping pressman, Tom Murphy, allowed more than a few hickeys to occur. And in finishing, Christine Murphy had just come back from a chiropractor and because her head was tilted to one side, cut the job at an angle. Oh, and don’t forget that the UPS delivery man, Ulysses Murphy, handed over the job and then kicked the customer in the Murphys for good measure.”An account apocalypse
After a pregnant pause, my customer admitted, “I don’t know. I don’t know if I could survive that. I don’t know if anyone could survive that.”
I think it’s inevitable that a job will go wrong, even if you don’t work for Murphy’s Printing. Take every precaution imaginable, and stuff still will happen. Everyone makes mistakes. Your Apocalypse Now
is coming soon to a customer near you. Prepare for it.
Think of it this way: suppose you’re sitting at your desk after the unthinkable has happened. If this is an account that you’ve done business with for a long time, one of your thoughts has to be, “Have they forgotten all the good things I’ve ever done for them?”
The answer, of course, is yes. They have. Unless you tell them on an ongoing basis what a good job you are doing, you run the risk of losing that account if a major problem occurs. You are only as good as the last job you shipped them.
By consistently doing a good job and consistently reminding the customer that you are doing a good job, you are making deposits in the Bank of Goodwill. If you have a positive balance in this account, it is likely a customer will shrug off the error as “one of those things.”
How do you let the customer know how good you are?
The next time you do something right, especially if it’s something exceptional, send an email to your client and cc everyone that you can think of at that company. Thank them for their business. Go over the details of the job, including the exceptional thing that you’ve done (such as rush the job per the customer’s request), and include the line, “I know you have a lot of choices. This is why you do business with us.”
Is this self-serving? Are you brown nosing? Are you pointing out the obvious?
Yes. Yes. And, yes. But customers have short memories and you need to remind them of all the good things that you do for them.
Is the account apocalypse coming?
Yes. Prepare for it.Need sales? Take Bill’s “Sales Challenge” at www.thesaleschallenge.com. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (781) 934–7036.