Farquharson | on Business Development: For Sale: Saving Customers Time
No one answers their phone anymore. And yet, there’s a message in that. Did you get it? Calls are not returned. That, too, should tell you something. Does it? What does it say when the customer doesn’t say anything; when you hear nothing from the sales calls you are making? Part of the answer might be that you’re not saying anything of interest to them and therefore they’re not going to take the time to call you back.
But another possibility might be that they simply don’t have the time the way they used to. And that’s the message! That’s the opportunity! If you could sell additional time in the day, there would probably be a line of customers out the door and down the block. But that’s not our product. Still, we need to learn the lessons that our prospects are teaching us by not picking up and not calling us back. We need to find a way to sell time.
Two companies have made a major impact on the subject of time. The first is FedEx. Before they existed, delivery times that were measured in weeks were acceptable. A rush order was still a plural: days. Then came FedEx and you could absolutely, positively get it tomorrow. Suddenly, this Purple Cow (see Seth Godin’s book for inside joke reference) changed everything and the bar was set at the next-day level. Expectations went from weeks to days to hours. FedEx found a way to sell time. It’s changed our lives on a personal/consumer level, as well as a business/printer level.
The other company that set a new standard is Amazon. The ability to order online or through a smart phone and receive a promise of two-day delivery screams of time savings, despite the 48-hour arrival. Not going to a store means not buying additional items that we walk by. What’s more, once the order has been placed we can track it right up to our door with a simple mouse click.
We never knew we needed these things before we got them. Now, once we have them, it’s hard to deal with anyone who doesn’t do business in this manner. Expectations have once again changed. Amazon has found a way to sell time. Or put differently, they have included the message, “Doing business with us will save you time” in their sales pitch.
Can you do the same? Can you stress the ways in which you can help a customer to become more productive and focus on the things that are important to them (i.e., doing their job)? Can you sell time? With both FedEx and Amazon as our new role models, let’s rethink our sales call.
Full-service capabilities: No longer are we limited to just selling solutions that involve ink and toner sticking to a substrate. Now, we can work our way up the food chain and become more deeply involved in solving problems that go beyond print. Our product line has expanded and our sales team has been trained to learn the story behind the printed piece, and not just the specs of the job.
To say that we are a “one-stop shop” does not tell the whole story. Not only can we do more in terms of services, we have become a source of ideas because we now understand — through a consultative sales approach — what our clients are trying to accomplish and are therefore invited in at the design stage of the job. This saves our customers time through the creation of a better solution.
Reliability: Nothing kills a relationship faster than a broken promise. When we quote the job, our quotes are accurate. When we predict a ship date, the job arrives on that day or earlier. Our sales team is trustworthy and proves it with everything — from their availability to the assurance that when they say they will call right back, they call right back. Customers can set their watch to the promises that we make and keep. We absolutely, positively keep our word. In doing so, we save our clients time and worry.
Communication: Our customers do not call us. Why? Because they already have the information they are looking for. Our customer service team has called them with the delivery date, and then called them again to find out if everything went well and if they were satisfied with the quality. Reorders are anticipated and our sales team has been trained to call ahead of time and re-examine all solutions, taking nothing for granted and making no assumptions.
It’s hard enough to coordinate a project, but when the customer doesn’t know the status of a job and has to track down a vendor, that’s time that could be better spent. We give our customers back that time to use elsewhere by pushing out information on delivery dates and constantly staying ahead by anticipating their needs.
822 words. That is the length of this column so far and one word has been suspiciously absent. Have you noticed? It’s the word price. Nowhere does it say that your chief competitive advantage involves being a low-cost provider. Missing is the sales rep’s argument that everyone buys based on price.
Your ability to save the customer time supersedes the need to compete at that level. By taking the approach that time = money, you are rising above the bottom feeders and differentiating yourself through a more compelling and interesting sales approach. Time is limited. Time is finite. And time is fleeting.
Save a company a dollar and you will earn the company’s appreciation. Save a customer time and you will earn that person’s loyalty. Every time they don’t have to call you because they already know the delivery date; every time they don’t have to wonder where their job is because you’ve either told them or they can simply look it up themselves; every time they don’t have to seek out a new supplier because your offerings are omnipotent, you give the customer something far more valuable than a lower price.
“My name is XXX and I’d like to talk to you about the ways in which I can save you money on your print,” is a voicemail sales script that is delivered and deleted millions of times every day. It’s the “Can you hear me now?” repetitive Verizon sales call made by lemmings who line up to jump off the voicemail cliff one after another.
“My name is XXX and I know that you don’t have time to return my phone call. That’s because your current vendor doesn’t realize how valuable time is to you. I do. I’d like to talk to you about how working with me will help you to get more done in your day.”
Now, there’s a voicemail message that will be remembered and the next time you follow-up and your name appears in the caller ID window, it’s much more likely that you will get that customer to pick up the phone. When that happens, don’t waste their time. Make the most of this opportunity by directing your sales pitch toward the thing that they value the most: How you can save them time.