Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Right-Selling Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 22, 2008

 I read an interesting article on “Scientific Selling”, which started with the following tagline:

“The way in which a customer is handled has much to do with results obtained.”

How true that is!  It goes on to discuss how a customer cannot be “up-sold” unless that customer is thoroughly understood.

“The worst evil in selling is the action of the man who merely gives the customer what he asks for.  The man who does this is not a salesman, he is just a clerk.”

This article, by the way, is from the New York Times and was printed June 18, 1922!  It still rings true today. 

We need to understand not just who our customers are and what they say they want, but we also need to understand how they are currently using our products and services.  Yesterday, I spoke with Nancy Arter and Suzanne Obermire at RRW Consulting (their blog here) about the marketing basic of “right selling” customers.  We agreed that the most-satisfied customers tend to be those who are using the products and services which are a best fit for their needs.

For example, when I was at HP, I worked in the division where we marketed service subscriptions for HP’s mainframe computers to businesses.  Part of the service subscription included software updates and the ability to contact the call center (this was before eSupport was prevalent!).  At the end of the year, a customer could decide whether to renew their subscription.  If they never called in with a problem, they might have felt that they didn’t get value from their investment.  The most successful subscription services salespeople (say that three times fast!) were those that helped a business find the right level of service for the next year, rather than trying to renew them on the same (under-utilized) level of service.

Some of you may be thinking, hey, they left money on the table!  You should just try and get the most from the customer.  This, readers, is short-term thinking – trying to maximize the amount of revenues this quarter or year.  This type of thinking backfires when a customer realizes they have been over-paying for services they don’t use, and they then get upset that they weren’t told they could have switched to a subscription which was a better fit. (Does this sound familiar – cell phone plans come to mind…)

The long-term viewpoint says we want our customers to have the right level of service.  That may mean that they reduce the level of service they have with us.  However, if it is the right level of service, the customer will ultimately be more satisfied.  Customer satisfaction equates to long-term loyalty, which equates to increased positive word of mouth.

And that is what right-selling is all about!

(Flickr photo credit: TimParkinson)

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10 Responses to “Right-Selling Customers”

  1. Amazed that the article was printed in 1922. Talk about evolved businesses.
    Thanks Becky,an insightful post indeed.

  2. Yes, in some ways it is pretty amazing. In other ways, however, it isn’t. Business is all about relationships between people, and at the end of the day, the way we interact with people doesn’t change.

    Thank you for your comment!

  3. Becky, I couldn’t agree with you more :) Some of the wireless carriers have figured this out, but on the whole, I simply see businesses trying to get more of our money, as opposed to valuing the relationship and giving us the exact right service plan or product. I wonder if there’s any research that measures how right-sizing impacts loyalty and overall life-time value?

  4. Businesses that are only in it for the money will suffer from that short-term thinking. It would be interesting to find research that specifically hooks together right-selling and loyalty – or we can do some ourselves! Are you in?

  5. Well, I’m in! You’d think that it would have to be out there and once I find it I’ll report back. If I don’t find it, let’s get started on our own! Thanks for the shout out, by the way. : )

  6. Nancy, it would be great to find and report on something like that, but if not, let’s go! :)

  7. [...] Right-Selling Customers- Becky Carroll at Customers Rock! articulates a wise balance between under- and over-selling: right-selling. [...]

  8. Becky,

    Check this out: Can’t remember where I read this but a recent article suggested that while we must know customer’s wants, needs and desires, we should understand what they are before the meeting. At the meeting, potential clients want solutions, not a sales pitch. All too often, we enter a meeting prepared to ask what the client’s wants, needs and desires are. Big mistake.

  9. Equally relevant in 1922 as today…seems we’re still trying to get a handle on the value of customer retention, which was probably apparent 22 BC, as well.

    Finding what a customer really wants is easy at first: they want honesty and respect. After that, many of have to rely on the old fashioned routine of simply asking them. My experience has been that many clients want to tell you waht they really need — the challenge for some salespeople is careful listenting and a touch of reading between the lines.

  10. Lewis, great point you bring up! Especially for a B2B sale of a complex product or service, the sales rep can’t just show up with their “matrix of solutions” and try to plug in the customer’s needs. The best sales reps have built a relationship over time, hopefully powered by data from marketing and other functions that interact with the customer, so the sale can be made based on the understanding they already have of the customer. Too many customers are treated as if each encounter were the first, and that is frustrating! Rock on, Lewis.

    John, thanks for coming over and commenting! Yes, honesty and respect are the baseline for dealing with customers. Asking customers is always a great way to know what they want – and not everyone does this! Thanks for the reminder.

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