Truth in the sales process

People that read QuotaCrush know that I am always talking about the need for transparency and honesty in the sales process.  As I’ve said, when you do the right thing and when you are honest, sales happen for you.  And the more honest you are, the more good karma comes back and leads to more sales.

A few weeks ago, I took a customer out to lunch since I was in town.  This customer has been up on one of the software services for one my clients for about a month, and this was a great opportunity to get some feedback on the product, and talk about the implementation thus far.

At one point in the conversation, I paused and said to the customer, “So.  how truthful was I in the sales process about what your post sales experience with our software would be?”  He immediately replied, “Actually… very!  You made some pretty bold statements in your sales process about what you guys could accomplish and I admit that I discounted some of what you said, but I’m certainly very pleased that you have come through on everything that you have promised.”

Bold statements – but honest ones.  If you put a value statement out there, and you back it up later on, it works wonders for you in the sales process.

As it happens, this particular customer will be giving a keynote at a prominent trade show in about a month, and I’m fairly certain that he will be giving a raving endorsement for our product and service – and as a reference, he will certainly let people know that we are honest and fair in the sales process.  I believe that by being honest with this customer, we now have a champion – and that means the world in the sales process.

It does happen sometimes, however, that a customers experience is not exactly what they expected, and they may feel that you were not 100% true to your word.  At these times, what you need to make sure is that the customer understands where your process may have failed, or fallen down.  Perhaps you got new information after the sale that you didn’t take into account before the sale, or perhaps external factors affected your ability to deliver.  What must happen at this point, is for you to explain in very truthful statements about what happened, and map it back to those bold statements made in the sales process.  Presuming that the sales process had honest statements, you should be able to easily explain why the experience wasn’t exactly what they thought it might be, and how you plan to get them back on track.   Your open and honest communications here should be the way to maintain the relationship – and eventually get a champion again.

I’ve often found that customers for which you’ve had a failure, been honest about it, and then turn around, become even bigger champions.  These customers know that they can trust your word completely.  Problems happen to everyone and every account.  Its how you deal with them that makes the difference.  At a company I was selling for, we had a MASSIVE mistake for one customer.  It was an IT failure on our part, and a very massive mistake.  I found out about it, and immediately went to the CFO’s office in person, sat down and told him of the problem and what we were going to do about it.  After the smoke stopped pouring out of his ears and his face resumed a normal color, he looked at me and said, “Well.  You could have easily hidden this problem from me, so I have to respect you for being honest and for coming and telling me in person.  That’s probably the only reason I’ll give you a chance to fix this.”  We did fix it, and the trust I gained from that customer was immense.  From that point on, he knew there was no reason for him to doubt my word or think that I wouldn’t be honest with him.  I did quite a bit of additional business with that customer (including selling to him on my next sales gig).

When dealing with a person who makes money from commissions, the natural instinct of most people is to think that the salesperson is saying and doing anything to get the sale.  Therefore, distrust is the natural emotion of the buyer.  When you turn that on its head, you will be amazed at how much it will help in the sales process.