Increase Customer Retention By Setting Proper Expectations

The first (and debatably the most important) strategy in customer retention is properly setting expectations. This actually comes during the sales process, rather than afterward, and this element ends up being the downfall of many “talented” salespeople.

Set proper expectations.

Imagine buying a new SEO service for your website. The sales person, perhaps feeling pressure to hit quota, tells you you’re going to get at least 15 leads per week, and close deals with at least three of them. Sounds pretty great, right? You buy the service and wait eagerly. And wait. And wait. Maybe a few leads come in, but you don’t hit that promised number. You feel cheated and lied to, and you cancel.

This is called “selling hot”. The salesperson will promise the moon just to close the deal. Although this tactic can generate an impressive volume of closed business (after all, who wouldn’t want to buy a product or service that can deliver such amazing results?), the turnover and cancellation rates will be equally as high, and tarnish the brand reputation. It’s a classic case of over promising and under delivering. It’s critical to set the right expectations before the deal is closed so the client doesn’t feel disappointed when their imagined outcomes don’t happen.

Now imagine the same situation, but instead of making promises in hopes of exciting you into a deal, the salesperson sets appropriate expectations. He explains to you that every client experiences different results, and you can definitely expect some new traffic with the opportunity for incoming leads and closed business (after all, the company has a great portfolio of successful clients), but the results really depend on the client. You purchase the service, get a few leads, close some business, and feel completely satisfied.

Don’t avoid setting expectations.

Sometimes salespeople will avoid setting expectations at all, which can be a big problem too. If you don’t tell the client what they can expect as a result of doing business with you, you put the client in control of setting their own expectations. This can be a huge problem. Customers will, by nature, have a preconception of how their life or business will be affected once they purchase a product or service. Typically customers set high expectations because they are investing their money in what you’re selling, and need to justify the purchase. Depending on the product, they could have wildly unrealistic expectations that simply can’t be achieved from your service. As a salesperson or account rep, you must be in charge of setting the proper expectations so you can avoid backlash from clients who don’t hit their unrealistic goals.

By setting proper expectations, your clients will know exactly what they should be getting by purchasing your product or service. There will be no surprises or disappointments. In fact, if they have an unexpectedly positive experience, they will be thrilled that the service over delivered. This, obviously, is the ideal situation.

Take the opportunity to level with your clients.

Most customers will appreciate the breath of fresh air when a salesperson can set appropriate expectations without promising them the moon. People can often see past audacious promises, and don’t like dealing with the stereotypical “used car” type of sales associate anyway. If you can relate to and level with your client, and honestly explain to them what they can expect as a client of yours, they will appreciate your honesty and like the fact that you’re not using high pressure sales tactics to mislead them into buying your product.

Retention is built on a solid foundation of meeting expectations. It’s not about under promising and over delivering (although over delivering is always great), and it’s certainly not about over promising and under delivering. It’s about setting appropriate and realistic expectations, and meeting (and/or exceeding) them consistently. If a customer knows exactly what they will get from your product or service, and their goals are met, they will have no reason to be disappointed or cancel. Decrease turnover and increase retention during the sales process by setting the right expectations.

 

Selectivity and Rejection: Why Turning Down Prospects Will Save Your Business

When I was starting out in my career, I was beyond eager to close business. I found myself pounding the phones cold calling, and often ended up somewhere between arguing and pleading with prospects trying to get them to buy. Every “no” felt like a loss to me, and I would try as hard as possible to close even the smallest deal. It became a game to me, and eventually I didn’t care about the size of the deal or the customer I was closing, I just cared about my conversion ratio and how many deals I could make.

What I didn’t know is that my effort to close every deal I encountered would end up being my downfall for the next several months.

Customer service calls and cancellations started rolling in. I was spending hours per week on the phone trying to put out fires for my smallest clients, taking me away from the opportunity to close more business. Clients who were not benefitting from the service I sold to them were giving me an earful about how upset they were, and the conversation typically ended with a threat to call their credit card company to dispute their charge. I was miserable.

After this went on for a while, I realized that this was not productive for my book of business or my commission checks, and something needed to change. I figured out that my best clients, the ones who were doing great with the service, and the ones who were paying the most to be doing business with me, were the ones who were causing me absolutely no problems. Additionally, by best clients were the ones I didn’t have to push very hard to close because they understood the value of the service I was selling, and were confident in their ability to benefit from it.

I wanted more clients like that.

I decided I would begin to be selective with my clients. I would call prospects, and if I was receiving too much push back and a refusal to buy, I would just let it go. If the prospect seemed to enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing, rather than posing relevant questions about the service and how they can benefit from doing business with me, I would decide I didn’t need their business, and politely let them off the phone. I figured that if the prospect was giving me a headache during the initial sales call, they would probably be a pain throughout their lifetime as a client. After all, there were thousands of other prospects who would understand the value of what I was selling, and would be much a more pleasant client.

Moreover, I began to identify the prospects who wouldn’t benefit from using my service. I started to understand that not every prospect would be a good fit for what I was selling, and those clients would be dissatisfied with the service despite my best efforts to keep them happy. I didn’t want clients who would not benefit from their membership with our service, because they would just cancel after their term ended. It’s not to anyone’s benefit to sell to people you can’t help. Not everyone needs to become a client of mine, and not everyone should become a client. After all, the service wasn’t a “one size fits all”; some people were just a better fit, and that’s ok.

I became drawn to having clients who would see success with my product and would continue to renew and upgrade their account with me. Identifying the elements that a “good client” embodied, I was able to avoid the less than ideal clients, and keep from investing my time trying to close a deal that will just end in an unhappy client and a cancelled account. I focused my efforts trying to recruit the ideal candidate for the service I was selling, and that has made all the difference.

To me this was a selfish approach because I didn’t want to deal with customer service calls if I didn’t have to, and I didn’t want to take more cancellations, which would be a negative representation of my sales record. However, it’s also to the prospects’ best interest, because I saved them the hassle of buying, suffering through, and fighting to cancel a service that just isn’t a fit for them. It’s not easy to turn business down, but it really makes a difference for all parties involved. Additionally, it’s the ethical and moral thing to do. Be selective with your clients, don’t be afraid to turn down a deal, and strive to work with the clients who will be the best fit for your product or service.