Great, you made a sale – now what?
A successful customer relationship starts and ends with a clear understanding of expectations. In other words, the communication that takes place pre-sale largely determines the long term success of every new customer you bring on.
It’s easy to joke about the classic situation of a sales person saying and doing anything to get a sale, and then the rest of the company working to clean up the mess. It doesn’t have to be this way – in fact if this is how your company operates you could be making a big mistake. The downsides outweigh the positives with this approach more often than not.
What’s not as well known is that the same problems can occur for a different reason. Even when nothing has been “over promised” it is still possible the real needs and expectations of the customer have not been heard. You weren’t listening well enough or asking the right questions. Being too caught up in what you do and not what the customer really needs is one reason this happens. The responsibility for getting this right lies with you.
The fact remains that a lot of customer relationships go off the rails after the deal is signed. Not listening can have a real impact in several ways:
Unclear expectations lead to difficult onboarding for new customers. This inevitably drags sales people back into the process only to bog them down with the implementation. This prevents sales people from moving on to new opportunities and doing what they should be doing – selling.
Not understanding the needs of a client will affect your operations as well. Incorrect or impossible expectations that your company cannot deliver is setting you up to fail. While at the same time, the customer is not getting what they expect and service suffers. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Perhaps in the end, the worst part is these problems waste time and money. This is on top of the ill will of the customer and the operations team. Even if you are able to successfully onboard such a customer, who’s to say if they will be profitable. The price you’ve quoted was based on work different than what the project ended up to be.
It is important for companies to take steps to make sure they are hearing their customers. Involving the various functional areas of the company – account management and operations for example – help to make sure the customer’s needs are understood. Just as importantly, this helps to ensure your company can deliver on the commitments being made. Clear and reasonable expectations are two key factors that make for long lasting and mutually beneficial customer relationships.