I was working on a project with my friend Mike the other day and talking about the challenges in our industry:
– Increased client expectations
– Downward pressure on our fees
– The economic turmoil and fear
– The future of healthcare reimbursement (we both sell to healthcare industry)
And then, Mike said something that struck a chord. “Now is the time to win market-share.” As I think about this, it seems counter intuitive. Most of my colleagues are fearing the loss of market share or increasing pressure.
This is why Mike and I get along so well. He understands what I mean when I say the “soft stuff of business”. As the economy tightens and companies experience fear, they often resort to the “cold, hard facts”. These include head-count, expenses, costs, and so on. Notice anything about that list. It’s very impersonal. And yet, how more personal can you get than when you are selling and or buying.
Customers buy from us for a variety of reasons and they justify the purchase through additional criteria in case they are questioned. Nevertheless friends, you and I know that at the end of the day the customer is buying trust. All purchases, (regardless of the rationale) are emotional decisions.
So how do we engage those emotions in a positive way to increase market-share in a down economy? Let me suggest the following as a place to start:
– Think about ways to add value. They don’t have to be big ways. A recent article by Charles Lauer of Crain Communications shared the results of a survey that showed that patients felt better about the hospital or the clinic if the healthcare professionals smiled when they walked in the room. What does a smile cost?
– Another article I read while on vacation stated that a study showed that authenticity matters. They did a study showing that hotel clerks that delivered the same level of service with a smile (The variable was authentic v. inauthentic) made a difference in the likelihood that the test subjects would choose that hotel in the future. Customers intuitively know how you feel about them. Do you like and respect your customer?
– Take care of your team. As a sales professional in this interdependent world, I rely on a number of other people to fulfill the promise I’ve sold. They have to perform the actual service. Every once and a while, I find it helpful to send a $5.00 Starbucks card, for the extra effort that my team exerts. I can’t be there to share a cup of coffee but I can say thank you and show appreciation for the work they do to support our customers. What have you done recently to say thank you to the people on the front lines serving your customers?
So instead of telling your sales team not to travel in order to save money, ( I once had a manager say you can’t buy staff calenders for their desk to save money) or instead of cutting staff so that you can’t deliver what you promised think about being authentic in caring for your customers, think about a smile and think about how you can create a culture where your team feels good about the work they do. Your customers want you to succeed. Your customers do not want you to cut back on their service or quaity. If you do they will go away.
Take good care,