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What Being a Customer Taught Me About Sales


After working on the marketing side of sales-driven organizations for more than 20 years, I recognized the tremendous value the sales and marketing teams played in the top-line growth of businesses.

I was part of the excitement when a record number of people attended a webinar or live event and new leads were generated. I saw the value when you could connect the dots and distribute a content piece that helped position the company as experts in their field. I was part of the celebration when the sales team returned from the final pitch and won the work.

Teams that sold new business were recognized and promoted and took most seats at the table. What I overlooked were the teams behind the delivery of the services. This was their craft, what they were trained to do and it was part of their job. They didn’t celebrate and “ring the bell” when the customer didn’t cancel. It was just business as usual.

Today, I find myself not on the sales side, but on the purchasing side. I’ve become your modern-day purchaser—first researching what I’m looking for online and finding solution providers. I read blogs, sign up for webinars and download whitepapers. I talk to salespeople who demo tools and make promises.

More often than not, I buy and then struggle with my purchase. The salesperson has moved on and the promises made along with them. It’s not until contract renewal time (and the price has gone up) that I finally hear from someone. It’s not that the company behind the service or tool I purchased did anything wrong. They just didn’t do anything right, especially in today’s world, where the customer is demanding high value and personalized experience.

Alignment of marketing, sales and customer service or service delivery is more important than ever. Sales may keep your top line growing, but client experience will protect your bottom line. Here are three simple lessons learned to help improve client experience that marketing, sales and customer service need to agree on.

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling

Lesson 1: Give Your Customer Some Breathing Room

We’ve all been there. You sign up for a webinar or download a whitepaper, and then an hour later, your inbox has blown up with emails and offers from the webinar host or the whitepaper author.

Layer in the webinar sponsors or speakers, and you are spending more time cleaning out your inbox than solving your business problems. Your information is added to a company database, and depending on your title and the type of company, you are now dealing with emails from multiple departments selling different services or solutions. Soon after, your phone starts ringing and you’re so frustrated you can’t even remember why you attended the webinar in the first place.

Let your customers do their homework. A simple thank-you-for-attending email with an invite to learn more is enough. Less really is more. Send emails periodically that align with their business needs—nothing more or you risk becoming irrelevant. Under no circumstances promise customer data to your vendors, sponsors, business partners, etc. Be careful about your own company access to their data or you might find your business has been added to the junk mail folder.

Lesson 2: Don’t Offer Incentives or Promises That Exceed Expectations

Think of your cable TV/internet provider experience—great incentives for new customers. Best HD channels, fastest internet speeds, promises your bill won’t be doubled in a year. After a month, your internet speeds slow down, and on top of that, you realize you have more pay-per-view options and infomercial channels than channels you actually watch.

You talk to several customer service reps and finally are asked to reboot your machine. It works for a few more weeks and then you’re back to slow speeds and more time spent with customer service. Fast forward 12 months, and your bill has gone up by more than 50%. When you call, you’re told it was a short-term promotion, and oh, by the way, you’re in a contract, so you’re stuck. Twelve months after that, you leave for another cable TV and internet provider and the process starts all over again. What’s interesting about this scenario is the only person who wins is the commission-based salesperson. The customer leaves and the company absorbs the costs associated with customer turnover.

Product or service must exceed what the sales team promised. Incentives to “buy now” might help drive market share, but if the product or service isn’t delivering value beyond price, then you’ll ultimately lose economic value.

Lesson 3: Value Customer Retention as Much as You Value New Customer Acquisition

A year ago, I purchased a software tool that was supposed to be the end-all-be-all to recruiting new candidates into the business. It was my easy button, but it was expensive. The demo seemed too good to be true, but this was a reputable company and the salesperson seemed honest and transparent.

I signed on the dotted line, paid the first installment, then nothing. No training, no onboarding, no live person to talk to. I was assigned a relationship manager and her email address only to learn she was out on extended leave and would “respond to my message in 4 months.”

The salesperson was long gone and wouldn’t return calls. I tried the online help, which pointed me to webinars that were only available during the later afternoon Pacific Time Zone (I am in the Eastern Time Zone). After a year of getting little to no value out of the pricey product, I canceled the contract. 

Since the cost to acquire a new customer is greater than retaining a current customer, you’d think more businesses would put a value on customer retention. Companies need to consider making sure service delivery has a seat at the table, in addition to sales, and that customer retention is celebrated just as much (if not more) than the new win.

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Jane Peer
Posted by
Jane Peer on Thu, Dec 26, 2019 @ 11:30


Topics: Customer Experience