Archive for December, 2011

How are you getting past the gatekeeper?

One of the fundamental skills an entrepreneur must learn if they are to develop a successful business is the ability to get past the gatekeeper; in other words, the receptionist, personal assistant or secretary who stands between you and the key decision maker of a company.

Most influential people or business owners will establish some form of shield to safeguard their time and relieve workload pressure.  This means your email, phone call or visit is likely to be wasted, unless you cultivate the skills which will enable you to bypass these defences.

Good salespeople tend to differentiate their voice so they don’t sound like they’re ringing from a call centre. Asking for the decision-maker’s first name will give the impression you’re already well acquainted.
A strong and professional tone will project an air of seniority and the gatekeeper may not wish to offend you by probing too deeply into your purpose for calling.

Successfully bypassing the gatekeeper involves more research on the prospect and fewer calls. You need to understand who you’re dealing with and identify an angle or common ground that effortlessly leads on to your message.

It’s important that during your research you identify the key decision-maker straightaway and make sure you talk to them otherwise your message is ultimately lost. Business owners should adopt a different strategy when communicating to corporate clients, SMEs or sole traders.

Be friendly with the gatekeeper and create a relationship. The more you can engage the gatekeeper, the more successful you will be at getting close to the decision maker. Ask the gatekeeper about the best time and method of contacting the decision-maker. Help the gatekeeper to look good in the business eyes of their boss by providing a solution to them.
Gatekeepers aren’t just there to field calls, their judgement can be key to providing added value to the decision maker’s business so their influence should be respected.

The first call should always be about research and not the sale. Gatekeepers will know and understand an organisation inside and out and will know who you should be talking to.

Friday afternoons are a good time to call especially if you want the senior decision maker.

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How do you deal with awkward customers?

All business owners, despite their best efforts, occasionally face dissatisfaction from their clients. It’s how you respond to the disappointment or mistake that determines whether there will ever be an opportunity for a reprieve.

A mismatch between a customer’s expectations and your business philosophy can have major implications for your future relationship. But in this economic climate, is it worth cultivating such a customer and turning them into a good client or are we better off letting them remain an infrequent buyer?

Is it sensible to take on every customer that comes through the door or do we still need to put in procedures to find out whether people are going to be good customers or awkward?

The important thing to remember is to put everything in writing so people’s expectations from the sale to the delivery of the product or service are understood by the customer and the supplier. Businesses should be as explicit as they possibly can about what they can and can’t provide and what a particular product includes or excludes so there can be no confusion once delivery has taken place.

Once someone has complained it gives you a great opportunity to turn them into a good customer because if they’ve taken the chance to express their unhappiness at least they feel sufficiently interested to complain rather than walk away.

Many angry or dissatisfied customers are venting their frustration or anger at things outside of the situation – perhaps in their personal lives – and if you take the time to listen and empathise it can often take the sting out of the tail and you can then move forward.

It’s important the complaint is acted on immediately and follow-up is therefore essential. When responding to dissatisfied customers, it’s far better to use the phone rather than email however a quick email to say you’re looking into the problems will bide you time and allow for things to calm down.

Perhaps there is no such thing as a difficult customer and perhaps all complaining customers can be turned into valuable customers for the future.

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