A successful salesperson had a question. ‘Why don’t I get referrals (prospective customers referred to a salesperson) from customers?’
The responses from customer feedback forms made it clear that while his customers were satisfied with the product they had purchased, they complained that the salesperson was not reachable for after-sales queries. ‘It was frustrating to try and contact the sales executive when I had a query about the service schedule of my car [recently purchased from you]. You are only interested in selling your product.’ said one. Another was similar: ‘Your customer service is useless. After selling your product, you forget about the customer. You never call back!’
‘But, I am not in the service department,’ protested the salesperson, when confronted with this feedback. ‘I have enough on my hands already and why can’t the service department follow up?’
Note two critical points in this scenario, one that the salesperson, despite having made a good effort of presenting and selling his product, failed to get a positive response for his part, in the process. Instead, he received complaints. The second point, one which is disastrous for any enterprise, is that even though it had a full-fledged after-sales service department, customers complained about dissatisfaction with the organisation's service backup.
Both points relate to a breakdown in trust.
Trust is the key element in any business and yet, no prospective customer, when he meets a salesperson for the first time will ask, ‘Can I trust you?’ Trust is developed as the process goes along. At every stage of interaction, a prospective customer will look for the signs that will help build a relationship and to deem the salesperson and the organization as trustworthy.
And trust is not a temporary event; it is for the long haul. You trust a builder to build your house but your confidence in his workmanship and materials is eroded when the roof leaks.
How the builder responds to the situation, can help rebuild trust. Likewise, just being available to take the call, even if he was not associated with the service department, would be enough for the salesperson’s customers to now begin to trust the service personnel who are introduced to them, by the salesperson.
It is important to assess not only the sales performance of a team but the number of customer referrals that it is able to secure. An exercise like this, periodically conducted, will highlight the trust surplus or deficit.
Once disappointed, the question that customers will ask is, ‘Can I trust you again?’ but this rebuilding of trust is a difficult process and if it can be helped, such a situation is best avoided.