Overcoming Client Obstacles & Objections
It starts with understanding expectations1/18/2022 | Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, Cliff's Notes
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In today’s business climate, there is such a rush to get things done at break-neck speed – The Amazon© Effect, and while it is true one must be expeditious in getting orders processed and requests back to clients it must be complete and thorough. Clients have different expectations than we do, it’s inevitable. The challenge becomes when we do not understand their expectations AND they do not understand ours. Without those common understandings, challenges and frustrations arise, and these issues can be avoided if you do the work in advance.
Through my years of experience, I have found, most salespeople do a inadequate job of setting the tone, tempo, and joint expectation levels with their clients, especially in the very beginning of the relationship. While is no magic pill, experience has taught me, with the right preparation on the front end, there is far less grief, angst, and stress down the road, these relationships tend to be more loyal and positive.
Identify and Overcome
Identify challenges by asking the right questions up front
In the beginning, most obstacles can and should be identified with your first meeting, they should not be avoided. Many of our initial conversations are with the business owner, marketing, HR, an assistant, or other department heads; those departments rarely, if ever, write the checks.
Go back to the first discussions prior to even getting an order from your client
- What were those conversations like?
- What was the tone and tenor of the questions?
- Did you ask the right questions, or were you overly anxious to “GET THE ORDER”?
I always make it a habit to interview my initial client and as we get further into the relationship, I interview all relevant parties within the company – including but not limited to, graphics, marketing, HR, accounting. In some cases, depending on the size of the company, these areas may overlap, but I do my best to ensure I have a keen understanding of all aspects and set joint expectations in all areas. Let me share an example. If you do not understand ‘HOW’ you will be getting paid, it can create tension if your expectation is one thing and theirs is another.
- For instance, your terms are net 30 days, but they pay all their vendors in net forty-five or net sixty,
- They will pay in Net 30, but they only run checks on the 15th of every month, and it takes 2 weeks to process your invoice, and then their 30 days starts,
- Or, in the case with one of my old clients, they took 90 days to pay, AND took a 2% discount, I reinvoiced them for the 2%, and they took 90 days to pay, and yes, took 2% off that invoice.
- It would have been nice to know that information upfront with this client.
This is just one example; I could write for days on this one area. The only one to blame was me, I did not ask the questions, or set the expectations on the front end. If I had known those were their terms, I may have been able to make alternative arrangements, utilized a factoring source, or decide not to work with them at all; however, once in it, I was at their mercy.
Are there obstacles that keep occurring?
- It is you. What are your strengths?
For the solopreneur doing everything certainly creates strife, playing good cop, bad cop, accountant, customer service, salesperson, marketer can be draining. I encourage everyone to review your strengths, build on those and outsource the other tasks
- How do you communicate with your customer?
I always ask my clients, what is the best way to communicate with them - phone, email, in person. Be prepared for the unexpected.
- Even your best customer is going to throw you a curve.
As a consultant I have various clients, clients at all levels, recently, one of my clients told me I need to start working in ‘Dropbox’ and ‘Google Docs’ to communicate with their team. While I realize these platforms have been out for some time, I had never had the need to use them, but if I wanted this client, I needed to conform.
Do not take your customers for granted.
Just because you have created these joint expectations, things can and do change, Keep building upon the foundation, providing reasons why they should do business with you. One way is to revisit those expectations on both sides to see if they are still working. A simple review and a few germane questions to determine how communication and expectations are moving along will be appreciated by your client.
Typical Obstacles and Thoughts on Overcoming
This business can be frustrating and exasperating, but once again, the failure to communicate in detail, seems to be the root of most problems
Your client asks you for some “ideas,” you spend two hours putting together a proposal, make the presentation and you hear…
“Thank you for your ideas, now I have to get three bids…”
Frustrating, I agree, but first, assess the situation
- Did you understand the process from the beginning?
- What were their guidelines?
- Are you providing “intellectual content” that could/should have been protected?
Years back a record label called me, wanted my expertise, and wanted me to create a launch for one of their new artists. I will never forget this, as I was so excited to be working on this project. I got a few lame questions answered, artists name, theme, and budget – but I did not go deep enough. I went back to the office, started sketching, making vendor calls, overnighting in samples, making custom prototypes; three days later I made the pitch, came in three dollars per kit under budget. Client loved the concept, said he would get back, rather, he took my idea, shopped it elsewhere, did the program, my program, and I never saw a dime. Ethically it was wrong, but this challenge was MY FAULT, I failed to get clarity. Always seek clarity and ask the hard questions.
- My boss is out, I will run it by him/her…
- Great ideas, I will show to the committee…
Are you dealing with the decision maker? In the beginning, ask, “Who besides yourself will be involved in the decision-making process?” If there is a committee, ask to make a presentation to the committee. The reason is to fully understand the scope of the project and the ability to answer any questions. It will help shorten the process.
- Will not return my phone calls, emails…
- Your contact is gone, now what…
I can find it “cheaper” on the internet…
A great question in the beginning, where do you typically source items you are looking for? If you know up front it is the internet, you can generally assume they are about price, if you get in that situation, you can overcome the challenge by asking
- Can you provide with me more details?
- Are we comparing apples to apples?
- Did you check into additional charges, set-ups, additional imprint colors, run charges?
- Are they providing you additional options?
- What happens if something goes wrong?
Customer/prospect wants more ideas…
When is enough, enough? How many times should you go back to customer with more ideas? What is an idea?
- If it is over three times, something is missing.
- Is this something that keeps happening to you?
- Go back to review initial meeting notes
- Is it misinformation, lack of information, lack of good communication, did you not ask the right questions, enough questions?
In all cases, have you set YOUR expectations with the client? Yes, you are entitled to, and should have expectations. These expectations should be your pillars, the bedrock of how you run your business.
- How you will be paid, in other words, your terms – no assuming
- Net 15/30/60, 2% 10, Net 30, deposit with initial order
- We charge for samples + freight, rebatable with an order
- Program based rebates (not a big fan but if you choose to do so, make sure you are clear) i.e., ‘we give a 10% rebate on all orders purchased from January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022, freight, set-ups and rush charges are not part of the rebate program numbers. Minimum dollar purchase during that time is $20,000.00, not rebates given if the $20K threshold is not met.
- All returns/claims must be made within seven days from receipt of the order
- Creative Idea Generation - who owns the concept?
- Your hourly rate for creative work
- The difference between product and creative work
A great example would be to review the general information from one of your many quality suppliers, while not all of their information listed will be relevant, it’s a great jump off point
Be Prepared. Anticipate obstacles and how to handle them, and be ready to respond
Define mutual expectations: Do not wait until there is a problem to begin defining what each other wants or needs.
Put it and get it in Writing: assumptions will kill most companies, archive conversations, safe emails,
Establish a track record. Build your chips, you never know when you will need to cash one in for a favor.
Continue to reinvent yourself. Keep giving new reasons why a customer should be doing business with you. Having solid joint expectations is one of them.
With joint expectations laid out in advance, the relationship flourishes, stress is lessened, loyalty is increased, and you can comfortably do what you do best, provide amazing solutions and run a successful business!
Until next time, continued good selling - CQ
For nearly 40 years, Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, MASI, with his company, Cliff Quicksell Associates, has been speaking, coaching, training, and consulting both nationally and internationally to associations and small business groups, on more effective ways to market themselves, their products, and services; as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid Award over 30 times, the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity 5 times, and Regional Association CPPA’s Peak Award 3 consecutive years. Cliff has coached countless others with the same result. Cliff received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years; and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100", as having a significant influence in education in our industry. He was recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. Cliff’s BLOG 30 Seconds to Greatness won the Award for Most Passed Around Content. Cliff’s most recent book, 30 Seconds to Greatness, is available on his website www.QuicksellSpeaks.com Connect with him on LinkedIn or via email at cliff@QuicksellSpeaks.com
Cliff will be launching his 30 Minutes to Greatness PODCAST in the next couple of months geared specifically for small business owners and entrepreneurship. Connect with Cliff to get connected to this free podcast.
Used with permission from PromoCorner