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Give More Than Expected.doc

Give More Than Expected

If sales are the engine that drives a Company, then service is the lubrication that keeps it humming like a well-oiled machine. Sales and service are inseparable. Sales depend heavily upon service and service cannot exit without sales.

Every time you interact with a customer, whether in person, on the phone, through a fax or via email, you are an ambassador for your Company. Based on what you say, how you present yourself, how you interact with the customer, and your attitude, you are delivering a clear impression about your company. Remember, too, that every person in every position in the Company interacts with a customer, whether it is an internal customer or one that is external. Both deserve proper respect and treatment.

If you’re smart you’ll want the message to be: Dear customer, we value you, and we care about your satisfaction. Please come back so we can serve you again.

Deliver that message consistently, time after time, customer after customer and you’ll make your customers actively prefer to do business with you. In today’s competitive companying environment, you can make the difference. This is accomplished by how you communicate and how you go about servicing the customer. You make the difference between receiving merely good service or outrageously great service.

What are those simple, ordinary and impressionable courtesies we can show our customers? I refer to them as Moments of Truth. A MOT is “any episode where a customer comes into contact with any aspect of your Company, and by this contact, has an opportunity to form an opinion.”

Most of the time we don’t even know when a customer is forming an opinion about their recent interaction with the Company, but they happen all the time. Moments of Truth might include calling on the phone to get a CD rate, pulling up to the drive-through window, standing in line waiting to make a deposit, asking questions about a mortgage or home equity loan, or wondering why their ATM/debt card isn’t working correctly. Each time they have an opportunity to form an opinion – what’s it going to be?

The best way to insure you are consistently making a positive impression with customers is to think about the “Added Value Proposition.” What I mean by this is doing something that adds value to the interaction with the customer and clearly communicates that they are important. It can be as simple as saying “Thank you” and accompanying it with a smile.

When the customer feels they are valued, understood, and listened to, they will have a more positive opinion of your institution. When that happens they are far more likely to recommend your Company to someone else, and they will be far more willing to overlook a “glitch” in customer service if that ever happens.

Here are some suggestions that have been proven to make the difference between average service and exceptional service.

  1. Commit to Personal Excellence – Believe in your ability – and your need – to make a difference and make sure that shows in your attitude.
  1. Value the customer at all times – A hint: without the customer we have no job.
  1. Listen carefully – Clearly understand the customer’s needs and be sure that you have heard them out.
  1. Exceed customer expectations – Always go the extra mile. Ask yourself if there is anything additional that you can say or do to make them feel valued.
  1. Be there – Stay focused on the customer.
  1. Commit to take action – Do something to assist the customer.
  1. Meet Deadlines – If you need to get back to the customer, do it in a timely manner even if you haven’t completely resolved their issue.
  1. Follow-up – When you see them again or talk to them on the phone, make sure they are satisfied.
  1. Ask to do it again – “Is there anything I can do for you today?”

John Connors is the CEO of the Connors Group. He can be reached at 518-505-4836, jconnors@theconnorsgroup.net,  www.theconnorsgroup.net


Sales is a Contact Sport.doc


“Sales is a Contact Sport”

By John Connors

Tell the truth now: when you first read the title of this article, an image flashed through your head. Maybe it was an NFL lineman tackling a would-be client, or perhaps it was an Olympic wrestler, grappling a sales prospect into submission.

It’s a funny image, but at its core is a serious thought: many people – perhaps even you – think of sales as an essentially coercive activity in which the sales person manipulates other people into buying things they don’t want or need. Certainly there are some sales people who operate that way.

But that is not the way you need to – or should – conduct sales in your financial institution. Here’s the thing you need to realize: sales – the kind of sales that produces loyal clients who come back again and again – is a helping relationship. That’s right, a helping relationship. There are people out there who need – and I mean that in a literal sense – what your financial institution has to offer. Your job, as a sales person for your institution, is to connect with those people, find out what their needs are, and present your institutions products and services in a way that they can make an informed decision whether to take advantage of those products and services or not. It’s just that simple.

At the heart of that process is contact, human contact between your institution and the prospective client. That’s why sales is a contact sport. And here is why you are essential to the process. Every institution has infrastructure – IT, branch offices, and so forth. On top of that, every institution has products and services, which frankly, most people don’t understand very well. The only way that the majority of people can make better decisions about your products and services is by contact with you – or someone like you – who can explain how your institution’s offerings can meet their needs. Contact is the critical glue between clients, you, and your institution.

Let me give you a quick example. A colleague was a client at one institution, and he received a direct mail offer from another institution that seemed very attractive. He went to his current institution and announced his intention to change to the competitor. The institution manager was sharp enough to ask, “Why do you want to do that?” My friend explained the alleged advantages of the account the competition was offering.

            “We have something exactly like that,” the manager said.

            “You do?”

            “Absolutely,” the manager replied. “If you like, I can switch you over; you can keep all your existing checks, and we’ll be done in five minutes.” Just a few minutes later, they shook hands, and everyone walked away satisfied. Note well: there was no coercion in this interchange but a high level of friendly, helpful, and sincere contact.

This brief encounter also demonstrates a key point that anyone who is involved in selling for any financial institution needs to know: it is at least five times harder to win a new client than it is to retain an existing client.

Some time ago I created a training program, called “Solution Selling,” that teaches people how to sell that result in strong client relationships and with integrity by meeting people’s needs and offering solutions to their problems. What follows is a brief overview of the key points.

The sales process is divided into four key steps.

Prospecting - is identifying new potential clients and maintaining a healthy sales pipeline. Sometimes this means reaching out through mailing lists, business periodicals, business associates, or community organizations. But the sad truth is that most financial institutions do an abysmally poor job of mining a superb source of prospects – their own client list!

Needs Discovery - involves finding out what the prospective client’s needs are. Usually all this requires is talking to them and asking some questions, but sometimes you’ll need to do a bit of creative thinking. For example, if you have a client who has several high-dollar money market and CD accounts, it’s a reasonable bet they might be a good prospect for your investment services group. Or that couple who just were approved for a mortgage could potentially be prospects for life insurance.

Demonstrate Product Value -  is really just showing the client what the value of the product or service is to him or her. For example, that individual with the high-dollar money market and CD accounts would probably appreciate knowing that he or she could potentially earn a higher rate of return with other investments.

Overcoming Objections - revolves around identifying objections the prospect may have and creating ways to respond. This is not coercion or arm-twisting but listening and responding with the appropriate facts or solutions.

Sometimes the four steps happen all at once. For example, when someone comes up to your desk and says, “I need a checking account,” you might go through all four steps in a single encounter. At other times, the process might stretch over hours, days or weeks. When that happens, your CRM software will make sure you maintain contact, keep any commitments you may have made, and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Along the way, you may find that reaching out to people, discovering their needs, showing how your institution’s offerings can meet them, and creatively responding to their objections is not only a contact sport, but also one that you enjoy and be successful.

John Connors is the CEO of the Connors Group and creator of Solution Selling. He can be reached at jconnors@theconnorsgroup.net - 518-505-4836.


Selling in Today's Economy.doc


Selling in Today’s Economy – The Rules Have Changed

When your customers resume buying – will your sales people be ready to sell?

By John Connors

            You’d have to be an extremely serious recluse to be unaware of what is going on in the national and global economy: “things are bad,” the newscasters intone, “and they may get worse before they get better.” There’s a lot of finger pointing going on, trying to determine how this mess arose and who did what to whom. But beyond all the accusations, the questions, and the uncertainty, you can be sure of one thing: the rules have changed for selling in the Today’s Economy.

            Now, maybe you’re sitting there thinking: “I don’t sell; I just work at this financial institution.” If you feel that way, it’s probably because you have a vague sense that selling is the act or process of getting people to buying products they don’t want or need. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the most successful form of selling is based on developing a relationship: it’s finding out what people need and then assisting them in meeting those needs by matching them up with the appropriate products and services your institution offers.

            Typically, the sales process usually occurs in five stages.

  • Greet and acknowledge is simply saying hello to the client and letting them know that you are there to help. It can be as simple as: “Good morning! How can I help you today?”
  • Uncover needs is finding out what the prospective client’s needs are. We’ll get back to this in just a bit.
  • Demonstrate product value involves showing the client what the value of the product or service is to him or her.
  • Overcoming objections centers on identifying objections the prospect may have and creating ways to respond. This is not coercion or arm-twisting but listening and responding with the appropriate facts or solutions.
  • Closing the sale is finalizing the transaction: setting the account up for the client and so forth.

            Read almost any book on sales, and you’ll likely see those five steps (or something very close to them) mentioned.


            Until recently, you could view the flow of the sales process in financial institutions in a kind of shorthand:

  • Person – You greet the person and find out what their needs are.
  • Product – You present the product(s) that meet the client’s needs and close the sale.
  • (Rarely) Institution – Occasionally, clients would ask questions about the financial institution, but more often the sales person would simply state that the institution had X number of branches and so many ATM machines in a variety of locations for the client’s convenience.

Now, however, a new element has been introduced into the sales flow: fear. That’s right; the dreaded specter of financial collapse and ruin is stalking the corridors and lobbies of financial institution. Chances are the client you greet tomorrow morning has recently seen a newscast or read an article that affirms “This is the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it may get worse.” Your client has seen with his or her own eyes the collapse of name-brand institutions, accompanied by reports that others (also name brand) are teetering on the edge.

So now the sales rules have changed. Now, when a prospective client shows up at your window or desk, they aren’t just looking for a checking account (or other financial product), they are looking for reassurance. They want to know that your financial institution is stable and that it won’t collapse, taking their money with it.

This concern changes the flow of the sales process. Now before you begin to identify the needs of the client, it becomes:

  • Institution – You reassure them of the stability of your institution.
  • Product – You need to reassure the client the recommended product is solid and secure.
  • Person – Then when the client feels the institution/product is safe and secure you begin to establish a relationship.

Key to doing this is establishing an atmosphere of trust. There are two primary ways you can do this. First, in dealing initially with the person, you focus on communicating with them with sincerity and concern so you can understand the client’s concerns. You ask questions designed to uncover their needs so that you can meet them accurately with what your institution offers. This shows them that you care.

Obviously, you don’t do something crass, like bringing up the possibility of financial institutions failing when the client hasn’t mentioned it, but if they give evidence of concern about the financial future, a word of reassurance about your institution will be well received.

After you have uncovered the client’s needs, reassured them about your financial institution, then it is crucial that you show the client the value of the product or service that you are recommending to meet their need. For example, in a conversation with a client it may go something like “Mr. Jones based on what you are telling me, I feel this particular product would best fit your needs because the “value to you is . . . .” By explaining the ‘value’ of the product to the client it shows how it will directly benefit them and allows you the salesperson to focus on selling ‘value and product solutions.’

Lastly, there is a final key to selling in this economy – Follow Up. I recommend following the 2x2x2 rule. Two days after you have opened Ms. Smith’s new account, follow up with her: “I just wanted to let you know your new checks should arrive in about 4 days. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

In two weeks, follow up again: “I wanted to make sure you received your checks. Do you have any questions I can answer about your new account?”

Finally, in two months, check in again: “I just wanted to make sure everything is working well with your new account. I noticed you are carrying a high balance. We have a terrific money market account that offers a little higher interest rate. [or make mention of some other product or offer that might be of interest.]”

If you take time to truly communicate with people, discover their needs, project the solidity of your institution, demonstrate the value of your products, and follow up 2x2x2, don’t be surprised if you do very well and find your clients referring their friends and relatives to you for meeting their needs for financial products and services.

Contact Info:

John Connors is the CEO for the Connors Group located in Ballston Lake NY. He is the author of two very successful books titled; "Everybody Sells, Increase Your Competitive Advantage," and "Service Slam Dunk, How to Win and Keep Loyal Customers With Outstanding Services". John is also co-author of another informative book titled, "Real World Communication Strategies that Work", published by Insight Publishing.

Phone Number -         518-505-4836
Email Address -         jconnors@theconnorsgroup.net
Web Site -                www.theconnorsgroup.com



The 4 L's of Selling.doc


The Four L’s of Selling

By John Connors

 

Anyone who is in a selling situation, especially anyone who is evaluated or remunerated based on how well they sell, might want to think about how they can improve their selling skills.

Recently I’ve come up with four key words – the four L’s of selling – that encapsulate the four key steps in truly high performance selling.

But before we get into the four L’s, let’s agree on one thing. Let’s agree that true selling is, most emphatically, not scheming, wheeling, badgering, manipulating, or otherwise forcing someone to buy something they neither want nor need. If that is what you’re looking for, you can stop reading now, because you won’t find it in this article.

Let’s agree instead that true selling is the fine art of finding the best match between what the client needs or wants and what you have to offer. With that settled, let’s get on to the four L’s.

Listen

Before you can find a match between what you have to offer and what the client desires, you first have to find out what it is they actually need or want. This involves listening, and many people have a dreadful misconception about listening. Many conceive of listening as a passive skill: you sit there, the client talks, and the words wash over you, a bit like standing in the shower.

But the kind of listening that you have to put into play if you want to improve your selling skills is active listening. This involves clearing your mind of what is going on around you, what you hope to have for dinner tonight, or any of a myriad of other concerns that might pop into your brain. To really listen involves actively concentrating and focusing in on what the client has to say. By doing this you will not only begin to discover what the client’s needs or wants, but by paying close attention to what they are saying, listening to the tone of their voice, observing their body language you will show that you value them as a person and begin to establish rapport.

Remember, the client needs to feel that there is some true rapport taking place and understanding of their needs before they will trust your recommendations.

Learn

Learning involves diving deeper or drilling down into what the client has to say. This means you will have to ask appropriate questions regarding their true need. So if the client says they need a checking account, you need to find out if it is personal or commercial, how many checks they plan to write a month, what sort of balance they expect to maintain, and so forth. If they want to rollover an IRA into your investment department, you need to find out what their goals are and what level of risk they are willing to tolerate. You also need to find out what the client’s expected schedule is and their sense of urgency.

Once you think you understand what the client needs or wants, you need to verify that your understanding is correct. You can do this by asking verifying questions: “Ms. Smith, if I have understood you correctly, you would like a checking account with the following characteristics . . .” And when you asking verifying questions, make sure that you listen carefully to the answers.

Leverage

When you understand the needs or wants of the client, along with their sense of urgency, it’s time for you to leverage your ‘product knowledge. Based on your understanding of the client’s needs and your product knowledge it says to the client you can identify a product or service that matches that solves the client’s dilemma.

Sometimes, though, there isn’t a perfect match between the customer’s desire and what is available. That’s when the need for true selling creativity arises: “Well, Mr. Jones, we don’t have a checking account that offers all of the features that you want, but if you’re willing to keep some of your money in a checking account and some in a money market account, we should be able to accomplish your goals.”

There are two additional points that need to be made here. First, in order for you to leverage your understanding of the products, you must truly understand those products. If you lack that understanding, you need to obtain it by whatever means necessary if you want to be successful in selling.

Second, you need to take seriously the need to match what you are proposing to the customer’s needs and wants. Recently, a colleague was considering rolling over some investments. He asked for a recommendation for federally insured alternatives, stressing that he was not interested in any investment product that could possibly lose capital. When he received the response in the mail, the recommended investment vehicle was not federally insured and said prominently “it may go down in value.” In his view, it was a totally useless response.

Lead

Once you have listened to the customer, learned what they need, and leveraged your knowledge to create a solution that meets the need, it’s time to take the lead: “Mrs. Johnson, I think this will do what you asked for. If you are ready to move forward on this, here’s what I will do, and here’s what I need from you.”

If the client needs more time to decide or is not prepared to move ahead immediately, make a note to follow up to see if you can help in any way. If you have committed to take a certain action by a certain date, make sure you do it and follow up with the client to let them know that it has been accomplished. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to keep your commitment, contact the client immediately, explain the issue, and set a new specific commitment with the client.

If the client fails to keep their commitment, follow up with them in a very service-oriented way. You want to show the client that you are anxious to serve them well, not berate them for failing to do what they said they would do.

If you put the 4 L’s to work for you in a conscientious way, I think you’ll find that your sales performance will improve and so will your client satisfaction.

John Connors
CEO
The Connors Group
www.theconnorsgroup.net
jconnors@theconnorsgroup.net


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