Hi, may I take five minutes of your time?

You have this service or product to sell… or at least to show and / or explain to potential customers. And you are so excited that the moment you get hold of one, whether over the phone or at public places, you start to rattle off and on, only to be interrupted by the impatient customer that he has no time; and he walks off, fed-up, because he feels you were rude and aggressive and you did not give him a chance to back-up. Have you been there?

My dear friends, service excellence concerns not just the ability to smile, listen and act proactively, manage difficult customers, service recovery, and so on… To be excellent in service also relates to how sensitive you are towards your customers. Now, this happpened in the office. I was in the thick of my work when a call came in. I picked the call by its third ring (now, an element of service here – promptness in picking up the call).

“Hi, could I speak to John”, asked the caller.

“Yes, this is John.”, was my reply.

“Hi John. I am Dave. I called the other day regarding the Unit Trust Fund that I recommended and you requested me to email you the details. Now there is a further promotion on this fund. If you make a purchase with the next two weeks, you will get an extra five percent on top of your purchase. You will also get a free gift – an 4gb creative MP3 player. On top of that,, you stand a chance to win…”, and he rattled on!

How do you think I reacted? You are definitely right if you guess that I stopped him short and told him that I did not have the time, and I needed to get back to my work – I was in the office, and I was in the thick of my work!

Yes, we all know that – you are in sales; you are excited about the product you are offering, and you need to reach your target of $10000 worth of sales each month. But if your customers are busy, and you have not noticed that, I am sorry. Not only will you not meet your target, you will also have customers shying away from you each time they know it’s you on the line, or they see you from a distance.

It’s so simple to be sensitive to your customers. First, you observe them. Their eyes, facial expression, and their movement – if they seem hurried to go somewhere, don’t try to stop them. They may even get upset and chide you for getting in their way. Just smile to them as they pass you by. With your pleasantry, they may even slow down and check up what you are offering. Two, if it’s a call you’re making, first check if the customer has the time for you. A simple way to start would be – “Hi, John. I am Jimmy from x-y-z company. I would like to explain a Savings Fund that could easily help you earn 5% interest – the best interest in town right now. May I have about five minutes of your time?” You start off with a self-introduction. You go on to explain, as brief as possible why you call (notice that I try to entice the customer?), and then you actually ask for permission, to have about five minutes of his time.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you receive such a call, how would you react to the sales guy? You probably want to listen more, and you would say ‘yes’ to his five-minute request. if you’re really busy, chances are you would request for some details from the sales guy so that you could do some checks on your own, or you could arrange to have him call you back. But if you are really not interested, that’s fine. The sales person will have to go on with the next call. Nobody ever said that sales through cold-calls are easy, anyways…:)

Now, let us all remember, being sensitve to your customers is vital. Whether it’s introducing a product to your customers at public places or it’s via phone calls that you are making, take that extra effort to check if the customers are available for you. If he is not, don’t try to push on; you will only incur his or her wrath.

One more thing – if you ask for five minutes of your customer’s time, be sure to keep it to within the time. TRUST is of the essence here. In other words, know how much time you need. If it’s the customer who is stretching the time by asking alot of questions, then it may be good news. he is probably interested. But still, you may have to subtely apologise for the stretched time, although it’s not totally your fault.

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