How do you fix a sales relationship that got started the wrong way? Shari Levitin (@sharilevitin), author of Heart and Sell knows how. This sales expert, who is a friend of the redoubtable Jill Konrath (@jillkonrath), takes you through the steps of getting a sales relationship back on track in her article “How to Recover After Getting Off on the Wrong Foot.”
The reason I find this article so useful is that it’s not just about recovering a sales relationship; really, it’s about fixing any human relationship that you’ve messed up. (Anyone who reads my posts with any regularity knows that I think we’re all in sales every day, even though that’s not our job title.
Here’s what Ms. Levitin recommends.
“Admit Your Missteps.” In my opinion, this is really hard to do, which is what makes it essential. Ms. Levitin says, “Its always tempting to blame other people or external circumstances for our missteps, but when you do this, you fail to grow.” How true. I can think back, with embarrassment, of many times when I may have looked or even sounded contrite, but it was clear that I was palming my failure off on someone else. (I bet you can too.)
“Put the Shoe on the Other Foot.” In other words, be empathic. Really, truly listen to what your customer is saying. Ms. Levitin says, “You may or may not be able to make things better but you can start to mend the relationship.” Empathy is wonderful, but I think it may take practice. We’re living in a fast-moving world, and I wonder how many of us think there’s much reward in empathy.
“Don’t Get De-Feeted.” This suggestion speaks to our all-too-human desire to fix things fast, whether it’s a problematic sales relationship or our relationship with our Aunt Maude. Ms. Levitin suggests the we ask our customer what they’d like to do. She also cautions against making promises we can’t keep. And she says, “If you can’t fulfill a promise, proactively create new agreements, then make sure to follow through.” If this last idea seems just a little off, think about it. We all want what we want when we want it, but remember how you felt when the customer service rep suggested an acceptable alternative. Maybe not overjoyed, but reasonably o.k.
Moving a sales relationship that didn’t start well—or any relationship for that matter—forward requires courage, competence, and creativity. I’d like to think I’ve got those qualities at the ready, and I’m guessing that you do too.