It’s Like the Wild West Out There…
“We’ll buy out your contract, no matter how much you owe.
We’ll match any price, guaranteed.
Leave your current provider and get your first month free.”
Ah, the old bait and switch. We’ve all been tempted by deals and offers that sound too good to be true, only to be confronted with the cold hard truth when the fine print tells us there’s almost always a catch.
Things are rarely as easy as any cell phone carrier, cable provider, car dealer, appliance salesman, or furniture store would have you believe. They’ve typically already calculated the arrangement that works for them, and have found a way to package it and present it so that you believe you’re getting a steal of a deal, as you walk out the door with the wool over your eyes. Keep reading to learn how to avoid the showdown.
That’s why we’re calling for a sales revolution. B2B, B2C, it doesn’t matter. When did companies stop relying on the quality of their services to win business? When did smoke and mirrors and stepping on the competition’s toes become the only way to grow?
It seems like there’s a certain caliber of companies who utilize showy tactics and pretentiously “uncomplicated” sales maneuvers (which are so complicated in actuality that they spent several months and several million to develop at company HQ), perhaps in an attempt to redeem their reputation or attract a new demographic.
But there are still plenty of well-established, good old-fashioned companies occupying the upper echelon of reputable businesses who do things the right way and rely solely on customer satisfaction rather than jumping through hoops, staging thinly-veiled distractions, and damaging their own credibility. These businesses won’t have you walk off a cliff blindfolded into shark-infested waters because they still believe in the mantras “Under-sell, over-deliver,” and “Do right by the customer, and the customer will do right by you.”
Let’s take a look at how to identify (and be) the kind of company that customers want to do business with – and how to spot (or not be seen as) a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The Top 10 Things Reputable Businesses Do (or Don’t Do) To Win Your Respect
Be on the lookout for these good omens and warning signs next time you’re about to negotiate a deal to make sure you don’t get played:
- A company that is secure in what it has to offer isn’t afraid to recommend other businesses. As a matter of fact, it may proudly proclaim partnerships. This is the mark of a company that knows where it excels and doesn’t claim to be something it’s not – but also an indicator that the company isn’t greedy or desperate.
- Reputable businesses don’t bash their competitors, period.
While explaining differences in approach, philosophy, or pricing, the right company will be careful not to slander or insult another company just to keep you from taking your business elsewhere. As a matter of fact, the most trustworthy companies will encourage you to shop around and compare prices – usually because they know that theirs are already the best or because they trust that you, the buyer, will make an educated decision about how to spend your money after you’ve done some research. Companies who run from the facts by painting other businesses in a negative light should be avoided.
- Don’t be fooled by the businesses who constantly rely on the inflatable waving men, flashy promotional products, or perpetual advertisements of huge blowout sales to get you in the door. Short of a grand opening, these tactics actually do very little to build brand credibility. Reputation is everything, and word-of-mouth advertising is much more telling than how many marketing dollars a company threw at a catchy banner. Without the services to back up the glitz, appearance doesn’t mean much. If you really want to evaluate a company, check out their presence online and see if you can find honest reviews on popular consumer sites who often screen against bias, like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, and the like. If a company puts more time and effort into an outside façade than public perception, it might be more likely to waste your time and money too.
- Reputable businesses don’t bash their competitors, period.
- Smart businesses train their employees to treat every client with respect. Think about the last time a buying experience or business negotiation left you feeling respected and satisfied instead of stressed and pressured. That’s an experience you aren’t likely to forget, and it’s probably safe to say you’d become a repeat customer and/or refer your friends! If a sales associate or company representative makes the effort to identify with you on a personal level, asking you questions relevant to your preferences and buying behavior, remembering your name and something you just told them five minutes ago; if they spend time with you and make you feel important because they aren’t distracted by their cell phone or another customer walking through the door, then congratulations – you’re not just a number. The customer service revolution is real and it’s here – even with increases in automation and technology, consumers are still saying they prefer a personalized buying experience, and businesses are listening. Well, the ones that are worth their salt anyway.
- A tried and true way to determine whether or not a company deserves your business is to test their responsiveness. Respectable businesses will work hard for you and they’ll value your time. Surprisingly, small companies or businesses of one will often get back to you more quickly, even without dozens of customer service reps and automated workflow systems. Sometimes an ordinary phone call and some positive, timely interaction are all it takes to turn a prospect into a client – and the businesses who understand this are the ones you want to deal with.
- Beware of the pushers! Overly aggressive sales pitches, persuasive language, and following a customer around a store are indications that the driving force behind the interaction is money, not the customer’s happiness. Many types of sales associates are rewarded for encouraging and landing purchases, and some even have sales quotas that they’re penalized for not reaching. This business model can set individual employees up for failure, because they end up projecting the pressure they feel onto the prospect or customer, who is then likely to be “turned off” and not want to be bothered. We’ve all been there, when “I’m just browsing” in a clothing store turns into hiding from the chipper retail ambassador between the racks of shirts and walls of jeans as she reminds you for the seventh time that everything in the store is 30% off. The finesse behind making a sale, in many cases, is to communicate to the customer without selling. Companies who take an educational, consultative approach instead of cramming numbers down your throat to push you closer to a decision are the ones who have mastered the subtle art of customer satisfaction.
- Many discerning buyers, whether individual consumers or corporations, request references in large proposal or high-dollar situations. If a company can’t cough up a handful of quality references on-demand, then chances are they’re not very well-established or well-respected. And if they don’t care about the opinions of others and being backed by credible institutions, then it’s no wonder why they are where they are. Transparency and full disclosure are things that can either work for or largely against a company. It’s like surveys: if a company asks for your feedback, they’re likely to be sure they’re already doing a good job (and it’s a good sign that they care enough to find out if there’s something that needs improvement). Don’t be afraid to ask for references – be afraid when you don’t get them. If you feel like a company is hiding something, then it’s time for you to hide your wallet.
- Ask for the free consultation and take it! Regardless of how esteemed a company may be, the initial appointment is everything. This sales strategy is quite common for a reason – because it works. A company in good standing (or who wants to earn your business) will make you feel like you’re getting something for nothing. It may be a consultation, an estimate, a quote, an analysis, or a meeting of some sort, but if they offer it for free, you should take it! Savvy companies offer complimentary services as a way to earn your attention – once they have it, they know they need to present you with something that will convert it. If the consultation isn’t captivating (or if the quote is too high), then you can walk away without having lost anything. Don’t look at it as a waste of time – look at is as education that saved you from wasting money.
- Have you ever felt duped by a company or representative who didn’t keep their word? Some companies will say anything to get you to take out your checkbook, and then once you do, they vanish (along with much of what they promised to do for you). If you’ve ever been the victim of last-minute changes to the details of a contract, missed deadlines, hidden fees, and a general feeling that something wasn’t what it seemed, then don’t fall prey to that again. You can avoid being tricked by repeating and writing down what you’re told; confirming and reaffirming dates, times, details, and appointments; recording the name of the person with whom you’re dealing and/or their supervisor if necessary; and asking for written confirmation of the arrangement, for your records and safekeeping. Worthwhile companies will be prepared to soothe even the most assertive customer, and they will always keep their word.
- And lastly, look at how a company’s employees are treated. This is a massive indicator of how a business runs. Statistics have proven that employees feel good about their work and take their jobs more seriously when treated with respect and given flexibility. Employees who are neglected or treated poorly are likely to fool around, work slowly, be distracted by their cell phones, gossip, and exhibit negative attitudes and behaviors, which will poison company morale and directly impact the customer experience. Especially in franchises or large corporations, clear-cut policies, employee satisfaction and convenience, a company culture of openness and humanity, and community involvement are all among the leading factors which contribute to employee happiness and the overall health of a business. If you see smiling faces and everyone doing their job well, it’s likely to be a snapshot of things functioning well behind the scenes and positive, hands-on leadership trickling down from the top.