SMU Data and Models

The Truth About Selling Steel: Eliminate Angry Customers by Being Proactive

Written by John Packard

I remember one time I became so irate with a customer that I literally was standing on my desk and screaming at him on the phone.  It may have made me feel better for a couple of minutes but it didn’t do much to enhance the customer’s experience with the company I represented. Nor did it do much to improve my reputation both within the company as well as with the customer.

There are times when you are going to come across a customer who just doesn’t see the world in the same shades of green and blue as you do. Expectations can vary and conflict is unavoidable, or is it?

Over the years one of the first lessons I learned was if I spent the time preparing the customer for the worst then the only thing we could do we exceed expectations. For example I would tell new customers: This is our first order, something is bound to go wrong. Just know I am here for you and our company will make it right (and we are good at learning from our mistakes as opposed to repeating them).

The second lesson I learned over time is to make sure that the customer, your company and you are all on the same page. You do this by 1) having everyone involved verbally repeat the terms and conditions and expectations of the sale and 2) then put it on paper – a purchase order that is both legible and logical and spells out the same conditions discussed verbally earlier. You and your company are also well served by acknowledging the purchase order as agreed to earlier.

Over the weekend I was involved in negotiations to purchase a house that required an offer, counter offer and revisions until both parties agreed to all conditions. It doesn’t take too many truckloads to equal the full value of a house so the thought process should not be any different. Do not let inconsistencies, errors of omission or misrepresentation of the original agreement go by without being addressed, corrected and agreed to by all parties.

If there is a flow to the way your company does business let the customer know up front (what does your company require besides price and delivery dates?) and you should also be sensitive to what is required by your counter-party as well.

Hopefully by being proactive and realistic will improve the chances of having a harmonious relationship with your customers.

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