How To Improve Your Relationships With Customers


(By James Bahm) One good thing about Radio Sales is that the AE is, most likely, the customer’s single point of contact for the duration of your relationship. You receive information from billing, production, and every other department and it’s up to you to disseminate all the information to your client. The question is: How do you relay it?

I’ve worked with several types of sellers and managers throughout my career. The chronic prevaricators, the ones who say anything even though they don’t mean it, ones who let all the information sit for a week or two before acting, and those who are proactive and continually engage their client. And there are some companies that have several individuals who must communicate with clients.

The more people who communicate with a client, the more important it is that you deliver a consistent message – these three promises will not only improve your company’s relationship with its clients, but it can also improve internal communication and inter-departmental relationships, too.

About 18-months ago I realized that I cannot control what my colleagues said to my clients; however, I could control what I said to my customers the first time I spoke with them, and this has made a world of difference for my customers.

I remember how upset one of the first clients I made these promises to was when I spoke with them. You may have a bit of apprehension yourself at making such bold statements; however, I promise you this: from the newest member of your team to the GM, if you make these promises to everyone with whom you communicate, your working relationships will improve.

I recommend you make these promises to your clients just before you begin your C.N.A. – make it part of your introduction.

1. I will NEVER tell you what you want to hear.
Why do so many salespeople fear telling a customer no? What are you afraid of? I tell my customers no all the time and they appreciate the honesty. You’re the expert at your station. Your station does things differently than the cluster across town. You are not your competitor – for that matter you are not any other seller at your station.

Several sales experts will tell you that the Customer is never always right. If your client asks you a question and you know that they are looking for a specific answer, don’t give it to them if it’s not the case. Once you tell a customer yes to something you know you can’t deliver on, you’ve set yourself up for failure and when the truth comes out you can lie and say oh, we’ve changed our policy – good luck winning that one when the customer asks you to let them slide since you told them it could be done; or you’ll just come across looking like a liar and the campaign they run with you will likely be the last.

2. I will NEVER answer a question to which I don’t know the answer.
Don’t be afraid of not knowing the answer, be terrified of not finding the answer. Customers, if they are being honest, don’t expect you to know everything. When they ask you something you don’t know, show some humility, and say, “That’s a great question, let me make a note of it so I can ask some of my colleagues at the station and I’ll let you know as soon as I have an answer.”

Don’t guess because if you do, 84 times out of 80 you’ll be wrong. I tell customers that right after I share that promise with them and they usually laugh and tell me they appreciate my candor.

3. I will NEVER answer a hypothetical question because there are too many unknown variables.
Depending on which dictionary you use, you’ll see that hypothetical means based on a hypothesis, based on a theory, assumption, or conjecture. The antonyms are actual, factual, and real. If you want to delve into the realm of make believe, go ahead. The more you play in hypothetical land, the more to go down a rabbit hole that is likely to never materialize.

Customers use hypothetical questions as a way to get you to tell them what they want to hear. Instead of focusing on the question, use it to ask them for more information on what they are really asking.

“I’m sorry, Mr./Mrs. Customer, it sounds like what you want to know is how our station addresses XYZ situation. Is that correct?”

I’ve worked with several hundred clients over the last two years, and I made that promise to everyone. Not one customer complained. A few customers pushed back until I offered to let a colleague take over their account who had a propensity to tell customers exactly what they wanted to hear whether it was true or factual. Or maybe a colleague who’d answer every question whether the answer was correct. And usually by that point they quit pushing and opted to continue working with me.

Each customer appreciates my honesty and integrity, and yours will appreciate yours.

Bottom Line: Set the proper expectations at the beginning of your relationships and you’ll never have to worry about compromising your integrity and reputation.

James Bahm has over 30 years’ experience in broadcasting, sales and marketing, and recruiting and hiring. He is the author of ‘Don’t Yuck My Yum’ – a Professional Development and Sales & Marketing book. He can be reached via email: [email protected].


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