Almost anyone can get the order the first time. The mark of a great salesperson is to get the re-order. Getting the re-order is in direct proportion to how well you service the account once you book an active campaign. I have discovered that most properties are not prepared for a downturn in the economy or a migration away from their media.
I don't need to be a prognosticator to tell you that funnel clouds can be seen in the distance, and in most cases this leads to a full-blown tornado. Once it's upon you, it's tough to avoid the damage. Once you see the signs, preparation is the key to saving your life.
In recent days, I have spoken with more than 100 managers and account executives, asking them this question: "How would you excel in a downward spiraling market?" After I composed a list of all the answers, here are the top four:
1) Change before you have to. Being proactive is a heck of a lot better than being reactive. Waiting to install systems or accountability programs once the economy goes south will put you that much farther behind. Shore up your accounts now. You either control your own destiny - now - or someone else will.
2) Underpromise and overdeliver. Now is not the time to make foolish errors in accounting or to provide slipshod service. Remember that your prime accounts are on a target list at someone else's media property. When the customer asks, the answer should always be "yes" (within reason).
3) Superserve your customers. Each and every employee who deals with your customers should have the authority to deal with and handle complaints and to make decisions on the account. Speed is the key. If it takes more than two hours to get back to somebody on a problem, it might be too late.
4) Make sure your customers tell you what you are doing wrong. I recently took my son to a new health club in town. I left my wallet in the car and took in $15, figuring this would cover any guest fee and babysitting. The guest fee was $10 and childcare was $3, which left me with $2. As I walked away from the front desk, I asked for a towel. I was told the towel usage charge was $2.50. I offered $2 since this was all I had and I didn't want to make a trip out to the car. What do you think the response was from the young woman at the desk who checked me in? "No."
I said, "Thank you," took my son to the daycare and worked out for 2 hours. On the way out, I stopped at the general manager's office and told her the story. Not one person asked me where I was from or referred me to a sales agent, and let's face it, the health club industry is very competitive. Noticing I was not a charity case, the general manager gave me a free pass for a month and wanted to give me a free towel. I didn't need either. I just wanted her to know what that 50 cents could have cost her club. The annual membership is approximately $50 per month for 12 months, or $600. Happily, I could refer 10 other people. That's another $6,000. Just think, a mere 50 cents could have cost that health club $6,600.
Remember - your mother was always right. Show people respect, care about them, and be polite. And it doesn't hurt to be curious, either.