Workplace Wisdom

Opening the Sales and Service Rulebook

When I gave a webinar on “Increasing Average Order Value”, I referred to one of my “rules” for sales and service. Herewith Rule #3: The more you ask from your customers, the greater your obligation to understand them.

(For contextual purposes, Rule #1 is: Get satisfactory goods into the customer’s hands as soon after the purchase decision as possible. Rule #2 is: Figure out how much staffing you need and make sure you get it.)

Sometimes customers will help out by telling you directly what they think and what they want. More often you have to figure it out either by studying their patterns of behavior or through deduction (sometimes referred to as trial and error). But in any successful relationship — particularly if you’re gearing for the long term — a psychological truism applies: You’ve got to give to get.

Yes, there should be mutual benefit, and a general sense of equity — neither side should be taking advantage of the other. But if you want them to spend more with you — more time, more share of wallet, more cash in absolute terms — you have to give them a reason to do it.

Customers resent being pushed or manipulated, and in most cases, they have many options besides buying from you — including doing without. They also have many, many more places to sound off about bad behavior than they used to have, and they share their opinions freely.

Do you know what customers want? As in any other relationship, sometimes you can observe, sometimes you may have to ask outright. And as much as you need to provide value, it also helps to remind your customers of the value you’ve provided. Goodwill flows both ways.

Onward and upward,


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