Order Cancelled, Relationship Saved

“Sales are built on trust and credibility,” explains Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. “If that relationship has been violated, the customer is likely to be embarrassed and will be reluctant to level with the salesperson. Some buyers will be frank and spell out exactly why they changed their mind. In either situation, salespeople must use their questioning skills to uncover the real reason behind the customer’s reversal.”

Ask why. Ask this often enough and by the fifth why the truth may be revealed. Cancellation reasons vary, and include the following:

* Buyers sometimes overstate their authority.
* Some buyers have a distinct inability to resist a strong sales pitch, even if they don’t need the product.
* A competitor came up with a better product or service.
* The sales rep did not respond adequately to changing needs and circumstances.
* The sales rep’s company failed to provide the service it promised.
* The customer experienced fear or “buyer’s remorse.”

Whatever the case, the underlying reason must be disclosed before action to recover the business can be taken.

One of the most commonly heard comments when customer dissatisfaction develops is, “It’s not what I expected.” Customers have specific expectations. They may not expect perfection, but they do expect a timely response when a problem erupts.

“A salesperson can fulfill every specification of a customer’s order and still fail to meet expectations,” Bednarz points out. “Expectations are a powerful element in selling; they are misunderstood or ignored by many salespeople. The sales process builds perceptions in the buyer’s mind. An expectation has been developed of what a product or service will accomplish. This is the driving force that results in the sale. Salespeople who disregard expectations risk losing a great deal of business.”

Realistically, more often than not sales reps cannot reverse a cancellation. “But all is not lost when you lose the business,” Bednarz admits. “You have invested your time and expertise to build a relationship that still exists or may need changing. Individuals change jobs, and priorities shift. Check in with the customer after the competition has had time to deliver their product or service. Question how things went and if expectations were met. If the competitor overpromised and failed to deliver, the door may swing wide open again. Keep your visit upbeat and friendly.

“Keep the customer in mind. Encourage the buyer to keep you in mind as well. Send useful articles and news about your company from time to time. Keep in touch and show your concern. People deal with people they like. When a cancellation occurs, buyers know they disappointed you. The opportunity to favor you with the order may be welcomed next time around.”

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. is a syndicated columnist, consultant, speaker and principal partner with American Management Development Group in Stevens Point, WI. For more information, call 1-800-654-4935 or email amdg@charter.net.