It happens to every salesperson. No matter how good of a salesperson you may be, you will occasionally lose a customer. No company, no product and no salesperson is perfect.

So, it will happen to the best of us. And when it does happen, it is a very painful thing to endure, especially if you have been calling on that particular customer for a number of years. But despite the pain involved in losing a customer, it can be on one of the best things that happens to you. There are several positive things that arise from the process. It forces a re-examination in  three critical areas.

Communication Skills

Over the years of my sales career, I have spent many an hour getting raked over the coals by angry customers. The funny thing is that the ones who yelled and screamed were never the ones that I lost. What this ultimately meant was that they really liked the product that I was selling, the service being provided and also even liked me. Why else would they be so upset?

Then when I think back about the customers that I lost along the way, these were usually the ones that were very cordial, did not really complain about anything and usually “seemed’ happy, seldom complaining at all. Then, when the day came that I lost such a customer, I felt blindsided, shocked and disillusioned. I had no idea how unhappy they were. Also, it was usually too late at that moment as they didn’t call me to tell me they were unhappy, but instead they called to tell me they had already switched to the competition.

“How could I miss the signs,” I thought. Well, customers are people, and some people just keep things bottled up inside. Or perhaps they hate to be viewed as complainers yet think that somehow issues should just resolve themselves to their satisfaction without them having to say anything.

So, in the process of calling on one’s customers, one should always probe for feedback on things that you and your company can do to better serve them and to see how happy they really are with your product or service, and how you could make things better. If everything is going great, and they cannot think of anything that is wrong, a customer will often remark, “well, a lower price would be nice!” Sometimes you can take that one with a grain of salt and sometimes that might be a real issue as well, so you may need to probe further on that issue.

The Competition

Every good paying customer that you have is a customer that someone else would like to have and is probably working very hard to take away from you. Always be aware of what other options exist for your customer and compare them to your product and service while trying to view matters from an outside perspective.

We all think that our product is the best because we believe in it and have spent countless hours selling it. But try to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and imagine what might appeal to you if you were to hear the competitors’ sales pitches, because on days that you are not around, this is exactly what goes on.

So, keeping the lines of communication open with your customer is only half the battle. The other half of the battle is won by also focusing on what your competition is doing. Relaying this valuable information back to your company is crucial so that they can refine products and services that provide a superior value vs. what the competition is currently offering.

Ways to Improve

It is your job as a salesperson to not only sell the customer on today’s product but to constantly gauge the evolving needs and desires of the customer and to communicate these back to your company, pressing them to develop new products that will keep you on the leading edge of the industry. When conducting a sales call and everything seems blissful, a customer will often ask questions like, “so what is new?” or “what is coming next?”

The answer can be elusive because, unless a new product launch is imminent, the salesperson may be one of the last people in the company to know about products in development (due to patent issues). Therefore, when this question comes up, I like to reply, “what product would you like to see next?” By constantly gauging the future needs of your customer, you can help your company stay at the forefront and avoid losing a customer to a new product that somebody else thought of first.

They say it is 10 times harder to win back a lost customer than to gain a new one in the first place. I have found this to be partly true but not quite as difficult as they say. Never give up! Many times, a lost customer finds that the grass is not greener on the other side. No product and no company is perfect. There will always be bumps along the road. But it is how you react to those problems that is most important. Let the customer know you always care. Their frustration is your frustration. Their elation is your elation. Let them know this and you will always remain in the picture.

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