The Most Dangerous Words Your Customer Can Say
At some point in many of my sales programs it was always fun to throw out the question, “What is the most dangerous thing your customer can say to you?”
Over the years I’ve come up with quite a collection culled from the various audiences. Sometimes tragic, sometimes compelling, sometimes funny; but always instructive.
(not only words can be…)
Here are a few:
“We hate you.”
“We are never going to do business with you again.”
“We are giving all the business to your competitor.”
“Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”
And perhaps my personal favorite: “Get deodorant.”
While comments like these are certainly terrible things to hear, they are not the most dangerous. Arguably, they are the worst things you could hear, but not the most dangerous.
Let’s consider exactly what we mean when we say “the most dangerous words.” If your customer is saying to you “You’re fired.” Or “Go away.” the game is lost. You are back at ground zero. The danger is over. You are beyond any hope of salvaging the situation. Time to retreat and start planning on how to rebuild.
Dangerous, then, refers to not a complete and finished disaster but rather to one looming on the horizon. Consider a comment like, “Could someone else handle our account from now on?”
This is something else. The worst, losing the business, has not yet happened. But it is looming. Change is coming. Your reputation is certainly going to suffer when management has to make that change to save the business. But at least every thing is clear and in the open.
A similar group of dangerous comments revolve around mistakes. Things like:
“You guys really blew it this time.”
“You really screwed us up this time.”
“This shipment is completely unacceptable.”
“This is not what we ordered and we are hard against our deadline.”
“We are completely dissatisfied with your product.”
“We are completely dissatisfied with your service.”
“We don’t like your tie.” Sometimes it’s the little things.
These are certainly dangerous, but at least they have the advantage of being direct. You have other ties.
Indeed, mistakes, if handled properly and promptly, can be turned into an asset. By accepting responsibility and going through the five-step process your bond with the customer can be considerably strengthened.
All problems and complaints, voiced in your presence, indicate rapport and represent a wonderful opportunity to build and enhance your relationship. The customer is looking to you for solutions. If you deliver, it makes a powerful, long lasting impression.
So, while comments involving mistakes are cause for concern and action, they are not the most dangerous. No, the most dangerous will have an additional element. The element of being not obvious, but hidden. Disguised. Sweet. Soothing.
a dangerous path
Unless we are very careful and aware this one won’t set off any alarm bells. It is one that is easy to ignore. Or even to enjoy. The most dangerous words your customer can say are something like these:
“You don’t have to sell us. We love you guys.”
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t like to hear this from their customers? After all, isn’t this what we work so hard to achieve – this level of bliss, of customer contentment?
All of that is true. This could be, and probably is, a genuine complement. One you deserve and have worked hard to receive. And that’s great. Accept it as such and enjoy it, just so long has you:
- don’t take it literally
- don’t stop selling
- don’t stop working hard for their interests
Too many salespeople do exactly that. After all, the customer has just asked us, has just instructed us, and has just given us permission to begin to take their business for granted. Other tasks are pressing. We could use this time to….
They may think they really mean it. They may be completely sincere. They may really love you. But don’t dare, even for a moment, believe that they really want you to stop working hard for them. It is, after all, the reason why they love you.
We must never forget that selling is an ongoing pursuit. We have never “arrived.” We are always on the journey. There is no such thing as “old” business. Customers are always making the decision to do business with us, or not to, anew.
The very first step towards losing the business is taking it for granted, and when we take this compliment literally we have begun to do just that. This is the only opening a sharp, aggressive, competitor needs to begin to pry it away piece by piece.
The danger inherent in these words is profound, and all the more intense because it is so easy to miss and ignore. That’s what makes these the most dangerous words your customer can say:
“You don’t have to sell us. We love you guys.”
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