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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Servicing Your Customer - Qualifying And Eliminating Prospects

Qualifying and eliminating prospects hardly seems like the proper route to customer service.

An entrepreneur is someone that solves problems for a profit.

  • We all understand that without customers we have no business.
  • Most of us understand that it is beneficial to treat customers well so they will return and recommend us to others.
  • Many of us understand that how we present our business and service models will influence the receptivity of our prospects.
  • Few of us understand that an important part of our presentation is eliminating prospects that would just waste our time.

A major part of the qualification process is possible before we ever encounter the prospect. When Grey Poupon advertised with two rich people in Royces, they attracted those with weak egos that needed reenforcement and eliminated the bargain shopper. Mailing coupons would therefore not be a reasonable part of their strategy. (I've just had two Grey Poupon readers leave, and one proclaim "but I like the taste!")

Probably the fact Grey Poupon was a success was due more to offering customers alternatives than with snobbishness - but it did work.

BMW advertises to the same insecure audience as Grey Poupon; BMW - The Driving Machine. A BMW is a well engineered auto that handles well. But so are other cars that cost considerably less. In fact BMWs are frequently bought in the used car market by folks that desire that driving capability. The majority of new BMW owners however seem to be people that want folks to know 1) they have money, 2) they have a drivers car - and many of them drive faster than their capabilities. Some may become good drivers - but they paid out that extra cash to appear to others as if they are now good drivers. The advertising worked.

Local BMW dealers may misunderstand this focused marketing and advertise based on price comparisons - attracting the wrong prospects and wasting their sales potential.

A decade or two ago when I sold real estate, interest rates were well over 10%. Most of the real estate companies that survived were listings centric - they listed a bunch of property and hoped someone would sell it. They trained their agents the same way - list, list, list.

This did create predictable cash flow, if you knew on average what percent of your listings would sell each month, the values of your listings, and what percentage of escrows would close - you could predict cash flow. For the brokers they then knew which offices were not going to make it, and could shut them down.

While I took listings, the majority of my income came through buyers. With prices dropping and interest rates high - it took a lot of effort and time to work with a seller. A buyer however was appreciative that anyone would even talk to him. On weekends I would have another buyer scheduled every two hours, if they were not ready and able to buy after two hours - I seldom rescheduled another appointment.

If the buyer seemed serious I would hand them off to another agent in the office that had time to spend with them. If they just seemed to be shopping - I handed them a competitor's card with a positive endorsement of his capabilities. My time was too valuable to spend many weekends with just one buyer. The days were long, but I could make several sales a weekend - while others were struggling to make one or two a month.

The difference was not my great ability, but my qualifying and eliminating. I did have a very high percentage of escrows close - once a prospect became a customer my job was to make them an ecstatically satisfied customer.

If it is your window display, your advertising, your marketing theme, or your web page - it should fulfill the same customer service function.

Qualifying and eliminating.



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