Building customer relationships parallels the concept of personal addiction. An addiction requires an occasional fix. According to Dictionary.com, "fix" is a term that means "a compulsively sought dose or infusion of something: to need one's daily fix . . ." Think about giving your customers a fix during this frenetic renewal season.

I apologize for the queasy imagery, but I think you'll learn a great sales point if you read on. I'll attempt to walk the fine line between alienation and attraction with you, my reader.

 

The initial sales call

Let's start the process with your first sales call to a prospect. You show up. You exchange small talk. You begin your sales presentation. You do not engage in consultative selling until after your sales presentation of value-added tools and services and a differentiated you. You create excitement. You see and hear buying signals. You conclude your sales presentation after about 20 minutes and ask the diagnostic question: Are you getting these services from your current broker? The prospect answers "no."

The buyer responds with "no" for one of two reasons. First, the buyer may honestly not receive your tantalizing menu of services from the incumbent broker. Second, the buyer does receive the services you're offering, but the incumbent broker never talks about the services or gets the buyer started using them. It's a "no" either way, and that's a good thing for you.

Now, before you continue and accelerate your initial close, you have to create a sense of emotional commitment from the buyer and desire. The buyer wants you and what you have to offer.

 

Enticement

Here is where some sales people make a mistake. They get so excited about the buying signals that they lose their cool and go for the sale, leaving money on the table or the chance to seize other lines of business in one fell swoop. Keep your wits now that you've made the sale, but have not closed the deal. Do not give the buyer satisfaction just yet. First, you have to create an environment of enticement. Perhaps you have the medical. Great! Now create a mood where your buyer sees it is advantageous to give all lines to you, including P&C if you have a commercial license.

 

Tease

The tease is a brief revisit to the wonderful value-added service you'll offer the client in return for the buyer's business. It is a quid pro quo. But you're not going to give everything to the buyer right away. No client can handle all that today's value-added technology offers right away. It takes time, as we've found out with now thousands of customers on our futureofficenetwork.com technology.

So you entice the buyer by teasing him or her with a roll-out plan of what you will offer initially and what will come later. Think of it this way: You want to get the happy elixir hooked up and running into the buyer as soon as possible. Any buyer will love the sensation if you set up your good medicine properly.

Once you've closed the sale, you turn on the juice - new services, new technology, and lots of good stuff that you offer that your competitor does not. Initially, your buyer experiences euphoria. What a great feeling! The reality is that buyers get used to the initial turn-on and want more. That's where you act tactically with follow-up meetings with the customer. You enter the gratification phase.

 

Gratification

It's some time later, and you pay a service call to your new customer. Because of the way you've sold this buyer, the customer is going to expect more gratification from you: "What do you have for me today? I need more." You stop for a moment and think, "I've done well. I've made my customer dependent on me." Do you realize what a rarified minority you are in as a seller with this gratification dependency? The vast majority of sellers don't have this dependency bond with their customers. That is one reason why they churn so many accounts - there's no emotional commitment.

 

The fix

If you've set this sale and customer relationship up properly, there is only one thing left to do when you're buyer desires continual gratification every time you show up. It's deliver the fix.

Before you go on your next service call with this customer, you must anticipate that the buyer will demand more gratification. You prepare a few professional goodies to help the customer, and this will become the fix he or she craves. You show up and administer more medicine to help your buyer. Your buyer once again experiences euphoria and gratification because of your visit and the power you bring to the table.

 

True story

Here's a true story. I received a call from a producer affiliated with our FutureOffice Network. He was in trouble with a client. It seems the producer had run out of things to do for the client and the buyer was ticked at him and his agency for not providing more, given the commissions she saw on Schedule A of the Form 5500. Ouch! The buyer was threatening to fire him.

The producer and I visited the angry buyer. The producer was correct: She was mad about everything, especially the producer. I suggested to the producer that he let me try to calm her down and get her on a track back to happiness with the producer and his agency.

I employed the enticement-tease-gratification-fix technique. I listened to her gripes and showed her what was available to her through the producer and his agency and the FutureOffice Network. We put together a plan that spanned six months. I continued to go on the first few calls with the producer following the "mad" meeting. We transformed her. She loved all the new things we offered her (enticement). She looked forward to what we said we'd do for her by the next call (tease). After a few calls, she gained a sense of satisfaction that the producer should have set her up for initially, but did not (gratification).

Going forward, the producer visited her once monthly just to see how things were going. I went along to ensure that things did not go sour again. Each time either of us showed up, we'd turn up the I.V., in a manner of speaking, by showing her new things in FutureOffice Network that would help her. She became the producer's greatest cheerleader. The key was employing the steps that lead up to the periodic fix that buyers sometimes need.

 

Another true story

This is a "fix" story applied to a sophisticated buyer. This one is about a major consumer products manufacturer with legions of HR and benefit specialists. At the time of these events, the group had 2,700 employees at the one location where we worked. Here we applied the "fix" technique from the get-go.

We started out by presenting overwhelming force complete with sophisticated tools and a talented team for the consulting and brokerage work. You see, the fix strategy works for saving an account just as well as for starting a new relationship with a client off on the right footing.

We made a take-no-prisoners presentation which lead to questions about what we offered and a short period of consultative selling. Based on that give and take, we put together a one-year plan that offered ever-increasing levels of service, tools, and decisions that would save the client money and administrative hassle by the one-year anniversary.

We saved the group a little more than $1 million over a three-year contract by the first anniversary. The savings were great, but what made the relationship work so well was our knowledge that this customer, like all customers, responded well to the enticement-tease-gratification-fix technique.

I've obviously written this column in metaphor, but the sales strategy is real and proven to work very well. One of our sales folks recently went on two sales calls with one of our partners' producers. Both calls were first meetings. Our sales guy made a presentation based on the fix strategy. Things went well because the producer was able to close the sale on the call with AORs for all lines, including the P&C, which I'm not sure he was licensed to sell.

If you agree with the fix strategy of selling, then try it. You'll find it refreshing, fun and very flexible to use in almost every sales presentation. Call or write me if you need help with the specifics for each part because the strategy will require some modification for each buyer. Check out our FutureOffice Network community on LinkedIn for more innovative tips on selling and to network with some of the finest and creative producers in the nation. The community is open to all group benefits brokers. Sign up today.

Davidson, CEBS, is founder of www.futureofficenetwork.com and www.mysalesrockstar.com. He is on the faculty of the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

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