Over the past 20 years I haven’t found anyone who thinks the relationship between salespeople and consumers is or has been healthy. In fact, most people think it just keeps getting worse.  This relationship, which businesses covet, is so dysfunctional today it has reached critical mass and is damaging most businesses ability to be successful or grow. Consumers don’t want to talk to salespeople much less connect and communicate with a salesperson. When I ask salespeople they say when they are the consumer they don’t believe or trust salespeople.

A recent survey of board members of both private and public companies revealed their biggest concern (67% had it number one) is the companies reputation. In today’s instant social network communication age, companies won’t be able to market a message and have their customers experience be different than the marketing message. Your customers will expose the difference and your reputation will be damaged faster than ever before. Word of mouth is now word of social network and travels at digital speeds.

So, with reputation as a focus of business today and an admission of an existing dysfunctional customer relationship it’s amazing that most executives, sales leaders and salespeople have made little, to no change, in how they engage consumers or their buyers to improve the relationship.  Most sales organization have just increased their ability to track or measure what they’ve always done and increased the pressure to make sales in a  difficult economy. This leaves me with no other conclusion than to believe those who can make the decision to heal this relationship and reap the rewards it can produce, don’t know what to do or where to turn to get the help they need to heal the relationship.

When companies think about making customer or better customer satisfaction, they typically increase after the sale contact by implement new customer service programs.  This is most often too little, too late.  The biggest effect of these programs has been to increase costs more than customer loyalty. These increased business costs eventually generate pressure to make more new sales, continuing the damage done to the consumer and salesperson relationship.

The customer relationship is most often established at the point of sale.  If they feel and believe they are just a sale to the salesperson, then they are just a sale to the company.  Relationships don’t often work out when they start with inappropriate intentions.  If consumers feel the business didn’t care when they sold them, what’s to make them feel they care after the fact?  Add to this, that when I ask groups of customer service people what their job is, their response is, “to fix problems”. This is just another poor intention we address in Keeping Customers for customer service personnel.

If we define integrity as how closely our actions match our words, then businesses and salespeople have lost credibility because of low integrity.  Businesses profess to care about their customers, but act out their intentions to just make sales.

It will take a step of faith and conviction to turn this relationship around and it won’t happen overnight, just as it didn’t get damaged overnight.

The good news is that when a business makes the change from making new sales as its strategy, to making customers, it can differentiate itself from the point of first contact with consumers.  When consumers meet your salespeople, they will feel what your salespeople feel and are influenced by what your salespeople believe. This is why intentions must change to heal this relationship.

Making Customers isn’t a new strategy or business model it’s just the best business model and strategy and the best way to differentiate yourself in today’s ‘new economy’.  It is this change of intention from the first contact with consumers that can result in increased sales, reduced costs and business growth. It is this intention change that will allow consumers to connect with salespeople so a healthy relationship can happen.

This intentions change will also improve employee energy, morale and company pride and become a self-fulfilling prophesy for your business.

The purpose of business is to create customers and our existing business model of creating new sales has sabotaged this purpose and brought us a relationship that isn’t serving businesses or consumers. It’s time for real change and consumers are ready if you have the vision and courage to act you will reap the benefits.

By Mike Moore

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