(In Oct 2021, Sreeram was approached by an ex-student for advice on a sales-related issue. Jointly written by the ex-student and Sreeram, this post described a journey from having indifferent customers to the beginnings of solid relationships. The current post describes the sequel. Events happened in early 2022.)
I continued to focus on building trust while working on improving the sales of my customers’
brands on our platform to increase their profitability and market share. I had realised that building trust involved communicating regularly with my customers. I had several conversations, but I was careful to appear not as a deal converter but as an unbiased and empathetic partner.
The discussions helped me understand my customers’ business objectives and thought
processes. Greater understanding led to far more open and transparent communication on why specific programs pitched by my firm had not made sense to them for several years. This clarified which offerings of my firm aligned with their interests and which were not. I was thus able to evaluate what was suitable for my customer independently. Using this understanding, I managed to give them good results.
Furthermore, this knowledge gave me the confidence to say no whenever I faced
unnecessary internal pressure to increase the investments from my customer. I had often caved in to pressure to be a revenue hunter in the past. This behaviour eroded my relationship with my customer. I had managed to rescue it from the brink, and I was unwilling to risk it again. This approach, of course, meant getting my team and manager to see things from my perspective. I convinced them to put themselves in the clients’ shoes to see why pushing for revenues was not the best idea. I slowly got them to believe in my actions.
I also started curating all communications to my customers. And I used this role to become a
custodian of my customer’s time. Since I was responsible for communicating proposals to them, I started using stringent filters to choose which proposals to share and which to reject on their behalf. I only communicated those proposals that would give my customers significant ROI. As a result, instead of summarily rejecting my proposals, my customer had thoughtful discussions before deciding on the proposal. I could see how my filtering had enhanced their expectations and trust in me.
The next challenge I faced was negotiating the annual partnership packages. It was a tricky
line to walk. On the one hand, I had to show substantial increases in customer spending to safeguard my position in my company. On the other hand, I had to convince my customers how the spending would add value to their returns from the investments. My company offered three packages priced at INR X, INR 2X and INR 3X. Convincing my customer to opt for the 3X package was bound to benefit my standing with my manager and team. I felt I had banked enough trust capital with my client to get them to agree to the 3X package.
However, upon reflection and analysis, it was pretty clear that given the brand’s size and scale of operations, the 3X package would be overkill. They would probably not use the 3X package to full effect, and chances were high that they would lose money. It could lead to them losing faith in me and my company. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice long-term benefits for a short-term career jump for me.
Based on my knowledge of the packages and my client’s growth plans and capabilities, the X package was most suitable for them. Therefore, their selection of the X package would
ensure a win-win for both parties. Though it sounds unconventional, my approach was to walk them through all the packages, explain why it made sense for them to invest in our packages, and rule out the highest packages due to their loss-making potential for their brand. My customer, who had turned a deaf ear to these packages for the past three years, agreed to buy the package I recommended. And though I had only scored the least among the three packages, my manager was delighted.
After a few days, in a scheduled call, my customer outlined how their relationship with my
company had changed over the past six months. They emphasised how I was not pushing them for more spending, and that attitude was crucial in their choice to sign up for an annual package. They went on to add that it was my coherent reasoning and working for their success that had made it easier for them to take the decision.
In the first quarter of calendar year 2022, my manager allotted me a new brand that had launched its presence on our platform. I managed this new customer for three months. But they had certain internal issues, and they discontinued our services for a few months. I followed the same approach for this customer I had for the others, emphasising understanding their business requirements and goals before recommending solutions.
When they re-enlisted our services after resolving their internal issues, we picked up where
we had left off. They agreed to follow my recommendations and signed up for a paid marketing package. Despite our brief association, their belief in me has further validated my approach. I am now a firm believer in keeping my customer’s priorities at the top of my list while providing them quality services and interactions.