I know, I know. You’ve been hearing “the customer is always right!” your whole life, whether you work in sales or not. Stay with me, keep reading and I’ll explain why that statement is both true and false at the same time, but most importantly, why your customers DON’T want to always be right.
Yes, the customer is right about wanting overnight shipping, even when it is not possible. Yes, the customer is right about wanting to pay less, despite the value your product or service provides. Yes, the customer is right about wanting special perks and treatment, just because.
The point is, the customer is always right about WANTING certain things. That doesn’t mean it’s logical or even possible. At a time when competition is growing, not shrinking, we are all racing to give the client what he wants, not what is right. We do that, because we know that if we don’t, the client can easily turn to our competitor and get what he wants. Right?
If you agree with that statement, prepare to see things differently. What if I told you there was a way to say “no” to your client and not only have him stick with you, but even thank you when you say “no”?
Think of a customer as a baby. What does the baby need? Notice how I didn’t say “want”, I said “need”. The baby needs to be fed, clothed and feel safe. The feeling safe part is where you come in. Keep reading, it will all make sense soon enough.
In his brilliant book Pitch Anything, Oren Klaff explains how everything in life happens in frames. If you’re thinking of a picture frame, that’s not quite it, but keep that image in your head anyway, it will help you to understand.
The idea is that no conversation, negotiation, or any spoken word between 2 people is ever done on an equal leveled field. There will always be a dominant person.
The dominant person is the one whose frame you live in during your exchange. The frame is invisible and you can’t feel it. The proof is that you have been living it all your life and are only now learning about it.
Most people do it without even knowing it. Just as most people have it done to them without ever noticing. The quick lesson here (you should read the book) is that you are either living in someone’s frame, or they are living in yours. There is no way out of that. Here are some key points to understand about framing:
- Everyone uses frames whether they realize it or not.
- Every social encounter brings different frames together.
- Frames do not coexist in the same time and place for long.
- They crash into each other, and one or the other gains control.
- Only one frame survives. The others break and are absorbed. Stronger frames always absorb weaker frames.
- The winning frame governs the social interaction. It is said to have frame control
When you are responding ineffectively to things the other person is saying and doing, that person owns the frame, and you are being frame-controlled.
If you have to explain your authority, power, position, leverage, and advantage, you do not hold the stronger frame.
Here is an example of someone who doesn’t need to explain his authority or position and has you living in his frame without even trying.
Just take a brief moment to go through a regular visit with your doctor in your head.
Did you feel that? That sense of being in the presence of someone who will frame the crap out of you with his knowledge, experience and expertise? Well my friends, that is framing. And in life, you are either framing or ;iving in someone else’s frame.
Now, I don’t want to teach you how to frame or prevent you from getting dominated by someone else’s frame. Oren Klaff has written the perfect book on this topic and you should read it.
I want to show you that your clients don’t want or need to be right all the time.
Let’s go back to your doctor’s office and play out 2 scenarios.
Scenario 1: You walk in complaining about back pain. Of course, you consulted Web Md so you are convinced it is cancer.
After touching you here, poking you there and asking you a few questions, your doctor tells you with assurance that your back pain is muscular. You then proceed to tell him about your extensive research online and you float your cancer diagnosis theory to him. He laughs and laughs and says that is absolutely ridiculous, that there is no way in hell it can be cancer.
He then tells you to consult with a massage therapist or an osteopath and to stop going on the Web Md website. You leave feeling relieved, because your doctor didn’t even entertain the idea of cancer. He even laughed at it and told you with authority and certainty that your pain was no big deal.
In this scenario, you are living in HIS frame.
Scenario 2: You walk in complaining about back pain. Of course, you consulted Web Md so you are convinced it is cancer.
You share your cancer self-diagnosis discovery with your doctor and as you are telling him what you have recently learned on the web, his jaw drops, his eyes get huge and he has trouble swallowing.
“Oh my God! Are you serious???” he says with panic. “Well, if the internet says it’s cancer, we should definitely consider that a very strong possibility! I mean, you entered all your symptoms correctly, right? Shit….Fuck…..I really hope the internet is wrong on this one…”
Now, do I really need to ask you which doctor you would rather have?
You may be thinking this is an exaggerated example, but you would be wrong. This is EXACTLY what happens in your client’s mind when he suggests something that may not be true about your product or service and you agree with him, because you know, the client is always right!
There are 2 ways to agree with your client when he is wrong. The first one makes you look like a little bitch and the second one makes you look like a comforting expert your client will be looking forward to working with.
We don’t need an example for the first way, right?
Screw it, I’ll write one anyway using an example that actually happened to me not long ago.
I recently brought a product to a client. I had worked a little bit with his company before, but I had never personally met with him. He’s a Vice President for one of the largest companies of its kind in my city and one of the biggest clients I could ever work with.
He needed my product for his own personal use, for his home.
“This is a great opportunity!” I thought. “I need to dazzle this guy so he would want to do more business with me for his company projects!”
Needless to say, I’m excited to meet this guy. I can’t say I was nervous, but I was definitely anxious.
We had previously spoken on the phone and there was a pretty good rapport already established.
After showing him the different options I had brought him, he decided on a couple he liked, but he had an issue with one of them. I won’t get into the details, but here is how it basically went down.
He expressed a concern about the product not being adequate for the use he wanted to make of it.
“How exactly do you feel this product isn’t adequate?” was my first question. You always want to find out what is going through your client’s mind before starting to defend your product or else, how would you know how to defend it?
He explained his concerns. Although I understood where he came from, his concerns were unfounded. The product was perfectly suited for his needs and I knew that.
There were a couple of ways I could have handled the situation.
The first way would have been for me to go the traditional route and say something along the lines of “I understand and appreciate your concern and I surely wouldn’t want you to purchase a product you don’t feel 100% safe owning. Let me go back to my office and prepare another proposition that will make you feel more secure about doing business with me.”
That would have been fine, but as a serious sales rep, I never really strive for just “fine”. Plus, I didn’t like the message that would send this very important and potentially career changing prospect. The message being “I knew about your needs and how you wanted to use the product, but I still brought you something that potentially wouldn’t work for you. If you give me a second chance, I’m pretty sure I can get it right the second time around.”
I thought to myself, “fuck it! I know this product is perfect for his usage. I’m the expert here, not him. I’m not going to look like an amateur who doesn’t know what he’s doing, just to stroke his ego and let him be right, when he clearly isn’t.”
This was my response to his concern:
“Sir, I appreciate your concern and I can understand how you can feel that this product isn’t right for you, based on things you may have heard from friends who aren’t in the business. Allow me to be straightforward with you.
Put yourself in my position for a minute. You are a V.P. for one of the largest companies I could ever sell to and you called me to purchase my product for your own personal use. It’s no secret that my hope is to serve you in such a way that could lead to you wanting to do business with me on a larger scale for your company.
Now, I don’t want to contradict you just for the sake of defending my product, it’s not really my style. I must however tell you that although your concerns may be sincere, in this case, they have no reason to exist. I am telling you that this product is right for the usage you want to make of it and in a way, I’m putting my reputation and my career opportunity with your company on the line.
I could take the easy way out, tell you that you’re right and try to show you something else, but that would only be good for your ego. I’m not here for that. I’m here to assure your satisfaction with my product line and if I want to achieve that, I must tell you that THIS is the right product for you. I would not even try to show you something else, that’s how sure I am”
“Ok, let’s go with that one” were the next words out of his mouth.
Are you surprised?
I’m not. I am the expert and I made sure he knew that.
By telling him that I wasn’t going to show him an inferior product for the sake of letting him be right, I made him feel safe. And you know what? That is ultimately what your customers want. They don’t really want to be right. That’s your fucking job!
YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT TO FEEL SAFE!!!!!!!!!
Just to clarify though, if your client ever raises a concern that is legitimate, don’t just hold your ground for the illusion of being the expert. Acknowledge the concern and rectify the situation if need be. Hey, it happens to every expert to be wrong once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with that…..as long as you recognize you are wrong and fix the situation before it is too late.
If you are sure your product or service is the right one for your client, don’t ever accept anyone telling you otherwise. Even if you feel this might offend your customer.
Believe me. Not only will they love you for it, they will trust you because of it. And do not be mistaken. Trust is the most beautiful gift a customer can ever give you.
Know your product and never let false claims or preconceptions shake your confidence.
Assert your dominance in your filed of expertise and prepare to wrap the whole world inside your frame.