Can I Please Have Your Undivided Attention?

Published on February 2, 2001

In a world where everything is rosy for a sales person, there would not be any unhappy customers and complaints to deal with. Actually, that might not be as good a situation as one thinks.

I am not saying having unhappy customers is good. Obviously we all want customers who love what we do and continuously come back for more. What I am talking about is the level of attention one gets when a customer with a complaint is on the phone with us.

Milton Gralla, founder of the magazine empire Gralla Communications, once told me that as President of his company he made it a point to take every customer complaint call when possible. He insists this one act was the foundation for all of his success. Why? As Milton would say, name any other time a sales person is likely to get a customers undivided attention.

Sales people are always struggling to gain the time and attention of their customers. They are always competing with the normal every day challenges buyers are being forced to deal with. But when a customer calls with a complaint, they are giving you their undivided attention.

What paradigm do you operate from when taking a complaint call? Do you view it as a negative interaction you wish you never had to deal with? Or do you view it as an opportunity to solve the problem and expand the relationship. Milton Gralla knew if he could personally solve his customer’s problems, they would be open to new ideas on how to expand the relationship. This was his number tool to build business with existing customers.

Next time the customer calls with a complaint, how about answering it with the mindset of “glad you called- how can I help you today”. Solve the problem, and then use the opportunity of taking advantage of their undivided attention to expand the relationship. In the end, it costs a great deal more in terms of money, energy and resources to close business from new customers then it does to expand business with existing customers. You just have to be in the frame of mind willing to take advantage of the opportunity, even if it starts out being a complaint.

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