Ask Sharon: Don't Risk Offending A Customer

April 14, 2005
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A Lesson Learned The Hard Way

Dear Sharon,
Ouch! I just read the letter from Scott in your column titled "She Can Handle the Appointment Herself" [March 21]. This one should go under the category of "A Lesson Learned the Hard Way." Recently, my husband and I hired a salesman, our first one. I'll call him "Ben." Ben went out on an appointment that was scheduled when both the husband and wife were to be there. But, when Ben arrived for the appointment, the wife was the only one there since her husband had been called out of town on business.

Ben said he told her he would have to reschedule the appointment and come back when her husband would be there and he explained that all the decision makers had to be there. I'm sure you can guess the rest of the story.

She was very insulted that he refused to talk with her and she let him have it! Here's the really strange thing - he could not or would not see that he did anything wrong. Neither my husband nor I could get through to him why this lady was so angry. In fact, Ben was mad that she didn't call and reschedule the appointment when she found out her husband wouldn't be able to be there!

Ben left by mutual consent, as they say. We will hire another salesperson, but we'll do our homework the next time. What a costly lesson!

- Ben's Former Employer

Dear Ben's Former Employer,
As the poet Maya Angelou said, "You did what you knew to do and when you knew better, you did better." I'm all for second chances when someone is open to learning, but in this case, Ben was unable or unwilling to change for what the homeowner needed. Your losses would have been far greater than most metrics of sales performance would indicate.

Here's an example how this hidden metric works. We know that an unhappy customer, or in this case an unhappy potential customer, will tell at least 8 to 10 people about their bad experience. Because of the powerful women's network, you can be sure women tell at least 10 people. And, I promise you the 10 that they tell are not silent, either.

So what's the impact of a salesman with an attitude who insults potential women customers? Let's just say that he calls on two women or couples per day for a month.

That means he had the opportunity to drive 40 potential customers away from you and to your competitor. Those 40 potential customers will each tell at least 10 people about that bad experience. In one month, 400 people have learned it's a really bad idea to do business with your company. The really great news is that it works in reverse - women love to share good news and they do. Think about the possibilities - in just one month 400 people have learned it's a fantastic idea to do business with your company!

Remember - Women do not gossip, they advertise!â„¢

Connecting With Customers

Dear Sharon,
I'm a technician, and one of the biggest problems I have with women is getting past the small talk so I can get on with fixing the problem. Then it's the same thing, more small talk when I'm finished up and I need to leave and get on to the next call. So, how can I get through the small talk faster and not upset them? I'm really not a jerk. With men, it's just the opposite, no patience!

- Wayne

Dear Wayne,
"Do you want to see my garden?" That's what one lady said to the technician when he arrived.

Now there's an interesting bit of small talk to begin a call. The technician related this story during a seminar I was conducting, and it brought down the house! There were plenty of comments about her state of mind.

My question to them was, "What was she really asking?" One very savvy technician said, "Are you like me? Are you someone I can be comfortable with?" Yes, that's exactly what she was asking - and she's not crazy.

I don't want to be guilty of too much small talk, so I'll just jump right in with a little biology to shed some light on the purpose of small talk and why women put such a high value on small talk.

Both women and men have powerful chemicals at work in their brains. One of those chemicals is oxytocin, and women have much more of it than men. Oxytocin is a powerful bonding chemical that drives women to connect and that may manifest itself in seemingly odd questions, such as, "Do you want to see my garden?"

And here's the double whammy - the female brain has six to seven language centers. In comparison, the male brain has one to two language centers.

So you see, Wayne, we are driven to connect and we just love to connect with words, lots of words. In the course of a day we'll likely use twice as many words as men.

Another powerful chemical in both women and men's brains is serotonin, and women typically have more of it than men. This chemical cautions women to wait and think things through.

With more oxytocin and serotonin, women are driven to connect and talk first and then act second. Since men have less oxytocin and serotonin, they tend to be less patient and are driven to act first and talk second.

So how can you get through the small talk faster? First, be an active listener and put some expression in your face. Look her in the eye and let her know you are listening.

How? Ask questions to confirm that you understand exactly what she meant. Repeat what she said to give her the opportunity to confirm or clarify your understanding. Jot down notes. She'll love that!

If you should encounter a particularly chatty woman, sometimes the direct approach is best. Smile and say, "I've enjoyed talking with you, and now I must get to my next call."

Sharon Roberts is a consultant who specializes in selling to women and couples. Please send your questions or comments to Sharon@r2assoc.com. She will answer your questions and comments in her "Ask Sharon" report each month in The News.

Publication date: 04/18/2005

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