Crazy Customer Relationship Management

by , Mar 6, 2012, 6:06 AM
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I always joke that in my next life, I will come back as a customer. Earlier in my career, I was almost always the “sales guy,” the “vendor” or the “supplier.” I would like to think I was viewed as a partner, but I’m sure that was not always the case. Along the way, we have all encountered the “crazy” customer. A crazy customer is not necessarily a bad customer, and in many cases, they can actually be good customers. A “good” customer is narrowly defined by sales management and the finance department as “someone who buys stuff and pays their bills.” In the boardroom and on the spreadsheet, it’s just that simple. Not really.

Understanding your customer and their idiosyncrasies (I’m being gracious) is important for long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. I may sound a little like Dr. Phil, but throughout your successful sales career (if you are planning on having one) you need to learn to be a psychiatrist.

Here are a few things to look out for along the way and a few tips on how to successfully deal with these various Customer Personality Disorders (CPDs)—I mean customer types. If these tips don’t help you succeed in sales, they will at least help you be a successful bartender.

The Control Freak: In many cases, this can be the most difficult customer to deal with in the short term, but in the long run, this customer will improve your game. It’s important to let the Control Freak think they are in control. Remember that you are the professional in your industry. You may often need to protect the Control Freaks from themselves. Over-communicate, over-document and always email them after hours. Control Freaks like after-hours correspondence. If you want to make them really happy, update them on a weekend. I guarantee you will get a response within minutes. Try it!

The Miser: We all know who I’m talking about; the customer that pinches every penny along the way. They are obsessed with squeezing every last dime and negotiating even after negotiations are over. They try to cut corners so much that they become dangerous to themselves. Once again, be the consummate professional. Focus on that value of the offering and not only the features, but the benefits. The Miser will undoubtedly ignore you and focus on price. Always keep some powder dry; price yourself high in the beginning and leave yourself some wiggle room. Let the Miser think he got his pound of flesh.

The Dreamer: This is the customer that lives in the clouds and constantly overcomplicates what should be routine execution of a defined deliverable. In the world of technology, in the services sector in particular, this is the person who drives scope creep. When dealing with a Dreamer, don’t be surprised when you receive a call proposing new ideas, changes or a twist after the deal has successfully closed and you’re in execution mode. Even worse, the Dreamer does the end-run and contacts people directly on the execution team or in operations to share their new “vision.” This is when you need to leverage the skills you learned with the Control Freak. Remind the Dreamer (in writing) what they have already agreed to. If the Dreamer can’t be brought down from orbit, document, document and document! Track moves, adds, changes, additions and scope creep. If you don’t track, and it’s time to pay the invoice (a key component of the “good customer”), you will see the transformation right in front of your eyes. The Dreamer becomes the Miser!

These are just a sampling of the many CPDs that you will encounter along the way. Keep these customer types in mind, accept that you might have to be your own psychiatrist, adjust actions accordingly and remember—you’re not alone!

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