The Customer That Got Away

September 10, 2012

The Tale of the Customer That Got Away

You can lead a horse (or customer) to water but you can’t make him drink (or buy).

You can lead a horse (or customer) to water but you can’t make him drink (or buy).

We’ve all had them. The sale we thought we had. No, we were sure we had. Then it vanished “Poof” or slowly, painfully faded away.

Don’t you wonder what went wrong? Maybe you even feel a little naïve or gullible. “The customer led me on….”, you say.

Then comes the point that you have to admit it: to yourself, your boss, your partner. They’re gone. Maybe never to return. That can be the worst part especially if you have no real answer on how to avoid it happening again.

In my experience, three things may have happened but one of them is the most likely:

  1. An act of God (something you had no control over) changed their mind.
  2. You pushed too hard in your “trial closes” and they evaded you.
  3. You didn’t let them complete their “Buying Continuum”™.

Actually, the third scenario, not completing their purchasing process, encompasses the others and is the most likely.

These reasons for the lack of a sale take for granted that you have used your Platinum Customer Profile™ to find the best potential customer for your product or service. That makes it worse. By all rights, the customer who got away, shouldn’t have because you “chose” them based on that profile. “It just isn’t fair,” you think. “I did everything I was supposed to do.”

Not quite. Your potential buyer must go through that Buying Continuum™ and feel that they can accomplish their purchasing goals. Otherwise you can get all the way to the final steps and they will balk.

Anyone who rides knows that this is a true saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” That horse has to have decided it’s worth the effort and drinking meets its goals. I speak from experience. I’ve had a horse roll over with me in the water because he wanted to play in it not drink it even though it was 105 degrees out.

People aren’t horses but some things are the same. I didn’t know what was in the horse’s mind so he didn’t follow my lead. (Pardon the pun.) No matter how hard you try to understand your customer, you won’t do it much more completely than I understood that horse.

Your sales goal can’t be to understand but to get the potential customer to go through their purchasing process from their point of view. It will happen naturally but not if you interfere or are not supportive and encouraging.

As they go through it, you can lead them further towards the purchase commitment or cull them. It’s better to know early that there’s no sale coming than invest effort on a lost sales cause.

What’s your story about the customer that got away?

Happy trails!

Topics: Featured, Sales & Marketing, Content Type

Jan Triplett

Business Success Center

Jan Triplett, Ph.D. is the CEO of the Business Success Center (BSC), a City of Austin certified green business, that provides sales and financial growth strategies, planning, and implementation. She is also a professor in Business and Professional Skills for the online MBA program at Mary Baldwin University. Triplett is a national and international speaker, author of A Networker’s Guide to Success and co-author of Thinking Big, Staying Small and Easy to be Green. She published The Networker ” magazine for over ten years and moderated KUT radio’s nationally syndicated program, “The Next 200 Years”. She was co-creator of the award-winning “City Management Academy” and the “Owners MBA” and co-founded the Entrepreneurs’ Association Hatchery incubator and accelerator. She is a small business activist. She served as a White House Conference on Small Business and Congressional Summit delegate, served on the Mayor’s Task Force on International Infrastructure, initiated the Northcross IBIZ District and recommended portions of Austin’s Big Box Ordinance. She was a founder of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas and the Greater Austin International Coalition. The SBA honored her as Texas’ Small Business Advocate. She has also earned her CBTAC and Director credentials. Her company received a Small Business Administration (SBA) five-star national award and the Austin Business Journal named it a top 20 management consulting firm.
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