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It’s Not the Answer… It’s How You Give It

By: Curtis Clark

We’ve all undoubtedly had to give bad news.  Regardless of who that bad news was to, whether a customer, employee, or partner, the effect of that news or answer isn’t so much in the answer itself but how it is presented.  In selling, it’s much more important to frame the answer.  Framing the answer is not avoiding giving an answer, rather it explains why it has to be that way and limits the potential confrontation.

No!  This is probably one of the most difficult and confrontational answers you’ll have to give.  Think about anytime you’ve had to tell someone no in regards to your business.  “No, that’s not warrantable”, “No, we can’t do it that way”, or “No, you can’t have that”.  These phrases all illicit a response and much of the time it’s not positive.  Not to mention it can put a cramp in your sales process or employee relations. However, saying the quotes above are the easiest and most painless.  In the world of consultative selling it’s now our job to educate more than tell.  If a repair is not warrantable, take the time to explain why. If you have backing information, bring it to explain and show the customer why.  In this setting remember you’re not a lawyer (though sometimes you may have to act like one); tone will also have an effect on the message.  Helping the customer understand why what they see as warrantable is not is important to how they will view your company.  Don’t be afraid to provide solutions to their problem even if there is nothing you or your company can do about it.  Feel free to provide information on how you’ve seen the problem attacked or alleviated for other customers if it’s operational.  Or if there is something you can do mechanically, then provide the information on how that can be done and the costs associated.  What all this shows is that you’re committed to help solve the problem not just put it back on them.  The same can be said for when an employee comes to you with an idea or request.  Simply pushing them aside and saying “no” to something usually makes people upset.  Take time to explain why their idea may not work (especially if it’s been tried before), or why they can’t have that day off.

Limitations Nobody likes to admit they can’t do something or that it’s not what they are strong at.  Many of us like to say “yeah, I can make that happen” or “no problem, we can do that”.  Keep in mind that you and your dealership will have limitations.  There are going to be things you do very well, things that you don’t do as well or can’t do at all.  When talking to a new customer it’s important to learn what they want and what they need.  Can you handle the needs?  How many of the wants can you provide?  Let’s say you go into a competitive account and you can work on 80% of their fleet but 20% is specialized equipment that no one on your team understands.  What do you tell the customer?  Do you just sign it all up or do you let the customer know of your limitation and offer to work on what you know best?  It’s better to let the customer know up front what you can and cannot do.  If you don’t have someone that can work on a turret truck, don’t sign it up on service, especially with competitive equipment (if it’s equipment you represent, it’s time to invest in some training).   Explain that to the customer and feel free to explain the complexity of working on that type of equipment.  When you over-extend yourself and your limits, you’ll stop fulfilling promises made. When you stop fulfilling promises, customers start looking elsewhere to fill those needs in their operation.

Do all people respond well to the explained answer?  Of course not.  There are some people that want to believe it should be done no matter what or that warranty exists for everything.  Even these people will get something out of the explanation rather than the simple “no” or “we can’t do that”.  In fact many of them will be more combative with the simple answer rather than the explanation.  By taking the time to spell out why something can or cannot be done shows that you understand your company and you know how you can best help the customer’s business.

Curtis can be reached at cclark@superiortire.com