High-Maintenance vs. Low-Tolerance Customers – Insights from the Sales Training PerspectiveMay 1, 2012 | Posted by mlynn in Sales Training
At a recent sales training event, a highly accomplished sales veteran rejoined our session after stepping out for a customer call. He looked like he had been through the wringer, with the weight of the world on his shoulders. When asked if he had an issue with a “high-maintenance” customer, his reply came with a weary head shake: “Worse… a low-tolerance customer.”
“High-maintenance” customers have always been cast as every sales professional’s biggest nightmare, but that is not the case at all. That dubious honor should go to “low-tolerance” customers – those customers who demand very little, but have a very low tolerance for unsatisfactory performance/service from their sales rep.
High-maintenance customers are very vocal about their dissatisfaction. They demand a high level of attention and TLC, which at times can create an unwelcome time drain for the sales professional. But the ongoing communication from high-maintenance customers is precisely what keeps us out of trouble. Their warning signs are crystal clear. Their communication actually reflects their personal investment in making sure the vendor relationship works.
By contrast, low-tolerance customers aren’t nearly as needy of their sales professional’s time or attention. Their lack of complaint can easily be misinterpreted as either complete satisfaction or that they are “low-maintenance.” Low-tolerance customers won’t utilize their time and energy to repeatedly tell you what they want and need from their supplier. They see that as your job and will hold you accountable in that role. Their dissatisfaction will likely not be vocalized… until it is too late and the sales professional is blindsided by the loss of a valued customer.
Our high-maintenance customer is like the water pipe that bursts, causing great drama and demanding immediate attention. Our low-tolerance customer is the slow leak that occurs under the floor boards, going undetected until much more costly and widespread damage has occurred.
We must take care to avoid the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mindset. Utilize the Exploratory Process (DPS sales training) to seek out dissatisfaction before it manifests into a larger problem. Most often associated with opening new accounts, the Exploratory Process is invaluable to test satisfaction levels amongst our existing customers, particularly those less vocal customers who may be suffering in silence. Engaging the Exploratory Process will not only prevent you from being blind-sided by low-tolerance customers, it will help you uncover new opportunity to increase your value contribution in all existing accounts.
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