Part of the commitment to deliver an excellent service and setting high personal standards as a salesperson, is occasionally missing the mark. Great sales reps understand that apologising effectively is part of great service delivery and go out of their way to do so sincerely.
Getting it wrong is inevitable. Whether it’s through a fault of your own or not, you will fail your customers. Relaying incorrect information, mixing up appointment dates or times, forgetting to notify someone about something important – these errors are all committed by brilliant salespeople and part of healthy customer relationships. Wait, what!?
Yes, a good relationship doesn’t simply stand or fall on one honest mistake. It develops over time and is strengthened as parties learn to trust one another. Sincere apologies done properly are part of how trust is grown, and relationships are strengthened.
There are also those mistakes that can be avoided. One of these is that of overpromising to, and essentially misleading, customers about your ability to deliver a service or product to them. This behaviour is usually rooted in the fear of missing a selling opportunity and often fuelled by a lack of proper product or customer information available to sales reps.
Our research among field sales reps in the UK revealed that they are misleading customers in meetings — not because they want to or are dishonest by nature — but because they are backed into a corner with little time, not enough information and high pressure to hit target.
Through our mobile sales app we’re committed to changing this reality and are already seeing ways in which it is transforming the sales environment for the better.
What a sincere apology to a customer looks like
When you realise something went wrong or that you find yourself backed into a corner because you promised a customer deals which are now impossible to deliver, be proactive about apologising and seeking how to correct matters.
Remember these key points when apologising to a customer:
1. Avoid the non-apology apology
Don’t begin by removing yourself or your company from being part of the problem. Or worse, by blaming the customer for the problem!
Avoid saying things like, “These things happen” or, “You shouldn’t place orders on Fridays if you want things delivered by Monday.” These come across as defensive and do not convey real regret about their situation.
2. Show empathy
Listen carefully to their experience and perception of what went wrong. Help them feel heard and understood.
Apologise sincerely and clearly communicate what you’re sorry for. This communicates that you care about what happened and understand the impact it had on their business.
3. Take responsibility
Take responsibility for your share in the turn of events. Being honest and vulnerable shows humility and invites trust. They’ll be more likely to want to work with you again in the future.
4. Provide a solution
Be proactive in seeking to resolve what went wrong. Add to your apology suggestions about what can be done about the situation and give them an opportunity to respond with thoughts of their own.
This affirms the sincerity of your apology and further communicates that you hold their company’s interests at heart.
5. Explain how to avoid it from happening again
Think forward and reassure them that things will be done differently in the future. Explain which measures are put in place to avoid making the same mistake again.
Doing this helps the customer understand the heart behind what you’re doing and illustrates to them your company’s willingness to adapt to their needs.