My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

How process can blow the sale and create distrust

Last night I was on the phone to a travel agent booking a holiday over Easter.  I was sold on the holiday. We'd researched the hotel. We liked the price and dates.  I was ready to buy.

The person on the end of the phone was professional, courteous, respectful yet he lost the sale.

What went wrong?

I love selling and writing about sales - there is just so much material and experience around us every
day of the week to learn from. And this was a great example to learn from and explore what went
wrong.

After the call, I spent some time reflecting why I said right at the end that I didn't want to buy.
The key issue they lost the sale was their process.   It eroded my trust in them.

So lets play the whole sales process out from the beginning.

Firstly they captured my attention with a headline price. It was a great price so I rang them.
My previous experience with these types of companies is that there is some excuse that the offer is not available. In this case it was a pleasant surprise - maybe too good to be true. The holiday was available as advertised at this great price.

So we proceeded to book. However as the booking unfolded the price started to rise.
Firstly the charge for the luggage - OK we've grown to expect that but still the headline price
was disappearing.  Quick look in the mirror.  Not quite a full blown smile but I'm still marginally happy.

Secondly there was a charge for transfers to the hotel - OK I've had that before. The headline price is moving into the distance and I'm getting my binoculars out to try and see it again.  Mirror check. Hmmm maybe not a smile - a forced grimace. I'm starting to feel shafted.

Oh did I forget to mention the flight times are not very sociable - I'm starting to think this isn't the great holiday I was expecting.  I'm beginning to visualise a grumpy family trying to get into a hotel room at 3am.

Thirdly there's a charge for paying by card (despite there being no other way of paying). OK. I'll
accept that.  Smile gone.

We now have a price. I've supplied all the details and ask to confirm that this is the price that will be charged to my card. Yes is the response.

After the first increase I was scribbling numbers on a pad and our numbers tallied more or less.

So we proceedp. Spending 20 minutes taking all the details for the booking (that's a reasonable for for them). You're probably wondering how they lost the sale.

Their process was booking fees were not included in that price and neither was the airline check-in fee.

It was actually impossible to book the holiday for their headline price.  If I'd opted for no luggage, turned-up at their offices with cash to pay for the holiday and was prepared to walk the 40 miles to the hotel, it was simply not possible to book the holiday for the price they were advertising.

As their booking fee bombshell was dropped in I was really getting edgy about proceeding.  The final straw was the airport check-in fee.

Mirror check: Furrowed brow. No smile.

They must have known about these fees up-front but they were conveniently excluded. Their process was one where the trust established at the beginning of the call was systematically eroded by many "small" price increments.

The final price, to be fair, was still a pretty good price, despite increasing by about 30% from the initial headline line. Had they been up-front with the charges right at the beginning I may well have proceeded. Their process created lots of small surprise price increases - this  lost them the sale. I simply didn't trust them anymore. Each unexpected increase was a nail in the coffin of their offer until the lid was nailed shut.

Holidays is one of those areas where things always go wrong for me. Over the years I've taken 3 companies to court and won because they failed to supply what they claim.  This drip of bad news during the buying process was enough to recall all the fears, anxieties and remorse of previous holiday disasters.

The lesson learnt from this experience is make sure your sales process (particularly if it is scripted like this one)  is building trust not eroding it. The sale was theirs to lose.

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