Epilogue – Mike sells some loyalty.

“So, you think you’ve figured out how to salvage your TechShare program?” asked Neil, Mike’s CEO.

TechShare is ‘my’ program, is it? Mike thought. The Action Selling system I introduced doubled our growth rate, so that’s ‘ours.’ TechShare tanked, so it’s mine. Why doesn’t this surprise me?

But Mike pushed that thought aside in favor of a more pressing one: Oh, no you don’t, Neil. You’re asking me to present you with my solution—to make a pitch. Thanks to a certain master-level salesperson in Arizona, I know better. We’re at the stage where I ask the questions and you’ll do most of the talking. But I will give you a teaser, just to let you know that this won’t be an ordinary conversation.

“Like I said when I asked for this meeting, I have some ideas,” Mike replied. “I’d like to get your thinking on them. You know about my trip to Phoenix, right?”

“You were going out there to see Tony, the sales rep who has sold 10 times more TechShare programs than anybody else.”

“About 10 times more than our average reps, yes.”

“And you learned his secret?” Neil asked. “You know why he’s so much better at selling your loyalty program?”

“I think so,” Mike replied. “His secret is that he’s not any better at selling loyalty programs. What he’s better at selling is loyalty.” There’s your teaser, Neil, he thought. Now ask me what on earth I’m talking about.

Neil stared at Mike for a long moment. “Explain that to me.”

“That’s where I’d like to get your input,” Mike replied. “I wonder if we’ve been going at this backwards.” Note the ‘we,’ Neil, he thought. “We call TechShare a loyalty program, but what is it that we really want the program to accomplish?”

“Same as any loyalty program,” Neil said, impatiently. “What we wanted”(he stressed the past tense, with an unfriendly look at Mike) “was to give customers some technology that would lock them in so we’d get more of their business. TechShare was supposed to make us their supplier of first choice.”

“Here’s one thing that I learned,” Mike said. “If they give us most of their business because we package some attractive technology and offer them a good deal on our products, we’re still vulnerable to any competitor who devises a comparable package. Neil, how would you describe an ideal level of loyalty— something that goes beyond ‘supplier of first choice until somebody offers me the next choice?'”

‘How would you describe an ideal level of loyalty?’

Neil found the question intriguing. He thought about it. “Well, I guess the ideal would be that they’re so satisfied with us that they stop looking around for better deals. They stop shopping. ‘Satisfied’ wouldn’t even be the right word. Ideally, loyal customers wouldn’t just figure that buying from us is the path of least resistance or whatever. They would actively want to do business with us and with nobody else.”

‘They’re so satisfied with us that they stop looking around for better deals.’

“I agree,” Mike said. And I notice you’re starting to forget to remind me that I’m to blame for TechShare, he thought. “Satisfaction isn’t enough. In fact, I found some research showing that 75 percent of customers who leave a company for a competitor say that they were ‘satisfied’ or even ‘very satisfied’ with the company they left. Neil, you’ve been a customer for all kinds of companies. When you think of suppliers who pleased you so much that you stopped shopping—and I’ll bet there weren’t many of them—what was it that made you feel that way?”

‘When you think of suppliers who pleased you so much that you stopped shopping, what was it that made you feel that way?’

Neil considered the question for a full minute, remembering his experiences as a customer. “I can think of two,” he said, finally. “One was a business-to-business situation, the other was a gardening service I used when I lived in Maryland. But it wasn’t the companies, as such, that made me feel unusually loyal. In both cases it was an individual: one salesperson and one gardener.”

“What did the salesperson do, specifically, that made you stop shopping?”

“She didn’t act like a damned salesperson,” Neil said, laughing. “I wouldn’t say it in front of our reps, but it’s true…”

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling. He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations. Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).